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"First Day Hikes" Help Start the New Year with a Healthy Heart
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ATLANTA, December 5, 2011 -- All across the country, State Parks are inviting families to start the New Year with a “First Day Hike” and a commitment to healthy living. In Georgia, a dozen state parks have planned guided hikes where families can connect with nature and even re-connect with each other. The nationwide event is sponsored by America’s State Parks, with New Year’s Day hikes being led in all 50 states.

ATLANTA, December 5, 2011-- All across the country, State Parks are inviting families to start the New Year with a “First Day Hike” and a commitment to healthy living.  In Georgia, a dozen state parks have planned guided hikes where families can connect with nature and even re-connect with each other.  The nationwide event is sponsored by America’s State Parks, with New Year’s Day hikes being led in all 50 states.
 
“Winter is a great time to go hiking because you’ll see vistas normally hidden by foliage,” said Georgia State Parks Director Becky Kelley.  “You can really appreciate the magnificent shapes of trees, and you’ll see rocks and streams that are normally out of sight.  Plus, winter is a good time to look for wildlife like fox and turkey.”
 
Kicking off the New Year with an invigorating hike fits into the mission of the Georgia State Parks Tons of Fun Initiative: to encourage citizens to lead healthier lifestyles through outdoor recreation.  The TonsofFun.org website includes exercise ideas, healthy recipes, nutritionist and personal trainer advice, and more.
 
A list of all ranger-led hikes on New Year’s Day is below, and the entire calendar of events can be found at GeorgiaStateParks.org/Events.  Families may want to call ahead to make sure hikes are suitable for the youngest family members.
 
 
First-Day Hikes in Georgia’s State Parks
All held on New Year’s Day 2012
 
North Georgia Mountains
 
Amicalola Falls State Park and Lodge - Dawsonville, GA 
New Year's Day Hike at Amicalola Falls
Sunday, Jan 1, 2012
10:30 a.m.
Start 2012 off with a brisk walk full of winter views to the highest cascading waterfall east of the Mississippi River. Hike .6 mile roundtrip, then continue on your own if you want to climb the 604-steps up the waterfall.  Meet at the West Ridge Falls Access Trailhead.  $5 parking. 706-265-1969.
 
Cloudland Canyon State Park - Rising Fawn, GA 
First Day Hike at Cloudland Canyon
Sunday, Jan 1, 2012
1 p.m. to 4 p.m.    
Did you make a resolution to be healthier and happier in 2012?  Join a guided hike to see Cherokee and Hemlock falls. This naturalist-led hike will take you by unique geology of the canyon. $5 plus $5 parking. 706-913-7170.
 
Smithgall Woods State Park - Helen, GA 
First Day Hike at Smithgall Woods
Sunday, Jan 1, 2012
2 p.m. to 4 p.m.
Hike with Smithgall’s Manager and Interpretive Ranger to the beautiful Smithgall cottage facility where hot cider will be waiting. Let the First Hike be your first step toward good health, then continue through the year with progressively longer hikes. “A Walk in the Park” brochure offers guidance for hike distance and difficulty. $5 parking. 706-878-3087.
 
Tallulah Gorge State Park - Tallulah Falls, GA 
"The First Day" Hike
Sunday, Jan 1, 2012
10 a.m. to 12:30 p.m.
What a great way to start the New Year – Go for a hike! Join a ranger on a moderate 3.5-mile hike along the rim and through the woods. Bring water and snacks. $5 plus $5 parking. 706-754-7981.

Unicoi State Park - Helen, GA
"First Day Hike" on Unicoi Lake Trail
Sunday, Jan 1, 2012
10 a.m. to 12 p.m.
Enjoy a guided hike on our 2.5-mile Lake Trail with a park naturalist. Hikers can also learn about our "Tons of Fun" Fitness Challenge in Georgia State Parks. Afterwards, sign up for the challenge on site. $5 parking. 706-878-2201 ext. 305.

 
 
Metro-Atlanta
 
Panola Mountain State Park – Stockbridge, GA
Motivational New Year’s Day Hike
Sunday, Jan 1, 2012
1 p.m.
Hike to the top of Panola Mountain to make a fresh start on the New Year. Join a park ranger on a journey by writing out, then burning, last year’s burdens. Hike to the top of the mountain picturing all the great things you will accomplish in 2012. We will finish around a campfire sharing hot chocolate and our plans for the New Year. Register in advance. $7 plus $5 parking. 770-389-7801.
 
Sweetwater Creek State Park - Lithia Springs, GA 
Hike Through a Vanishing Habitat
Sunday, Jan 1, 2012
2 p.m. to 4 p.m.
Join the Park Manager for this walk that takes visitors to a seldom-seen area of the park, where a trace of the globally imperiled Mountain Longleaf Pine habitat has survived. We will discuss the trees that share this habitat, plans to restore areas of this habitat, and take in some beautiful vistas from the ridge tops of this incredible area. Meet at the Interpretive Center. $5 plus $5 parking. 770-732-5871.
 
Fort Yargo State Park - Winder, GA 
First Day Hike at Fort Yargo
Sunday, Jan 1, 2012
1 p.m.
Join us on a moderate 3.5-mile excursion along the lake. Bring water and snacks. $5 parking. 770-867-3489.
  
 
Middle & Southern Georgia
 
F.D. Roosevelt State Park - Pine Mountain, GA 
First Day Hike on the Pine Mountain Trail
Sunday, Jan 1, 2012
1 p.m.
Join members of the Pine Mountain Trail Association for a 3.4-mile Overlook Loop hike on New Year's Day. Meet at the Country Store Parking Lot and explore Gardens Overlook Crossing and the Chestnut Oak Trail. The PMTA will provide a shuttle at the Gardens Overlook for those who prefer a shorter 1.4-mile hike. 706-663-4858.
  
Reed Bingham State Park - Adel, GA 
First Day Hike with the Park Naturalist
Sunday, Jan 1, 2012
1 p.m.
Start off the New Year with a guided hike down our trails. Wear appropriate shoes and bring water. Meet at the trail head. $5 parking. 229-896-3551.
 
 
Coastal Georgia
 
Stephen C. Foster State Park - Fargo, GA 
First Day Hike in the Okefenokee Swamp
Sunday, Jan 1, 2012
9 a.m. to 10 a.m.      
Take a guided hike on the Trembling Earth Nature Trail. See some of the effects from the Honey Priarie Fire. Learn why fire is a vital process of the unique Okefenokee ecosystem. As you hike, learn about the plants and animals found in the beautiful Okefenokee Swamp. This is an easy 3/4 mile trail. $2 plus $5 parking. (912) 637-5274.
 
Laura S. Walker State Park - Waycross, GA 
Hike with a Ranger in Waycross
Sunday, Jan 1, 2012
10 a.m. to 11:30 a.m.
Hike with a ranger on Big Creek Nature Trail to start the New Year off right by getting fit. Meet at the park office by 9:45 a.m. Wear comfortable shoes and bring water. $5 parking. 912-287-4900.
  
Crooked River State Park - St. Marys, GA
First Day Hike
Sunday, Jan 1, 2012
9 a.m. to 10:30 a.m.
Greet 2012 with a 1½ hour naturalist-led hike along the “Ever Living" Trail. Route includes a birding platform and mudflats of Crooked River at low tide. Winter birds, native plants and native animals such as the gopher tortoise, Indian shell middens and marsh ecology will be discussed. Meet at the Sempervirens Trailhead. Pedometers available. $1 plus $5 parking. 912-882-5256.
 
 
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