An active 2017 starts on Day One

Park Superintendent Kelley King leads a First Day Hike on Jan. 1, 2016, on the Great Blue Heron Trail at Haw River State Park.

We like to ward off the beginning of the work-week blues with thoughts about life on the outside.

It’s only one day. But it’s a day that can make a difference.

Sunday is the first day of the new year. Dating back 4,000 years to the Babylonians, we’ve looked at the day as a time for renewal and rebirth. We vow to be better people, we pledge to take better care of ourselves. In fact, the latter, staying fit and healthy, is the most popular New Year’s resolution we make, according to at least one survey.

According to another, it’s the most common resolution we break.

Despite this dubious track record, we persist. Using the New Year as a crutch is especially attractive if the year about to pass failed to meet expectations. Judging from the woe-is-me Facebook rants we’ve been seeing the past couple weeks, Sunday could be a record-breaker for New Year’s resolutions. So we want to do our best to help make sure you at least get January 1 off to a good start.

On Sunday, thanks primarily to North Carolina State Parks, there should be no reason not to get the year off to an active start. On Sunday, more than 40 guided hikes are scheduled at North Carolina’s state parks as part of the nationwide First Day Hikes Program. The First Day program is relatively new, though the concept in North Carolina dates back more than 40 years at Eno River State Park. Last year, 3,469 hikers logged 8,228 miles on First Day hikes in North Carolina.

The hikes offer something for just about everyone. Don’t want to waste a second putting your 2017 resolution to work? Chimney Rock State Park’s hike starts at 12:01 a.m. (on a 7-mile hike that gains 1,200 feet of elevation). If it snows, Grandfather Mountain State Park will give its hikers snowshoes. At coastal Fort Macon State Park, they’ll break in the new 3.2-mile Elliott Caues Trail, while at Falls Lake State Recreation Area, four short hikes will include scavenger hunts.

It all sounds like an attractive and painless way to get the year off to a good, active start, no? It is, and you’re not the only person to think so: if the weather’s right, the hike at Eno River State Park has been known to draw as many as 800 hikers.

So while 40-plus hikes throughout the state may seem like a lot, we feel there’s always room for more. The Hike NC! hiking initiative launched by Blue Cross and Blue Shield of North Carolina this fall (and in which we are a happy collaborator, along with N.C. State Parks, Friends of State Parks, N.C. Recreation and Park Association and Great Outdoor Provision Co.) is adding another six hikes to the list (learn more about the hikes and sign up, here). They are:

  • Blowing Rock area: Mountains-to-Sea Trail, Holloway Mountain Loop, 2.4 miles, noon.
  • Charlotte: Seven Oaks Preserve, part of the Carolina Thread Trail, 5.6 miles, 1 p.m.
  • Greensboro: Laurel Bluff Trail (Lake Townsend), 4 miles, noon.
  • Durham: Horton Grove Nature Preserve, Triangle Land Conservancy, 3 miles, 10 a.m.
  • Raleigh: Mountains-to-Sea Trail at Falls Lake, Friends of the Mountains-to-Sea Trail, 2.5 miles, 2 p.m.
  • Wilmington area: Stone Creek Gamelands, Friends of the Mountains-to-Sea Trail, 3-4 miles, noon

That’s our effort to help you get 2017 to an active start. And rest assured that our help doesn’t begin and end on Day 1. We’ll be here throughout 2017 to help you make it a fit and healthy year.

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