It was the podcast you hope for setting out for a long walk: a tale of adventure and intrigue from a distant time that makes you think, Man, I wish I’d been there. That sense of longing fades to wistfulness when you realize you could have been there. Or some place very much like it.
Seemingly overnight, North Carolina State Parks has gone from having just 19 hikes on January 1 (Saturday) to now having 27! All but a handful are branded as First Day Hikes, the designation given New Year’s Day hikes at State Parks across the country.
The notion of beginning a new year with a brisk walk goes back ages, but the modern concept of First Day Hikes is relatively new, dating back only to 1992 when a Massachusetts State Park held the first First Day Hike. With the lure of hot soup, the hike drew 380 hikers. Massachusetts State Parks began offering similar First Day Hikes throughout Massachusetts in 2008, and the concept went national in 2012 thanks to America’s State Parks, which represents State Parks nationwide. More than 400 hikes were held across the US that first year. Last year, more than 55,000 people welcomed 2022 with a First Day Hike.
Now’s typically the time we start thinking about goals for the year ahead. We all do it. By and large, it’s a good thing. By and large, because we get locked into a way of thinking that doesn’t always reflect what our true goals are.
For instance, when we think of goals we tend to think in terms of physical goals. New Years goals over the years have come to be associated with our health, specifically with weight loss. So while our stated goal may not be to lose 35 pounds by swimsuit season by hiking, that may well be our underlying motivator. “I’m going to hike twice a week,” or I’m going to hike 20 miles a week,” may not be overtly about weight loss, but that might well be the underlying factor. The problem? Having such a metric-driven goal may diminish the joy you get out of hiking. Rather than looking for 5-mile hike with lots of scenic stops for a given Saturday, you may opt instead for a longer hike where you’ll burn more calories. Eventually, it becomes like going to the gym. And we all know how successful that New Year’s goal generally is.