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Kanawha State Forest to offer First Day Hike

CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Whether it's for a New Year's resolution or just the joy of hiking, hikers have packed Kanawha State Forest over the past two years for the park's First Day Hike on New Year's Day.

This year, Kanawha State Forest Assistant Superintendent Kevin Dials will lead the third annual hike along roughly three miles of trail.

"It's something offered; something to do," said Dials, who has been in his position for more than six years. "A lot of people view it as an opportunity to act on a New Year's resolution."

Last year, the hike had about 115 participants, up from about 90 the year before.

With the National Weather Service calling for partly sunny skies and a high of 45 degrees Wednesday, Dials said he wouldn't be surprised at a large crowd.

"We could get a pretty good turnout," he said.

For those who have been on the hike in previous years, this year's route will be completely different.

"It's definitely different trails," he said. "We pretty much stuck to the same thing for the first two years."

One segment of the hike will include the Crabapple Trail, which was not passable just a few years ago, but was re-blazed by a group of volunteers.

"It was an older existing trail that was heavily damaged by a storm 15 or 20 years ago," Dials said. "We reopened it about two years ago."

The hike will begin at 2 p.m. at the pool parking lot -- about a mile from the park's main entrance. From there, the group will follow the relatively flat Davis Creek Trail north before crossing the park's main road to the Rattlesnake Trail. The hike route follows the Rattlesnake Trail west as it climbs a few hundred feet west above Davis Creek.

After that ascent, the hike will follow a connector trail north on the park's relatively level Boundary Road before connecting to the Crabapple Trail to descend back to the Davis Creek Trail and return to the pool area.

Along the way, hikers will travel through occasionally dense forest and be able to see winter wildlife and significant sandstone outcrops -- similar to winter hiking on other Kanawha State Forest trails.

And just in case hikers aren't warmed up by the trip, Dials will open the heated pool building and provide hot chocolate after the hike.

Participants should plan for about two hours of hiking, which Dials described as "moderate" difficulty overall. The steepest ascent will be a relatively short segment to the overall hike on the Rattlesnake Trail.

"It's a pretty good gain in elevation," Dials said, but adding, "the climb up Rattlesnake Trail is much less severe than if we do it in reverse (ascending via the Crabapple Trail)."

Dials said the crowds in the first two years have been made up of a very diverse group of people -- from families with young children to older adults. Some hikers come alone, and some come in a group.

"We see the whole range ... just about anybody you can imagine," he said.

The First Day Hike is not unique to Kanawha State Forest. Elsewhere in West Virginia, First Day Hikes are scheduled at Blackwater Falls State Park, Cacapon Resort State Park and Pipestem Resort State Park.

Other similar events are taking place at state parks across the country.

Miles hiked at First Day Hikes in West Virginia are eligible for the state Division of Natural Resources' "Hiking West Virginia" program.

Contact writer Matt Murphy at Matt.Murphy@dailymailwv.com or 304-348-4817. Follow him on Twitter @DMLocalGov and on Facebook at www.facebook.com/DailyMailLocalGov.


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