CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- State parks officials want West Virginians to get 2013 off to a running start -- well, actually a walking start.
They've scheduled "First Day Hikes" for New Year's Day at Blackwater Falls, Cacapon and Twin Falls state parks, and at Kanawha State Forest. The hikes, a 20-year tradition at parks throughout the country, proved quite popular last year when they were introduced in the Mountain State.
"We had right at 100 people show up for our hike," said Kevin Dials, assistant superintendent at Kanawha State Forest. "We had good weather, and we hiked up the CCC Snipe Trail to Mossy Rock, and on to Middle Ridge."
In fact, Dials said the planned 3-mile hike ended up turning into a 6-miler.
"We tweaked it so it will be shorter this year," he said, chuckling.
Dials believes this year's hike will be more interesting because of the havoc 2012's two major storms wreaked on the forest.
"There's visible damage from last June's derecho and from Hurricane Sandy in October," he said. "The hike will be a good opportunity to see how storms like that can affect a forest."
In keeping with the First Hikes nationwide model, West Virginia's hikes will focus more on exercise and enjoying the outdoors than about nature.
"The hikes are intended to get folks out and get them active, to work off some of the goodies eaten during the holidays," Dials said.
"We look at them as a chance to make a resolution to be more active and healthy during the year, and to use public lands more. We want folks to know the forest is here, and is usable even at times of the year when they think it's too cold."
The hike isn't technically a nature walk, but Dials said he would be happy to oblige if hikers ask him to interpret plants, wildlife or natural phenomena.