BY ANNIE BUTKIEWICZ
Consistent with the New Year’s tradition of healthy resolutions, there is a growing nationwide trend of First Day Hikes.
Designed to promote a healthy start to the new year and get people outdoors, these free, guided hikes on New Year’s Day happen in hundreds of parks around the country.
The Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources has organized 45 hikes in 39 parks across the state, including one from 1 to 3 p.m. at Lackawanna State Park in North Abington Twp. The events are meant to get people of all ages outdoors.
The tradition took off in Pennsylvania in 2012, DCNR press secretary Terry Brady said.
“Each year it’s getting larger and larger,” Brady said. “On Jan. 1, 2018, we had 800 participants that walked a total of almost 2,000 miles. On Jan. 1, 2019, we walked a total of almost 8,000 miles with almost 3,000 participants.”
Brady said the philosophy behind the hikes is to get out and do something healthy, to get people out in the parks and see that they’re available in all four seasons. In addition, it’s an opportunity for first-timers to come out and get to know the parks on a guided hike.
Each one of the hikes is guided by someone who knows the park well. DCNR Secretary Cindy Adams Dunn will be hiking in Clarion County, and DCNR deputy secretaries will be hiking in parks near Harrisburg.
“So it’s also a good chance to get involved and let people know what you like or don’t like about the hikes,” Brady said. “People are also invited to send their feelings or share their experience online with the hashtag #FirstDayHikePA.”
In addition to the DCNR- organized state hikes, New Year’s Day hikes are a great idea in general, because of the winter beauty and different hiking conditions.
That’s how avid hiker, outdoorsman and Wyoming County District Attorney Jeff Mitchell feels about winter hikes.
Mitchell has published several books about the region, including “Hiking the Endless Mountains,” “Backpacking Pennsylvania,” “Hiking the Allegheny National Forest,” and “Paddling Pennsylvania.”
Mitchell has participated in three First Day Hikes in the past, and said that winter hiking in general is an enjoyable activity.
There is a list of DCNR hikes across the state available online on the DCNR events page, and Brady said it’s important to call ahead of time and make sure there are no ice storms. But if people aren’t available to hike on Wednesday, which is when New Year’s Day falls this year, there are local groups that go hiking year-round, such as the Susquehanna Trailers.
Susquehanna Trailers President Rich McNulty said the group meets every Sunday, and the first hike as a group in 2020 will be Jan. 5.
The group likes to go hiking at the Seven Tubs Nature Area in Wilkes-Barre and has some interesting things to see — like the remnants from last year’s tornado, or the glacial engravings in the stone that look like tubs.
“It’s good exercise and it’s also good for mental health, and feeling alone,” McNulty said. “It’s a group activity and it gets you in shape.”
The following local Pennsylvania DCNR state park facilities are participating in the guided First Day Hikes during daylight hours Wednesday:
- Lackawanna State Park
- Nescopeck State Park
- Lehigh Gorge
Find information about these hikes at events.dcnr.pa.gov/search/events?search=First+Day+Hike.
If you wish to get in touch with the Susquehanna Trailers to hike in the new year, but not on Jan.1, check out their website at susquehanna_trailers.tripod.com/index.html.
If you’re interested in other winter hikes, Jeff Mitchell suggests wearing synthetic fabrics like fleece, not cotton, packing snacks and water, bringing a flashlight in case it gets dark, and downloading or bringing a map for these trails:
- World’s End State Park
- Bear Creek Preserve
- The Seven Tubs
- Moosic Mountain Loop
- Woodbourne Forest Preserve