Hiking has become a national New Year’s tradition
BOSTON — A simple plan to get more people enjoying the outdoors on New Year’s Day became a national movement after a hike through a Massachusetts park more than three decades ago.
Just 380 people participated in the first day one hike in 1992 at the nearly 7,000-acre Blue Hills Preserve just south of Boston. On Sunday, tens of thousands of people are expected to take part in day one hikes at hundreds of parks in all 50 states.
Vigorous walking is a great way to start the new year off on the right foot – literally – and get outside, enjoy nature, spend time with family and friends, and maybe start working on fixing the problem. New Year to get in shape, park officials and attendees told me.
“It’s a matter of mind, body and soul,” said Rodney Franklin, director of parks for the Texas Department of Parks and Wildlife.
The late Patrick Flynn, the former supervisor of Blue Hills, came up with the original plan.
“He wanted a way to get people into the parks in the winter because so many people think the parks are just a place for summer,” said Priscilla Geigis, deputy commissioner of conservation and management. Resources at the Massachusetts Department of Conservation and Recreation.
Steve Olanoff, 77, participated in this inaugural event in Blue Hills in 1992 and is now a volunteer who helps guide hikers along the park’s trails each year.
“At the time, there was nothing to do on New Year’s Day,” he said. “Everyone was sitting at home and watching TV. When I heard there was a hiking opportunity, I said, “Well, I’ll give that a try.” It’s really amazing that so many people are doing this now.
Over the years, other Massachusetts state parks have joined us. Then parks from other states joined us. In 2012, First Day Hikes went nationwide when the National Association of State Park Superintendents endorsed the idea.
“It just shows that a person can have an idea that can spread like that,” Geigis said.
Some states added their own twists. At Ink Lake State Park in Burnet County, Texas, northwest of Austin, participants can take their first day of running, biking, or paddling a canoe or kayak.
Snowshoes or cross-country skis may be necessary in some places in Oregon, said Jason Resch, director of marketing for the Oregon Department of Parks and Recreation. Elijah Bristow State Park near Eugene even offers a first-day ride.
“Just bring your own horse,” Resch said.
Some hikes are guided by park rangers or volunteers who teach about the history, geography, flora and fauna of a particular park. This in turn promotes stewardship and a commitment to protecting parks and open spaces, Geigis said. Refreshments are offered at many sites.
And people of all skill levels are welcome.
“We want to appeal to as many people as possible,” Franklin said. “So you’ll have some of our hikes that are on paved, flat surfaces that aren’t very long, but if you want a quick, longer hike, you can do that.”
Families with babies, seniors and people with their dogs took part in the day one hike in Chester Blandford State Forest in Massachusetts, said Elizabeth Massa, president of Western Mass Hilltown Hikers, which guides the hike. 1.5 miles.
“If your New Year’s resolution is to exercise more, lose weight, get healthier, then this is your opportunity,” she said.