First Day Hikes: Find Nature on New Year’s Day

Behold some branches, admire the clouds, and create a peaceful opening to 2016.


THE FIRST OF JANUARY... has always been portrayed as an indoor kind of day. Thank the chillier weather, at least around the Northern Hemisphere, for some of that reputation, and look to what happens the night before, in the whole staying-up-late, sipping-bubbly department for the rest of the reason. New Year's Day is often seen as a recuperation event, a time to sleep off the old year or at least the revelries of New Year's Eve. But other traditions have been taking a firm and more festive hold in recent years, and they involve, surprise surprise, the Great Outdoors. Probably the more visual of the two prominent alfresco events is the Polar Plunge, the yearly run-into-the-ocean/lake trot undertaken by the daring and the slightly daft (in, of course, the best sense). But coming up close at the rear, in terms of seeing and hearing about it with frequency, is the First Day Hike. It, too, deserves the prominent position the Polar Plunge now holds in popular culture, even if it doesn't come with the colorful photos of semi-naked people jumping into icy surf. For the First Day Hike is very much about achieving peace on Jan. 1, and connecting with nature and community, and, if it strikes you, the quiet setting of intentions for the year as you commune with the wild world around you.

A NUMBER OF FIRST DAY HIKES... are popping up here and there, but a fine place to keep an eye on, as New Year's Day approaches, is the American Hiking Society. There's a First Day Hike brewing at Jack London State Historic Park, starting at 10 o'clock, so if you still need a little snooze time in the A.M. -- and there's nothing wrong with that -- you can make the mid-morning happening. Also have a finger on the America's State Parks site if you want to see if a Jan. 1 jaunt pops up in your area. And will California State Parks track those brisk walks on the first day of the year? They have in the past. Even if you don't join up on a longer hike, with a group, you can, of course, make your way into the woods or along the beach on Jan. 1. Call it your own celebration, so if you want to sleep in, after a night of living it up, well, good on ya. Some New Year's Eve confetti and some New Year's Day trees are bound to do anyone heading into 2016 a bit of good.

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