By Julianne G. Crane
Writer’s Note: During the COVID-19 pandemic, I am highlighting places that can be safely experienced from the road or in an outdoor public space such as a park or college campus. If you know of cities with outstanding public art collections, or unique places, please let me know so I can feature them.
Say good riddance to 2020 and a healthy hello to 2021 by heading outdoors for one of the “First Day Hikes” across America. This national initiative is coordinated by America’s State Parks to get people and their families out into fresh air and connecting with nature on New Year’s Day.
Because of the pandemic, look for “hikes with smaller groups, virtual hikes, self-guided hikes, and trail challenges…. Distance and rigor vary from park to park, but all hikes aim to create a fun experience for the whole family,” say hike organizers.
First Day Hikes suggestions
Click here to find First Day Hikes in all 50 states. Here are just two examples out of hundreds:
Lake Griffin State Park, Florida
Lake Griffin State Park encompasses 620 acres in central Florida and boasts some of the state’s oldest and biggest Live Oak trees.
Visitors explore the park in several ways including kayaking and hiking trails totaling about two miles in length.
On Jan. 1, there are “Half-Mile First Day Hikes” at 9, 10 and 11 a.m. Enjoy a leisurely stroll on a hard-packed dirt path where visitors see a sampling of the park’s habitats. Bring the whole household and breathe in a day of fresh air. Spaces fill up fast so contact the ranger station to register. Jeremy.Sweeney@FloridaDEP.gov.
Lake Griffin has a funky campground. We’ve stayed in one of the 40 campsites with water and electric. Some of the sites are best suited for smaller rigs. All sites fill up quickly in the winter months. To learn more about Lake Griffin State Park, click here.
Cape Henlopen State Park, Delaware
Delaware State Parks‘ self-guided First Day Hikes include the Point at Cape Henlopen State Park. Here, visitors can see where the Delaware Bay meets the Atlantic Ocean. It is a great place for viewing birds, dolphins, seals and more.
Hikers will view both the East End Breakwater and the Harbor of Refuge lighthouses. In winter, visitors can hike around the Point on the bay and ocean beaches. These hikes provide a means for individuals and families to welcome the coming year in the outdoors, exercising.
A second First Day Hike at Cape Henlopen is Walking the Dunes and Salt Marsh Spur Trail anytime between 8 a.m. and 4 p.m. Start at Herring Point parking lot and take the Walking Dunes Trail, then right (NE) on the Salt Marsh Spur trail, then right again back on the Walking Dunes trail to return to Herring Point. “Go at your own pace through the maritime forest with views of the marsh.” For more information: Nature Center at 302-645-6852.
Cape Henlopen’s campground is set among pine-covered dunes. There are 2-point hookups, 100-amp service on several sites, and sites to accommodate larger rigs. Accommodations include 20 walk-in tent sites adjacent to the Waking Dunes Trail. A dozen “camping cabins – two-room individual cabins that offer an outdoor spigot and fire ring for cooking and share a communal bath house – offer an economical alternative for vacationing at the beach.” Visit the Reservations section of Delaware State Parks for camping information and pricing.