ANDREW HUTCHINSON, Wolfe’s Neck Woods State Park manager, examines the remains of a horseshoe crab at the park’s mudflats on Monday. The park will host a First Day Hike on Jan. 1.

ANDREW HUTCHINSON, Wolfe’s Neck Woods State Park manager, examines the remains of a horseshoe crab at the park’s mudflats on Monday. The park will host a First Day Hike on Jan. 1.

FREEPORT

Park rangers want locals to start the new year off on the right foot, by stepping out into nature. First Day Hikes will take place in five state parks on Jan. 1, including guided hikes at Wolfe’s Neck Woods in Freeport at 10 a.m. and at Popham Beach in Phippsburg at 1 p.m.

FIRST DAY HIKES are a nationwide event, and are being held in conjunction with the American Hiking Society. More than 400 hikes are scheduled in all 50 states in order to promote exercise, as well as state parks, according to the society. FOR MORE INFORMATION, go to www.parksandlands.com.

FIRST DAY HIKES are a nationwide event, and are being held in conjunction with the American Hiking Society. More than 400 hikes are scheduled in all 50 states in order to promote exercise, as well as state parks, according to the society. FOR MORE INFORMATION, go to www.parksandlands.com.

Admission is free.

Each hike will highlight the natural environment of the parks, while encouraging attendees to start the new year with a healthy walk outdoors, according to Andrew Hutchinson, park manager at Wolfe’s Neck, who will be on hand at the hikes in Wolfe’s Neck and at Popham Beach.

The theme of the hike at Wolfe’s Neck will be “Winter in the Woods,” and hikers will get the chance to learn how plants and animals survive the Maine winter. Hikers will gather at the outdoor nature center near the parking area.

On Monday, the midwinter sun streamed between the pines at Wolfe’s Neck and the calm waters lapped along the shore. Speaking from the trail, Hutchinson noted how some familiar wildlife at Wolfe’s Neck may be hibernating or have migrated, making room for other species that can be seen on the First Day Hike.

Gone will be the osprey that summer at Wolfe’s Neck. Instead, be on the lookout for wild ducks such as buffleheads, golden eyes, and black ducks.

Loons can also be spotted in the salt waters off Wolfe’s Neck. The birds’ stark black and white color pattern will be gone in favor gray winter plumage, so they may appear a little unfamiliar to those used to watching them from a lakeside dock. But their calls are unmistakable, said Hutchinson.

The Wolfe’s Neck First Day Hike is onethird of a mile along a wheelchair accessible trail along the shoreline. Hikers will be given educational cards about how to track animals in the winter.

Popham’s one-mile hike will include a focus on tide pools and exploration of Fox Island.

Both parks are open year-round, even during holidays, said Hutchinson. “We keep our gates open,” he said.

Even those who aren’t nature buffs can still benefit from the First Day Hikes — the hike is a good way to walk off some holiday calories, said Hutchinson.

Other Maine state parks hosting First Day Hikes include Lily Bay in Beaver Cove, Range Ponds in Poland and Sebago Lake in Casco.

First Day Hikes are a nationwide event, and are being held in conjunction with the American Hiking Society. More than 400 hikes are scheduled in all 50 states in order to promote exercise, as well as state parks, according to the society.

For more information, go to www.parksandlands.com.


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