"First Day" Hikes scheduled at West Virginia state parks
Droop Mountain Battlefield State Park will be one of four West Virginia state parks to offer family-friendly "First Day" hikes on New Year's Day, January 1, 2012.
"We continue to encourage children and parents to get outdoors and enjoy nature," said Ken Caplinger, chief of West Virginia's state parks. "For people looking for a new first day tradition or a reason to start a new exercise program, we think First Day hiking programs will be a popular alternative to sitting inside."
"It will be a nice winter hike to see the park at a time when people don't normally see it," added Droop Superintendent Mike Smith.
While few people visit the historic state park in the off-season, Smith said the winter months offer their own special perspective on its trails. Smith said this is Droop Mountain Battlefield State Park's first scheduled winter hike in recent memory.
The First Day hike will cover two, mostly level, miles of trails, said Smith. Hikers will set out at 10 a.m. from the park office on a loop that encompasses the Overlook Trail as well as Horse Heaven or Old Soldier trail, progressing toward the lookout tower and back across to the park office on the Musket Trail.
Along the way, hikers will find an old bear den, small cave and rock features similar to those found at nearby Beartown State Park, as well as a stunning view toward Briery Knob.
Smith will have a fire going in the park workshop and "maybe even some warm apple cider for when we return."
Individuals planning to participate in First Day hikes should arrive at least 15 minutes prior to starting time. Participants should wear layers of clothing and sturdy, warm hiking boots or shoes, as well as hats and gloves and bring water. Hikes will depart on time and return to the starting point.
In addition to Droop Mountain, four state parks are offering First Day 2012 hikes: Blackwater Falls State Park, Kanawha State Forest and Twin Falls State Park.
Massachusetts state parks began offering First Day Hikes more than 20 years ago. The National Association of State Park Directors has issued a challenge to parks directors nationwide to establish First Day hikes.
"Hiking can be a year-round activity and winter landscapes and temperatures are perhaps more exhilarating than spring, summer or fall hikes," said Caplinger.
Smith, an avid hiker and historian, is also planning three hikes in 2013 retracing the routes of various regiments of the United States Civil War in November 1863 as they approached Droop Mountain. The most challenging will commemorate the Civil War path from Lewisburg to Droop Mountain, Smith will depart Lewisburg 2 p.m. on November 5, 2013, with arrival at Droop Mountain early morning of November 6, 2013, covering some 30 miles. Smith welcomes the most hardcore historian hikers to join him. Information and registration information will be available on the park's website droopmountainbattlefield.com or by calling 304-653-4254 (leave a message).
Additional West Virginia State Park First Day hikes
Blackwater Falls State Park
Paulita Cousin, park naturalist, will lead the First Day Hike on the Elakala Trail. Meet at Blackwater Lodge at 10 a.m. The activity will be about one mile with some steps.
Blackwater Falls schedules hikes and nature-based activities year-round basis. The park is noted for hosting the Wildflower Pilgrimage and will be introducing new interpretative weekends in 2012 that include Mountain Biodiversity Adventures in June, Edible/Medicinal/Poisonous Plants in July, and the Nature of Dolly Sods in September with Bill Beatty, and an annual Astronomy Weekend in October.
Blackwater Falls is located near Davis in Tucker County. Canaan Valley State Park and ski area is nearby.
Blackwater Falls State Park: 304-259-5216, email@example.com; blackwaterfalls.com.
Kanawha State Forest
Join assistant superintendent, Kevin Dials, office clerk Ken Long and campground volunteer Tom Turner at 2 pm at the swimming pool parking lot. "Bundle up and start the year out right - hike!" advised Dials.
Kanawha State Forest also has a Winter Hike Weekend scheduled January 21, 2012. This activity also begins at 2 p.m. as hikers meet at the swimming pool parking lot. This interpretive hike will be enlightening and educational concerning the forest activity during the winter months. There is a minimal fee to participate in the Winter Hike on January 21. The hike will be led by Doug Wood and is sponsored by the Kanawha State Forest Foundation and Mary Ingles Trail Blazers. Spring and fall hikes are also part of the special hikes conducted at Kanawha State Forest.
Kanawha State Forest is located in Charleston, Kanawha County. Known for its hiking and biking trails, the forest is open year-round for outdoor use. The campground is open seasonally.
Kanawha State Forest: 304-558-3500; firstname.lastname@example.org; kanawhastateforest.com.
Twin Falls State Park
Join naturalist Bryan Danford at Twin Falls State Park at 2 p.m. at the campground store front. Parking will be on the road access to the building. The hike sets off following the campground road leading to and continuing on the Huckleberry Trail. Danford anticipates the hike to last about two hours.
Lore and Tracking Weekend at Twin Falls is scheduled for January 13 - 15, 2012. The weekend steps back in time to the 18th century, when American Indians and European Americans lived closer to nature. Learn some of the skills that were necessary for everyday life, and learn of the cultural sharing that has made our modern lives richer. Enjoy nature, drama, tracking, and history in outdoor and indoor settings. Techniques on animal tracking and identification are part of the weekend. Registration is required for this event and overnight accommodations, activities and meals are included.
Twin Falls Resort is a year-round destination near Mullens and Pineville in Wyoming County. The golf course is open as weather permits. The lodge and vacation cabins are available for rent year-round and offer special rates and deals frequently. The campground is open as weather permits. Hiking and biking are popular due to the rugged terrain.
Twin Falls State Park, 304-294-4000, email@example.com; twinfallsresort.com.