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First Day Hikes offers free entrance to state parks

POSTED December 27, 2011 10:08 p.m.

Looking for a good reason to take it easy on New Year’s Eve? For the first time, state parks across the nation are hosting free, guided First Day Hikes on New Year’s Day, offering hikers an up-close and personal look at the country’s natural and historic treasures.

The tradition of First Day Hikes originated at a state park in Milton, Mass. 20 years ago, when a park ranger wanted to promote year-round healthy living and recreation.

“What better way to kick off the New Year than with a hike at a state park?” asked Ruth Coleman, president of the National Association of State Park Directors. “Think of it as the start of a new and healthy lifestyle, for the whole family. Whether you’re staying close to home or traveling, join us at one of America’s State Parks on New Year’s Day.”

This year marks the first time all 50 states have participated in the initiative, offering more than 350 hikes nationwide.

Each hike offers a unique experience, with windy coastal trails, shaded forest groves, and barren desert landscapes open to guests. In addition to beautiful natural landscapes, the guided hikes tour historical landmarks like the Angel Island internment camp or a preserved Russian-American Company settlement at Fort Ross State Historic Park.

Hiking isn’t just a great way to see nature and history, though. A 160 pound person burns 438 calories in an hour of hiking, according to the Mayo Clinic, making hiking a great way to get a workout.

“Studies have proven that getting outdoors is one good way to relax and recharge the body, mind and spirit,” said Phil McNelly, NASPD executive director. “We hope that hiking along a trail in a state park will become part of an individual’s or family’s regular exercise routine.”

Though no Valley state parks are part of the First Day Hikes, numerous Northern California parks are participating.

For more information, visit www.americasstateparks.org.

To contact Alex Cantatore, e-mail acantatore@turlockjournal.com or call 634-9141 ext. 2005.

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