Quinn Sigman and her sister Peighton Sigman raced through the woods, leaped over tree roots and trudged up steep hills at Cliffs of the Neuse State Park Tuesday afternoon — all while wearing tutus, spotted leggings and a pair of shiny cat ears on their heads.
Out of breath, they paused to chug a bottle of water. It was their first time hiking the trails during the state park’s First Day Hike, celebrating the start of the new year by excitedly exploring the winding trails by the swim lake and Neuse River.
Quinn, 7, led her sister, Peighton, 5, throughout the mile-long hike, which featured educational stops over the river. They seemed to have an endless supply of energy as they bounded through the woods with their parents and dog while laughing and playing.
The First Day Hike is a New Year’s Day tradition for the Cliffs of the Neuse State Park that started several years ago, park ranger Autumn Hamm said. It is a time when families and friends gather to hike through the woods and start the year off on the right foot, she said.
“The whole idea is to get people outside, get them starting the new year off right because they say what you do on New Year’s Day is what you do every day,” Hamm said.
Despite a few overcast clouds, the weather cleared up for a fun hour-long hike near the park’s swim lake. More than 100 people attended the hike with their families, friends and their furry four-legged friends. Park rangers leading the hike highlighted some of the recreational activities the park offers during the summer and answered questions about the wildlife, how the cliffs were formed and the different trees.
“It’s for families, not just the local community but anyone who is active or looking to become active in the new year,” Hamm said. “It’s very family friendly.”
“We use trails that most people can hike on. We don’t want to do anything too strenuous just to make sure it satisfies everyone.”
The First Day Hike is a popular tradition that began more than 40 years ago at Eno River State Park, said Katie Hall, public information officer for North Carolina State Parks. Each year, hundreds of people are drawn out to the state parks to hike.
“First Day Hikes are a time for the whole family or a group of friends to enjoy our state’s outstanding natural resources together,” said Dwayne Patterson, state parks director. “This is a great opportunity to introduce your children or a friend to hiking and start your year off right with fresh air and exercise.”
Hamm said the First Day Hike is a great opportunity at the start of the year, especially for those who are wanting to make a New Year’s resolution to stay more active. But, she said her favorite part about the hike is getting to see all of the families who attend.
“I like the fact that it gets everybody outside on New Year’s Day, starts them off on the right foot, gets everyone active and most people come out as families,” Hamm said. “It’s great to see everyone staying connected like that. It’s nice to see the families active in the park.”