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First Day Hikes planned in Texas state parks
State parks across Texas are hosting numerous guided hikes on Jan. 1, ranging from leisurely short walks to nature hikes to treks across mountainous terrain, as part of the national First Day Hikes program.
For years, two of the most popular New Year’s resolutions have been to begin a fitness program, and spend more time in nature. Now, for the second year in a row, you can combine both by participating in First Day Hikes at a Texas state park near you on Jan. 1.
The second annual First Day Hikes program is part of a national umbrella coordination by the National Association of State Parks Directors (NASPD) to encourage a new tradition at the beginning of each year to get people outdoors, and promote the numerous physical and emotional benefits of hiking.
During the inaugural year of First Day Hikes at the start of 2012, more than 1,100 people showed up at 47 state parks across Texas. For 2013 -- which is just a week away -- more hikes and locations are scheduled, and they range from short, leisurely walks to birding hikes, nature tours along the Gulf Coast, and challenging treks in mountainous terrain.
Most hikes will be guided by state park staff or expert volunteers and feature an interpretive message about native plants, animals, or park history. The walks average 1 to 2 miles in length, but many also offer shorter or longer trek options as well.
Participants will want to make some modest advance preparations. Some hikes warrant call-ahead reservations, and in most instances, folks will want to wear sturdy shoes and bring drinking water and a hiking stick. Park entrance fees apply in most places, and many parks are leading the First Day Hike at no extra cost.
Recent on-site visitor surveys in Texas parks revealed that hiking trails were the most sought-after amenity by park visitors, and many Texas state parks have added newly built or recently improved hiking and biking trails in order to meet growing demand.
The concept of having an official “First Day Hike” in a park on New Year’s Day originated more than 20 years ago at the Blue Hills Reservation, a state park in Milton, Mass., with the intent to promote both wellness and year-round recreation at parks. Since then, other states have offered similar New Year’s programs. It has, however, grown into a nationwide event, with most state park systems participating.
For more information, visit www.texasstateparks. org/firstdayhikes.
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