Free First Day guided hikes were offered at more than 30 state parks across Oregon on New Year’s Day, including at a few in Central Oregon.
At La Pine State Park, about 20 people took part in a three mile walk, following the Cougar Woods Loop Trail along the river and through the woods.
The hike was mostly level on a dirt trail with some ice to avoid slipping on, or breaking through depending on the hikers’ desires.
“Maybe some beaver prints, deer, elk hopefully. With lack of snow it’s going to be a little harder to track, but we’re going to wander our way down by the river and see what we can find,” said Park Ranger Hannah Lewis.
She was right about finding animal prints in the soft soils along the low flowing Deschutes River.
Participants came from all over Oregon dressed in layers and sturdy shoes for a hike through a forest that was frosted white by freezing fog. Some came with binoculars and field guides to identify animal tracks they found.
First Day Hikes is a national initiative to welcome the New Year in the outdoors, promote exercise and encourage connecting with nature.
“It gets rid of the hangover. Clears the head. It just sounded like a really fun thing to do. It’s a fun thing to enjoy the area a little bit,” said Karen Hoffmann.
“I’m not (hungover), said Bill Samuelson. “I came out for the fresh air.”
You can’t stop and smell the roses in the depths of winter, but folks on this hike had a chance to smell the ponderosa pine trees which have a hint of vanilla.
Finding a large, frozen crayfish was another of many highlights.
Other Central Oregon locations hosting First Day hikes Monday were Smith Rock, the Deschutes River Canyon and the Lower 66 trails in Prineville.
If you feel like you missed out, plan ahead for next New Year’s Day. Several of the First Day events require advance registration.