The first day and the first hike of the new year. State parks across the country, including Virginia's thirty-four, marked the beginning of 2012 with First Day Hikes to encourage people to use their state parks to enjoy the great outdoors and continue healthy lifestyles.
It's always exciting to see green moss on the ground at the beginning of January, along with so many folks on the trail. Three dozen hikers followed Smith Mt. Lake State Park chief ranger Lee Wilcox on the park's very first "First Day Hikes"
The Hockstein's of North Carolina have a home at the lake and decided to join this New Year's Day hike after; "My wife noticed on Facebook with one of the rangers, the interpreter, that there was going to be this activity, so a good time to come out. You can't beat the weather and the park here is just wonderful," explained Bryan Hockstein.
This is one of 350 First Day Hikes at state parks in all 50 states. The all-in-the family hike at Smith Mt. Lake State Park was only a mile and a half long, and looped around Turtle Island, so named for its resemblance to a turtle. The hikers learned about some of the park's vegetation and land and water animals, as well as the history of the lake and the development surrounding it. It wasn't a first for Barbara Peters of Huddleston who had grandchildren in tow, she told us.
"I used to bring their mother on this trail when she was little. We decided to start their year that way."
Other trail veterans have done this hike, one of many in the park, alone or in smaller groups.
Young Brady Clark, whose dad is the assistant park manager, said it was fun hiking in such a big group. Rangers and park managers across the country hope this New Year's introduction to hiking will encourage many more people to hit the trails.
Lee Wilcox said, "It was a new initiative at least for those of us in Virginia, with Virginia State Parks; First Day Hikes. It was an idea to get everybody off the couch this weekend; New Year's Day and get them out in the state parks which are always accessible to everyone in the state."
Potentially thousands of people across the country took hikes in state parks on New Year's Day. At Smith Mt. Lake, the hikers received comment cards to evaluate the park and the hike. Rangers hope the feedback is positive and this becomes a new, New Year's tradition.