Starting Off on the Right Foot

The holiday season is in full swing, and just when you think you’ve recovered from the Thanksgiving turkey and holiday desserts, the Christmas M&M’s arrive!  Don’t let that and all of the calories and stress of the season get you down. Take a deep breath and enjoy the traditions, the gathering of family and friendsFirst Day Hikes 2012 and the sparkle of dancing lights through the window and in anxious children’s eyes. The holidays really are the most wonderful time of the year! We all know they fly by and when they’re over, it always fascinates me that everyone seems reenergized and ready to start the new year full of anticipation, hope and renewed purpose.

By the time you read this, the New Year will be just around the corner. So let’s start 2012 off on the right foot --literally! Come out and join state park systems around the nation in a First Day Hike on January 1.  The program was introduced to promote healthy lifestyles and year-round recreation at state parks. While many states (including South Carolina) have previously offered outdoor recreation programs on New Year’s Day, this is the first time all 50 state park systems have joined together to sponsor First Day Hikes. It’s bound to be a great time, and I hope you’ll make attending your first New Year’s resolution.

First Day Hikes will be hosted in 15 South Carolina State Parks. The ranger-led programs provide a good, close-to-home opportunity for families to start the new year in the great outdoors. Participating parks include Edisto Beach, Huntington Beach, Myrtle Beach, Givhans Ferry, Kings Mountain, Oconee, Paris Mountain, Table Rock, Landsford Canal, Poinsett, Lake Warren and Cheraw state parks. Also participating are Charles Towne Landing and Musgrove Mill state historic sites and Hickory Knob State Resort Park. Check out our new website for details on each hike.

All this hike talk reminds me how much I love to walk in the woods. Whether it’s scrambling up a great trail or just strollingHiking at Jones Gap through the forest, it’s therapeutic, refreshing and stimulating. In a fast-paced world with schedules and routines, a walk in the woods can be just what the doctor ordered. I have found that as soon as I lose sight of the parking lot, my focus shifts from the hassles of the modern world to the wonders of nature. I can almost feel my internal batteries recharging. Along your route it’s hard not to marvel at Mother Nature’s awesome display, from the tall, tall Tulip Poplars to meadows of ferns. Try doing what I do by stopping frequently and taking it all in.  Hear the sounds and reflect on the power of nature, and be absorbed into the wonders before you.

Once you have started out the year on the right foot, take the next step and visit our new website. It’s there to help you learn about all of our parks, and start making your park getaway plans. There are waterfalls awaiting discovery, campfires to be built and campsite and cabins to be reserved!

Soon the dogwoods will be blooming at Little Pee Dee and the lilies at Landsford Canal on the Catawba River will be at their peak.  Then there’s the Geocache Challenge heading your way with great prizes in 2012.  What’s the Geocache Challenge? Just follow us on Facebook or check the website for all the details. In the meantime, come out and start 2012 on the right foot with a First Day Hike!

Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays! 
See you in the parks!
Phil