MuskogeePhoenix.com, Muskogee, OK

December 27, 2012

Ring in the New Year with a hike

By John Kilgore
Phoenix Outdoors Columnist

—  In 2011,  an effort called First Day Hikes began in all 50 states and was formed by a group called America’s State Parks. They didn’t know the response they would get from the public to get citizens up off their warm couches on the mostly chilly New Year’s Day, but it drew a more than respectable 400 outings with over 14,000 participants nationwide.

 This year several Oklahoma State Parks are participating again. Greenleaf State Park south of Braggs, Tenkiller State Park near Vian and Sequoyah State Park east of Wagoner are the places in our area to begin 2013 with an exercise outing in a state park. All begin at 10 a.m. Jan. 1 with light refreshments  such as coffee and hot chocolate, served after the hike.

 The Greenleaf hike is billed as having an “easy” degree of difficulty.  It is a 1-mile hike and recommended for adults and kids. You may even bring your family “Fido”, as long as he’s on a leash.

Steve Evans, naturalist at Greenleaf State Park, will lead the hike. He recommends you bring water, binoculars and a camera and wear weather-appropriate clothing and shoes. Greenleaf’s Family Fun Trail is paved and handicap accessible. Meet at the Gazebo at the Kid’s Fishing Pond at 10 a.m. For more information, call (918) 487-5196.

“Natural as well as cultural information will be presented as we walk along the paved, handicap-accessible trail,” Evans said. “The highlight of the trail will be the deck that overlooks the Arkansas River far below. Learn about how the Arkansas River was the major highway of the land many years ago and learn about some of the explorers of early day Oklahoma that used the river.”

“Learn about Sour John Hill and why it was named Sour John.” continued Evans. “Parts of the Iron Mountain Railroad can also be seen along the trail. Don’t be surprised if we see wild turkey or deer along the hike. We will finish up with hot chocolate, coffee and s’mores being served at the gazebo. Come join us.”

At Tenkiller State Park, hikers will meet at the Driftwood Nature Center for a 3/4 mile hike of moderate difficulty. Minimum age for kids is 6. Dogs are allowed if on a leash. For further information contact the park at (918) 489-5641.

Sequoyah State Park will gather the hikers at the Three Forks Nature Center for a 1/2 mile fitness trail of moderate difficulty. No dogs, please, and children need to be at least four years of age. The trail is not stroller or wheelchair accessible. For additional information, call (918) 772-2108.

In case you will be in other parts of Oklahoma on New Year’s Day, the remaining three state parks participating  in  the First Day Hikes are Robbers Cave State Park at Wilburton, Osage Hills State Park near Pawhuska, and the Bernice area at Grand Lake.

If you are not quite ready for the Polar Bear Plunge or your local 5K, start the year out on an easier healthy note and drop by one of the area state parks.

John Kilgore’s outdoor column runs Fridays in the Phoenix. To reach him with news or comments, call (918) 348-9431 or email him at jkilgoreoutdoors@yahoo.com.