Hundreds of people will join each other in Maryland parks for the First Day Hikes, a tradition that becomes more and more popular.
People of all ages are joining the hikes, from children under 2-years-old to seniors over 70. The First Day Hike is sponsored by Maryland Park Service.
In Assateague State Park, the only oceanfront park in Maryland, located on Assateague Island, more than 200 people will join a guide for a 1-mile walk around the island. Hikers might have the chance to see deer and wild ponies but also loons and gulls above the ocean.
Jim Rapp, a 46-year-old man who is going in the First Day Hike since 15 years ago claims that the hike is almost like a ritual with a cleansing effect. Nothing compares, for him, with the feeling of staying on the beach and staring at the ocean from the edge of a continent.
The hike in the Assateague Park usually starts at 1 p.m. but Rapp likes to go earlier to enjoy the feeling of solitude and isolation. However, the men won’t go by himself this year, his wife and 19-months-old daughter will be joining him.
The state of Maryland organizes First Day Hikes in many parks, from the Gunpowder Falls to the Deep Creek Lake. The organized hikes vary in difficulty, ranging from 1 to 4 miles and start at different hours. However, the hike in Assateague is the most popular of all, attracting no less than 225 participants last year.
First Day Hikes have become an annual event in Maryland in 2012 and have since tripled in popularity, attracting over 1,600 people last year who hiked a total of 3,267 miles during the day.
According to Barbara Knisely, officer of personnel at the Maryland Park Service, the hikes aim to take people away from their TVs and computers during the holidays and encourage them to exercise while also giving them a sense of adventure. Most hikes end with cookies and hot chocolate.
The First Day Hike was held for the first time in the Assateague Park 20 years ago. Now people drive from all parts of the state to take part in the hike. Ron Pilling from Charles Village has been going in the First Day Hiking since 20 years ago. He claims that visiting the place during the winter is much more rewarding as the distractions of the summer are lacking.
To Rapp getting off the couch and taking in the fresh air while staring at the beauties of nature brings a great perspective for the following year.
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