After months of being cooped up due to the pandemic, people deserve more than one head-clearing New Year’s hike, state officials say.
Say goodbye to the traditional First Day Hike. Try First Week Hikes instead.
First Week Hikes are “a new twist” on a beloved tradition, said Jim Montgomery, commissioner of the Massachusetts Department of Recreation and Conservation, in a video.
“To keep everyone safe during the pandemic, we’re encouraging a week-long celebration of self-guided adventures,” Montgomery said. “Now more than ever, we need fresh air and outdoor spaces for recreation and rejuvenation.”
Looking for ideas? Dozens of recommended hikes are listed on the department’s website. Better-known places include Mount Greylock State Reservation and Quabbin Reservoir Others you might not have heard of, including Chicopee Memorial State Park and Mount Sugarloaf State Reservation.
In the video, state park officials encouraged people to go on self-guided hikes and share the experience on Twitter and Instagram using the hashtag #MAFirstWeekHikes.
The first annual First Day Hike began with 380 people gathered in the Blue Hills Reservation in 1992, with the goal of starting off the year with a healthy habit of exercise.
Since that day, the phenomenon has gained popularity across the country.
Ranger Tom Bender, of the Blue Hills Reservation, outlined in the video several health and safety guidelines for hikers to follow to ensure a successful hike:
- Bring a map, since no paper maps are available at parks due to the pandemic. People can download or print out a map at home, or take a photo of the map at the park headquarters.
- Dress for the weather. Wear layers and sturdy footgear, and be aware of trail conditions.
- Keep the hike short and safe. Steer clear of icy trails, or be prepared with hiking poles and traction devices.
Visitors should also check to see if a park allows dogs if they’re planning on bringing a furry companion, state park officials said. Some water supply protection areas, such as the Quabbin Reservoir, do not allow dogs.
People who bring animals are expected to keep them on a leash and dispose of any dog waste, state park officials said.
Visitors should return to their car by 4:30 p.m. to avoid getting caught in the dark, state park officials said.
Other precautions recommended include bringing hand sanitizer, stepping aside on the trail to allow people to pass, and only hiking with those who live in your household. All visitors must wear facial coverings and practice social distancing.
“Head to the hills, or the shore, or a scenic park near you for a healthy start to the new year,” Montgomery said.
Matt Berg can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @mattberg33.