First Day Hikes on your own

Plan now to hit the trail on New Year’s Day. First Day Hikes might be “virtual” in 2021, but they’re happening. New Hampshire State Parks offer some opportunities. No groups, but also no lines at a sign-in table. That works for me.

This post is illustrated with a couple of photos from past First Days, when I visited Monadnock and Wellington State Parks. Guided hikes like the ones I enjoyed there won’t be happening this January 1, but walking solo or with family is a treat in itself.

Ellen Kolb at Monadnock State Park, New Hampshire
The Granite State Walker celebrating a New Year’s Day near Mt. Monadnock

The state parks team is making the best of yet another virtual event, a peculiar phenomenon of 2020 origin that means group-event-without-a-group. If you register for their 2021 First Day Hike program, you’ll be eligible for a drawing for a 2021 Family Season Pass to New Hampshire state parks.

And then there’s the photo contest, for photos taken at New Hampshire state parks between December 26, 2020 and January 1, 2021. Read the details on the State Parks page, and then head out to Pawtuckaway or Miller or whatever other state park strikes your fancy.

As I write this, a day-long rain has washed away the foot of snow that fell here in southern New Hampshire just last week. No telling what trail conditions I’ll find by the time New Year’s Day rolls around. Barring an ice storm, though, I’ll be outdoors that day. Maybe I’ll travel no further than one of my town’s nature preserves, or maybe I’ll be more ambitious. There’s nothing like a Granite State walk to bring in a new year properly.

May you find just the right path from which to wave goodbye to 2020!

Ellen Kolb on New Hampshire First Day Hike 2017 overlooking Newfound Lake
First Day Hike, 2017: the Granite State Walker on Little Sugarloaf overlooking Newfound Lake, via Wellington State Park in Bristol NH.

First Day Hikes for 2017 announced

The folks at New Hampshire State Parks have done their best to get me to break my long tradition of spending New Year’s Day at a 5k race in Temple, which I sometimes followed with a walk up Pack Monadnock. Last New Year’s Days have found me instead at a First Day Hike at Silver Lake State Park, organized by the New Hampshire Division of Parks and Recreation. The program is coming back for another round on January 1, 2017.

Details have been posted  on the State Parks web site about First Day Hikes at the Wentworth-Coolidge Mansion State Historic Site in Portsmouth, Silver Lake State Park in Hollis, Monadnock State Park in Jaffrey, Weeks State Park in Lancaster, and Wellington State Park in Bristol.


Signing up for the First Day 2016 hike at Silver Lake State Park in Hollis. Photo by Ellen Kolb.

January doesn’t always make for the best daytrip weather, but it sure would be fun to head to Weeks for a walk up that amazing auto road leading to that amazing fire tower…or maybe to discover Wellington, which I’ve never visited…or I could just stay close to home and go to Hollis as I did last January 1. What a wonderful day that was.

Read the descriptions, pick a spot, and put it on your calendar. I’ll have to give it some thought. My customary 5k in Temple is always fun, but these options are mighty tempting. Come to think of it, Temple is on the way to Monadnock. Hmmm…


A New Year’s Day visit to Mt. Monadnock

I usually travel to Temple every New Year’s Day for the Peanut Butter Chip Chase 5k.  The drive from my home to the Wapack Range is beautiful, and I enjoy walking (not running) on Temple’s quiet roads. Today, though, I decided to bring in 2014 by heading to Mt. Monadnock for a First Day Hike sponsored by the good folks at Monadnock State Park. I chose a guided nature hike along the low and flat Parker Trail; the other option was an uphill hike to a spot with a good view. Each hike drew about twenty people, accompanied by guides from the park and from the Forest Society.

Yours truly celebrating New Year's Day on Mt. Monadnock

Yours truly celebrating New Year’s Day on Mt. Monadnock

I wore strap-on traction aids for my boots, and left my snowshoes in the car when I saw how icy the trails were. The temperature was about 15º, and I can tell you now what happens when you carry granola bars in your backpack on a 15º day: the bars freeze solid. (Three words for next time: inside coat pocket.) Lots of sunshine, though.

Heading out for the First Day hike

Heading out for the First Day hike

We were led by Meredith and Brenda of the park staff, along with a specialist in land conservation from the Forest Society. I didn’t take notes but soaked in what I could as they talked about forest management, wildlife habitat, and the history of the mountain. We walked at a very leisurely pace along the quiet Parker Trail. Half the fun was watching the kids in our group. A few of them appeared to be veterans of the trails. Others were wide-eyed and full of questions, walking a little unsteadily as they adjusted to having microspikes on their boots.

We were hardly the only visitors to the park, which surprised me. When I arrived at the headquarters entrance, the main parking lot was full and I had to proceed to the overflow lot. When I met Sue, the new park director, I asked her about that. “Oh, yes. We’re open year-round. Even on days like this, we get between 200 and 400 visitors.”

This is the third year that First Day Hikes have been held at New Hampshire state parks. I think I’ll be back next year.

Brenda of Monadnock park staff at reservoir dam

Brenda of Monadnock park staff at reservoir dam

New Year's Day fashion: boots with traction aids.

New Year’s Day fashion: boots with traction aids.

A path to take another day: Lost Farm trail.

A path to take another day: Lost Farm trail.

A glacial erratic along the way. Schist, not granite.

A glacial erratic along the way. Schist, not granite.