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Go Ask Mom

Reconnect with nature, work off holiday sweets during First Day Hikes

Posted December 29, 2015
Updated December 30, 2015

I don't know about you, but I could use a good walk or 112 of them to work off all of the sugar and rich foods I've eaten over the last month.

Thankfully, parks across the region and the state offer some great opportunities to kick 2016 off with a healthy start with First Day Hikes. It's an opportunity for families to exercise and reconnect with nature after such a busy fall and holiday season.

Let's start with North Carolina's state parks system, which will hold 46 guided hikes on New Year's Day. You'll find quick, family-friendly hikes for those with young children to six-mike hikes for more seasoned explorers. Many will include interpretative programs with rangers.

They include the popular 2 p.m. hike at Durham's Eno River State Park, which launched its First Day Hike more than 40 years ago. Two hikes - a two mile and a four mile - will be offered. No reservations are required for this one, but it's recommended you get there early as it can get very busy.

Falls Lake State Recreation Area has hikes at 10 a.m., 11 a.m., 1 p.m. and 2 p.m. Reservations are required for this one (and it may be full). Call the park office at 919-676-1027 to sign up. Participants will join a park ranger for a scavenger hunt and hike on the 0.75 mile Neuse Bend Trail in the Rolling View Recreation Area. The scavenger hunt is designed for kids ages 6 to 12.

At Jordan Lake State Recreation Area, the Seaforth Recreation Area will host a 1 1/4 mile hike along a fairly flat trail with gentle rolling hills. This one is designed for all ages, especially kids. No reservations are required. This particular trail was recently designated a Kids in Parks Track Trail, which can be self-guided with brochures. On Friday, a ranger will be along for the walk. It's 3 p.m. to 4:30 p.m., Friday.

At least two local parks departments also are hosting their own treks.

For the third year, Cary invites residents to its First Walk at the Annie Jones Greenway, 1414 Tarbert Dr. The free walk starts at 10 a.m., Friday, and runs one hour. Participants will explore a 1.2-mile asphalt trail that meanders along streams and through woods. Parking is available in the lot adjoining the Annie Jones Park where participants will meet. Registration is optional. You can call 919-460-4965.

In Raleigh, Wilkerson Nature Preserve will host a nature walk at 10 a.m., Friday. The two-mile hike takes participants out to view a rock outcrop, giant trees and a beaver pond. After the hike, there will be hot chocolate at the new AWL Education Center, dedicated to nature education and research into the methods of conservation.

And Raleigh's Durant Nature Park will offer a scenic nature walk. This one will run at least a mile over trails that are not stroller friendly. Pre-registration is requested, but not required. It is 10 a.m., Friday.

Both the state parks' website and the calendar for the North Carolina Office of Environmental Education list first day hikes across the region and state.

Not up for a group effort? Check out my five favorite nature hikes for families.

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  • Natasha Teasley Dec 31, 2015
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    After recent rains the state parks should not be hosting these hikes. The amount of trail damage that will come from so many people hiking in mud will do tremendous damage to our state trail system.