On New Year's Day 2013, America's State Parks will be sponsoring First Day Hikes in all 50 state park systems across the country. The nationwide effort, in its second year of practice, encourages citizens to "start the year off on the right foot" by getting outdoors to employ a more active lifestyle for themselves and their families.
The effort extends to our region as well, as state parks across Tennessee and Virginia will be hosting First Day Hikes on Jan. 1, 2013.
Throughout both states, the First Day Hikes will either be self-guided hikes or hikes guided by a ranger or park attendant, depending on the state park. Some trails may be more difficult than others and hikers should be sure to wear appropriate footwear, and dress for the weather conditions.
Whether an outdoor enthusiast or someone just looking to start a healthy tradition this new year, citizens of all ages are asked to come out and 'take a hike.'
Local hikes in Tennessee include:
Roan Mountain State ParkLocation: Carter CountyDate and time: 9 a.m., Jan. 1Details: Meet up at the park's conference center to go for an "invigorating winter walk." A park ranger will lead visitors on a hike down the Tom Gray Trail alongside the Doe River. Be prepared for cold and snowy conditions - the average low temperature on the mountain in January is 24 degrees. Following the hike, return to the conference center for hot cocoa and homemade cookies. For more information call 1-800-250-8620 or visit the park's website at www.tn.gov/environment/parks/RoanMtn/.
Davy Crockett Birthplace State ParkLocation: LimestoneDate and time: Noon, Jan. 1Details: Meet up at the Crockett Cabin with park staff and volunteers for a brisk walk through the park and through history. Group will gather at 11 a.m. and will depart at noon on a 7/8- mile hike along the Limestone Creek. Hikers should dress for the weather and wear shoes suitable for hiking. Before and after the hike, hot wassail and cookies will be served in the cabin for as long as supplies last. For more information call 423-257-2167, email firstname.lastname@example.org or visit the park's website at: www.tn.gov/environment/parks/DavyCrockettSHP/.
Sycamore Shoals State ParkLocation: ElizabethtonDate and time: 2 p.m., Jan. 1Details: Meet up at at the visitor center to take a casual stroll down to the Carter Mansion. Visitors can take an afternoon tour of this frontier home, decorated for the holidays, and learn about seasonal traditions of the 18th century. Dress appropriately for the weather. The tour is offered by reservation only. Light refreshments will be provided. For more information, call 423-543-5808 or visit the park's website at www.sycamoreshoalstn.org. For cancellation information, in the event of inclement weather, call 423-543-6140.
Warriors Path State ParkLocation: KingsportDate and time: 10 a.m., Jan. 1Details: Meet up at the pool parking lot to join award-winning interpretive specialist Marty Silver for a hike down one of the park's scenic trails. The trail will be chosen the day of the hike, depending on the weather and interests of the day's group. Dress warmly and be ready to explore natural winter habitats. For more information, call 423-245-6917 or visit the park's website at www.tn.gov/environment/parks/WarriorsPath/.
Local hikes in Virginia include:
Natural Tunnel State ParkLocation: DuffieldDate and time: 9 a.m.-3 p.m., Jan. 1Details: Go to the visitors' center between the appointed times and take a self-guided hike down Tunnel Trail into the gorge where guests may view the tunnel from the observation platform or hike further south along Stock Creek to the Carter family cabin. The .3- mile, difficult trail is gravel and somewhat steep. If hikers doubt their ability to climb back out of the gorge, the chairlift is available as an alternative. In order to commemorate the special event and keep track of the participants, the park asks all hikers to sign the piece of paper attached to the clipboard at the beginning of the trail. The program is free, but there will be a $3 parking fee. For more information, call 276-940-2674 or visit the park's website at www.dcr.virginia.gov/state_parks/nat.shtml.
Hungry Mother State ParkLocation: MarionDate and time: 8 a.m.-6 p.m., Jan. 1Details: Stop at the Discovery Center any time during the day to pick up a First Day Hike brochure (in an envelope in the foyer) before taking a hike down the park's self-guided trail, the Track Trail. The half-mile, easy trail is family-friendly, following along a portion of the Lake Trail; it is great for hikers of all ages and abilities. Please wear weather-appropriate attire and bring water. Hiking is free, but daily parking fees apply. For more information, call 276-781-7400 or visit the park's website at: www.dcr.virginia.gov/state_parks/hun.shtml.
Individuals participating in First Day Hikes at any of Virginia's State Parks have the opportunity to win a weeklong cabin stay in any of the Virginia State Park cabins. To enter the contest, take a photo during your hike at a Virginia State Park on Jan. 1, 2013. Then upload the photo to Facebook by clicking the link on the website at www.virginiaoutdoors.com/article/more/4098 or by posting the photo to Twitter or Instagram using the hashtag: #VSP1stDayHikes. Contestants will then receive a link to share with friends and family to ask them to vote for the photo. Only one photo may be entered per contestant.
Photos can be uploaded starting at 8 a.m., Jan. 1, but no later than noon on Jan. 2. Voting begins at 8 p.m., Jan. 1, and will end at midnight, Jan. 5.