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Dave Anderson's Forest Journal: Easy New Year's resolution is to get outside on Day 1

DON'T the holidays feature plenty of indoor events? There's not much fresh air or room to run around.

If you're among those who take "eat, drink and be merry" seriously, here's a tip: Get outside on New Year's Day this year.

Make a New Year's resolution to bring your family and friends to join an easy, guided walk in one of two premier New Hampshire state parks. You'll jump-start the New Year's exercise resolution and perhaps create a whole new tradition. You'll also be participating in one of more than 600 hikes being offered by America's State Parks, which launched the First Day Hikes program last year in all 50 states.

This second year of the nationwide event is a positive, healthy way to welcome in the new year. Here in New Hampshire, walks are being offered at Monadnock State Park in Jaffrey and along the recently constructed Little Harbor Loop Trail, which begins at the historic Wentworth-Coolidge mansion in Portsmouth.

Phil Bryce, director of the New Hampshire Division of Parks and Recreation, is an enthusiast.

"We're excited to host First Day Hikes as part of the national effort to get people outdoors and into our parks," he said. "First Day Hikes are a great way to cure cabin fever and to burn off extra holiday calories by starting off the new year with an invigorating walk or hike in one of our beautiful state parks."

The New Hampshire Division of Parks and Recreation hosts First Day in partnership with the Society for the Protection of New Hampshire Forests and Eastern Mountain Sports. Registration for the event takes place from 10 to 10:30 a.m. in the Hiker's Cabin at Monadnock State Park and in the Visitor's Center at the Wentworth-Coolidge Historic Site. Participants also may preregister online.

At both locations, park staff and volunteers will lead hikes averaging 1.5 to 2 miles in length and no more than two hours in duration. Difficulty will range from easy to moderate. The hiking will start at 10:45 a.m. and end no later than 1 p.m.

The Little Harbor Loop Trail in Portsmouth connects the Wentworth-Coolidge Historic Site to the Forest Society's Creek Farm Reservation on Sagamore Creek, with views of Little Harbor along the easy 1.5-mile route, which takes about an hour to hike. Staff and volunteers will share information ranging from animal tracks and tree identification to interesting local history. Event coordinator Diane Holmes is excited to add the Portsmouth option to this year's First Day program.

"I'm grateful to the organizations partnering with New Hampshire State Parks for the event," she said. "It's a great fit with the city of Portsmouth and showcases how organizations pool resources and share interests."

The event at Mount Monadnock State Park includes a guided hike along the Parker Trail to its junction with the Lost Farm Trail. Depending on weather, trail conditions and hiker enthusiasm, there's an option to continue to the Little Mountain scenic vista for views of the summit.

Those who prefer to experience the park and explore the trails at their own pace rather than with a guided hike are encouraged to visit during the event. All day-use fees will be waived for visitors to Monadnock State Park and the Wentworth-Coolidge Mansion on Jan. 1, and complimentary healthy hot drinks and snacks will be available.

Please remember, pets are not permitted in these two parks.

And if free admission, healthy snacks and a guided walk aren't enough to entice you, consider that the intrepid and adventurous staffers from Eastern Mountain Sports will be on hand to display a range of outdoor recreation gear while providing information and demonstrations for its use.

The staff and volunteers collectively responsible for making First Day possible hope you will join them, participate in a hike or explore on your own to enjoy the first day of a healthy new year.

To learn more or to register for the event, go to the New Hampshire State Parks website and look for "what's happening" and "first day hike" (www.nhstateparks.org/whats-happening/first-day-hike).

To learn more about other hikes being offered nationwide as part of America's State Park First Day efforts, go to www.americasstateparks.org/article/4103/Americas-State-Parks-Host-First-Day-Hikes.

In the event of winter storms or unforeseen circumstances, cancellation notices will be posted on the State Parks website Pre-registered participants will be notified via email.

Naturalist Dave Anderson is director of Education and Volunteer Services for the Society for the Protection of New Hampshire Forests. His column appears once a month in the New Hampshire Sundacv y News. Email him at danderson@forestsociety.org or through the Forest Society Web site, forestsociety.org.

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