First Day Hikes are growing in popularity across the country. Someone once told me that whatever you do on New Year’s Day is an indicator of how you will spend the rest of the year. With that in mind and since New Year’s is also a time of both self-reflection and change, I began to make it a point to get in some physical activity on New Year’s Day. It has become a tradition to spend the morning participating in one of the Arkansas State Parks First Day Hikes.
Did you know that the concept of First Day Hikes originated at the Blue Hills Reservation State Park in Massachusetts in 1992? Park officials were concerned over the decline in park visitors during the colder months. In hopes of gaining a few visitors, they decided to offer a guided hike on January 1, 1992, along with a free soup lunch after the hike was over. An unbelievable 380 people showed up for the inaugural hike and it has been a tradition ever since.
In 2011, they began to promote the program’s ideals beyond Massachusetts and invited other states to offer similar initiatives. On January 1, 2012, all 50 states offered at least one first day hike!
If you plan to head out this January, be sure to take extra precautions with the colder weather. Cold weather hiking is a lot of fun but you need to plan for it a little differently than you wouls in the summer.
6 Tips for Cold Weather Hiking
- Dress in layers. Being able to add and remove layers as the temperature fluctuates during a long cold weather hike is important. You want to get warm when needed but you also want to prevent moisture from building up in your bottom layers of clothes. If your jacket has zippers in the armpits, those are designed to allow air to circulate so open then up if you start to feel hot and sweaty under your layers.
- Wear a hat! Keeping your head covered helps keep your body from losing heat. Plus the tender skin on your ears can get cold really quickly.
- Don’t forget to bring water. Your body doesn’t just need water when it’s hot! Don’t forget to bring a water bottle but be sure to keep it insulated to protect it against freezing.
- Bring a warm beverage. Water will keep you hydrated but a warm beverage can also help lift your spirit and make you feel warm from the inside out. My Dark Chocolate Maple Hot Cocoa would be an excellent choice!
- Don’t forget the sunscreen. If there is daylight you should be protecting your skin from the sun. It is possible to get sunburned in the winter especially in snowy areas where the sun also reflects off of the snow.
- Be prepared for quickly fading daylight. The daylight hours are shorter in the winter and the sun always seems to fade a little quicker. Never travel so far that you cannot make it back to your home base before the end of the day. Always carry a headlamp or flashlight with extra batteries and notify someone where you are headed and when you expect to return.
This year we are planning to go to Jacksonport State Park for their first day hike along the banks of the White River. The Tunstall River Walk is a great place to see woodpeckers and Northern cardinals! The trail is 1.2-miles long, is level and maintained year-round. This trail is appropriate for all ages, runs along the White River, and is beautiful.
If you are in Arkansas you can check out this full list of First Day Hike locations at State Parks across Arkansas.
Where will you be headed for your first day hike?
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- Start the New Year with Arkansas First Day Hikes
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