December 19, 2012

Free guided hikes Jan. 1 in Maine parks

"We were so happy when the First Day Hikes came along because we have been developing programs to get people into the state parks in winter," said the director of Maine's Division of Parks and Public Lands.

The Associated Press

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click image to enlarge

In this 2003 file photo, visitors look out at ice floes from the beach at Sebago Lake State Park. Maine – like all 50 states – is offering free guided hikes in its state parks on Jan. 1.

John Patriquin / Staff Photographer

State park officials are not the only ones organizing outdoor activities to start the new year off right. Many communities and athletic clubs organize races in local parks. Life Time Fitness, which operates fitness centers and programs, expects 100,000 people at 5-kilometer walks and runs in 28 cities Jan. 1. There are also polar bear plunges, where participants immerse themselves in chilly lakes and oceans on New Year's Day, held around the country from Seattle to Coney Island in Brooklyn, N.Y.

Organizations like the Appalachian Mountain Club, the Sierra Club and local groups like Nevada's Friends of Gold Butte also organize Jan. 1 hikes and events in many places. Even in New York City, outdoor clubs are offering New Year's Day outings to explore the north end of Manhattan and the shores of Staten Island.

Many individuals simply create their own outings to kick off the new year. Lincoln Fuller of Yarmouth, Maine, has been hiking up Mount Washington in New Hampshire each Jan. 1 with two friends for more than 10 years. He says they usually encounter dozens of others on the cold, windy mountain.

"It's always surprising to me how many people go up on New Year's Day to say, 'This would be a good way to start the year,'" he said.

Fuller says he's often asked by people why he would do such a thing in the middle of winter. His standard reply: "Well, there's no bugs."

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