By MELINDA WILLIAMS
With New Year’s Day temperatures expected to be near 60 degrees and skies partly cloudy, Sunday may be a perfect opportunity to burn off those extra holiday calories by taking part in a First Day Hike at Claytor Lake State Park. Parking is free for the day.
First Day Hikes, an initiative of America’s State Parks, was launched over 30 years ago to promote healthy lifestyles and year round recreation at state parks. They provide a way for individuals and families to kick off a new year “in the outdoors, exercising and connecting with nature,” according to America’s State Parks.
Although participation was impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic, nationwide in 2020, around 85,000 people hiked over 176,000 miles on guided hikes offered through that year’s First Day Hike program. That’s the equivalent of seven trips around the equator and over 415 million steps.
Many parks have special activities planned for the day.
At Claytor Lake, a short Early Bird Hike guided by master naturalists gets underway at Howe House at 10 a.m. to search for different species of birds.
At noon, a Sappy Sunday event shows how to make maple syrup at home. Instruction follows a short stroll to identify the various types of maple trees in the area. Meet in the field in front of Howe House.
A Vernal Pool Hike begins at 2 p.m. in the overflow parking lot between Campgrounds B and C. Master naturalists will lead this short hike to the park’s semi-permanent wetland areas.
The day’s events end 5-9 p.m. with an opportunity to enjoy the Gazebo Holiday Lights display donated by Claytor Lake State Park Ambassadors before it closes for the year. Walk down to the gazebo behind Howe House to see the lights or park at the marina and view the reflection in the water from across the cove.
One thing that grew out of First Day Hikes held during pandemic restrictions was the Self-Guided Activities brochure. Those interested in developing their own activities can find the brochure and how to make maple syrup instructions online at https://www.dcr.virginia.gov/state-parks/event?id=2022-10-23-15-00-24-200025-mh1.
Finally, free First Day Hike bumper stickers are available for participants. They can be picked up at the park contact station and gift shop 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. From 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. a nature display and craft tables will be set up at the meeting facility.
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Weather Ideal for First Day Hike | Southwest Times – Southwest Times
By MELINDA WILLIAMS