En­joy first day of 2013 hik­ing at a Texas park

Austin American-Statesman - - TV TONIGHT - By Pam Leblanc ple­blanc@states­man.com Con­tact Pam Leblanc at 445-3994.

I’ve spent my very best New Year’s Days tramp­ing up ridges, ad­mir­ing West Texas vis­tas and lunch­ing on trail mix and or­anges.

Usu­ally, we’re on the South Rim Trail at Big Bend Na­tional Park. We call out “Happy New Year!” to folks we meet, and lay on the sun­warmed rocks at the top, peer­ing down hun­dreds of feet over the lip of the rim to the brown, scrunched up desert floor be­low. Once, we did the hike in the snow.

You should hike on New Year’s Day, too.

Dozens of Texas parks are par­tic­i­pat­ing in a na­tional pro­gram de­signed to en­cour­age peo­ple to get some ex­er­cise and en­joy na­ture on the first day of the year.

Last year, more than 1,100 peo­ple showed up at 47 Texas state parks to par­tic­i­pate. This year’s ex­cur­sions range from short, leisurely walks to bird­ing hikes, na­ture tours along the Gulf Coast and chal­leng­ing treks in moun­tain­ous ter­rain.

State park staff or ex­pert vol­un­teers guide most of the hikes; most will fea­ture an in­ter­pre­tive mes­sage about na­tive plants, an­i­mals or park his­tory. The walks av­er­age 1 to 2 miles, although some parks of­fer longer or shorter op­tions.

Among the Cen­tral Texas parks of­fer­ing First Day Hikes are En­chanted Rock State Park, Ped­er­nales State Park, Buescher State Park, Inks Lake State Park, Devil’s Sink­hole State Nat­u­ral Area, Government Canyon State Nat­u­ral Area, Ped­er­nales State Park, Pal­metto State Park, Lost Maples State Nat­u­ral Area and Old Tun­nel State Park.

Park en­trance fees ap­ply, but many parks are lead­ing First Day Hikes at no ex­tra cost. Some parks re­quire ad­vance reser­va­tions.

The con­cept of an of­fi­cial “First Day Hike” orig­i­nated more than 20 years ago at the Blue Hills Reser­va­tion, a state park in Mil­ton, Mass. Since then, other states have of­fered sim­i­lar New Year’s pro­grams.

For more in­for­ma­tion about First Day Hikes in Texas State Parks, go to www.tex­as­stateparks.org/ first­day­hikes.

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