MARQUETTE — If you want to start out 2018 on the right foot, you can do just that by participating in the First Day Hike program taking place at 10 a.m. Jan. 1 at Kanopolis State Park.
The First Day Hike program is sponsored by America’s State Parks, which reports that nearly 55,000 people rang in the New Year by collectively hiking over 133,000 miles throughout the country on the guided hikes in 2017. Whether individually or in a group, hikers are able to get outside, exercise, enjoy nature and welcome 2018 during the First Day Hike.
"It was something that was started as a way to help people live healthier lives, maybe start your new year by hiking outdoors instead of sitting around and watching TV," said Kathy Pritchett of the Kansas Department of Wildlife, Parks and Tourism. "It's cold, usually, but it's a lot of fun."
Kanopolis State Park, located at 200 Horsethief Road in Marquette, is hosting the annual guided hike, which will follow the park's Split Boulder Trail. This 1.6-mile trail loops through interesting boulder formations, near the shore line of Kanopolis Lake and goes through trees and meadows back to the trailhead.
Hikers should meet at the park office before 10 a.m. on Jan. 1. At 10 a.m., the group will make a short drive to the head of the Split Boulder Trail.
"It's going to be cold; hopefully the wind isn't blowing," said Darryl Talbott, administrative specialist at Kanopolis State Park.
Kanopolis State Park is home to more than 27 miles of trails for hikers, mountain bikers and horseback riders.
"There's a lot of things in nature that you don't see every day," Talbott said. "If you're into hiking and are up for the challenge, we've got places to hike."
One of the park's most popular trails is Buffalo Track Canyon Nature Trail.
"There's some pretty places with the different canyons," Talbott said. "The red limestone pillars are a sight that is pretty unique to Kanopolis State Park."
Hiking trails during the winter months offers a different view of the landscape.
"On certain trails, you can see some of the petroglyphs that you can't see during the summer because they're covered by foliage," Talbott said.
Rock outcroppings are visible along the Split Boulder Trail, along with native fauna.
"There's a lot of eagle activity around there, and then we have deer in the park and turkey," Talbott said. "On these cold mornings, they're generally out."
Those wanting to participate in the First Day Hike should wear sturdy walking shoes or boots and dress appropriately for the winter weather.
Dogs on leashes will also be allowed to take part in the hike.
It is recommended that hikers should bring water and snacks; coffee and hot chocolate will be provided at the park office before and after the hike.
Walkers may also want to bring a pair of binoculars and a camera to enhance their viewing experience.
The Kansas Department of Wildlife, Parks and Tourism encourages participants to post pictures on social media using the hashtags #FirstDayHikes and #MyKSStatePark. Those who hike the Split Boulder Trail on the morning of Jan. 1 will receive a free T-shirt.
Here are some tips about cold weather hiking from the American Hiking Society:
— Dress in layers.
While it is nice to have a huge, fluffy parka on the ski slopes, it really isn’t practical for the trail. Instead, take several layers you can peel off or put on when you stop and go on the trail.
Your base layer should be a wicking fabric that will pull your sweat away from the skin. Overheating is a dangerous threat since excessive moisture that isn’t allowed to escape can freeze and cause hypothermia. If you ever wondered why some of your jackets have zippers under the armpits, it’s to keep air circulating and prevent your clothes from getting wet.
— Wear a hat.
Our heads are filled with oxygen-carrying capillaries, which fuel our brains and consume one-third of the body’s energy. During the colder months, it is important to keep your head covered to maintain function and not lose precious body heat. You may want to bring a warmer hat for rest periods.
— Keep your water bottle warm.
Whether you are at the campsite or on the trail, a foam sleeve will help prevent the water from freezing in a bottle. Nothing warms your body or your spirits like warm liquid by a campfire. Boil water to take with you as you hike. Also, to keep water from freezing, keep your water bottle on the inside of your jacket – properly sealed, of course.
— Use a sleeping bag liner.
You don’t have to bulk up with a heavier sleeping bag for winter camping. Putting a liner inside a 20-degree bag is an inexpensive way to boost your bag’s rating another 10 or so degrees.
— Don’t toss the sunscreen.
While this is most important if you are hiking in a snowy region, winter hikers often forget about the sun’s glare reflecting off of white snow.
— Be prepared for shorter days.
As early as October, dusk settles earlier and more quickly than in the summer. Have a good idea of the usable daylight hours before going hiking. Always carry a headlamp or flashlight with extra batteries.
To learn more about the First Day Hike, call the Kanopolis State Park office at 785-546-2565. For more information about the First Day Hike program and other hikes around the United States, visit http://naspd.org.
Contact Patricia Middleton by email at email@example.com or follow her stories on Twitter at @MacSentinel.