As much as everyone is hoping Jan. 1, 2021 will magically fix all the world's problems; they equally know real change comes from action.
2020 was hard for many people and perhaps stepping into the new year, literally, is one small move toward a better tomorrow.
For years, state parks, cities, organizations have held First Day Hikes as part of a nation-wide program to encourage hiking on New Year's Day. These treks are largely aimed toward all hiking experience levels, which includes zero experience. The Texas Parks & Wildlife Department has a wide variety of hikes available in which many of the parks will have tables set up with hike information and maps and mementos for the occasion.
“First Day Self-Guided Hikes vary from short, leisurely nature walks through forested trails and along boardwalks to climbs into the mountains of the Chihuahuan Desert. You choose the hike that's right for you,” states the organization’s website.
In light of the COVID-19 pandemic, many hikes across the country at state parks have been adapted to keep people safe and healthy. Hikes will include smaller groups, virtual hikes, self-guided hikes, and trail challenges, according to American State Parks.
Take advantage of an opportunity to explore a new state park or take a drive to Possum Kingdom Lake, northwest of Fort Worth, and check out its hike and bike trails in solidarity. These trails crisscross the lake's central peninsula, connecting public areas with 16 miles of paths. Twelve trailheads are located at intervals allowing hikers to enjoy as much or as little of the trail system as they please. Parking, restrooms, picnic, camping, and swimming areas are available throughout the system, along with signage maps posted on the trail that are color-coded, identifying "you are here." The trails also feature rest areas with cedar benches as well as information displays about history, geology and animals of the area. And anyone can print off a map of the trails here or email firstname.lastname@example.org to ask for a free physical copy of the map to be mailed to you.
A wide variety of locations are hosting first day hikes if joining an existing tradition is more attractive than flying solo. Some first day hikes include:
• A self-guided nature connected mindful hike at Seminole Canyon State Park
• Bingo, anyone? A refreshing and competitive hike while seeking out signs of nature at Choke Canyon State Park.
• Explore beautiful sandstone formations in remote areas only accessible on this guided hike at Lake Mineral Wells State Park & Trailway.
• A guided hike at Hueco Tanks State Park.
• Bring a boat and join a park guide to explore the amazing paddling trails of Martin Dies, Jr. State Park.
• Walk into the New Year looking for hidden pictures along this one-mile trail at Lake Whitney State Park.
For a full listing and details of these first day hikes at state parks, go here.
And while snow may not be blanketing the ground of the Lone Star State, remember to still dress appropriately for the weather.
The American Hiking Society suggests:
• While it is perhaps nice to have a huge, fluffy parka on the ski slopes, it really isn’t practical for the trail. Instead, take several layers you can peel off or put on when you stop and go on the trail. Your base layer should be a wicking fabric that will pull your sweat away from the skin. Overheating is a dangerous threat since excessive moisture that isn’t allowed to escape can freeze and cause hypothermia.
• Wear a hat. It is important to keep your head covered to maintain function during the colder months and not lose precious body heat.
• A foam sleeve like a koozie will help prevent water bottles from freezing on the trip.
• Don’t forget the sunscreen.
The National Park Service has helpful information on hiking with kids, and how to hike smart, including knowing your limits, how to plan a hike, what to bring and general tips, which can be found here.