ATLANTA — Across the nation, thousands of Americans started 2017 off on the “right foot” by attending a First Day Hike in America’s state parks, according to the Georgia Department of Natural Resources.
On Jan. 1, more than 1,300 First Day Hikes were offered in all 50 states to 61,800 walkerss covering more than 111,850 miles. Georgia’s State Parks hosted more than 500 hikers who covered more than 1,200 miles, despite New Year’s Day’s soggy weather.
“America’s state parks offer diverse and unique natural and cultural resources. First Day Hikes are a way park rangers, naturalists and volunteers can bring history to life and share their insights of nature,” said Ellen Graham, First Day Hikes coordinator and chief naturalist for Georgia DNR State Parks and Historic Sites.
Iowa almost tripled the number of participants and miles hiked in 2016. This year they added nine parks and the annual event is becoming a family friendly tradition with returning hikers in spite of the 30-degree temperatures. As a hiker in a Washington state park stated, “I like walking in the park in the winter, no snakes and no bugs, and it is so quiet I can hear my heartbeat.”
Despite temperatures that never got above freezing in South Dakota, they saw the highest attendance in six years. Hikers in two parks got out the snowshoes and cross-country skiers glided through one park.
In Montana with sub-zero temperatures and heavy falling snow in many areas, there were hearty souls hiking along the trails. Over 700 hikers braved 5-12 inches of snow in in New Hampshire parks and enjoyed the winter wildlife, spotting 3 bald eagles.
In Hawaii some hikers began their trek to see the sunrise at 2:30 a.m. over the ocean with views of Molokai and Maui from 560-foot cliff top perches. Several states hosted fun runs and fitness challenges. In Indiana there were over 200 participants for a 3.5 mile run.
As an Arkansas hiker stated, “We were here last year and enjoyed it so much we wanted to come back this year.”