SOLON — A hike along a leaf-strewn trail, talking with a friend or just listening to the crunch of gravel under your feet, has become a New Year’s Day tradition for many Eastern Iowans.
“January 1 is a day to reset,” said Alexandra Bruns, 39, of Solon. “What better way to reset than in nature?”
Bruns was one of about 40 people — and three dogs — to hike 2.5 miles at Lake Macbride State Park on Tuesday as part of the Iowa Department of Natural Resources’ First Day Hikes. Similar rambles were scheduled at 27 other state parks, allowing participants to get some exercise, experience Iowa in winter and, perhaps, reflect on the year passed and what lies ahead.
Elliot Sutton, 9, of Solon, had to be roused from bed by his parents, March and Chris Sutton, to attend Tuesday’s hike at Lake Macbride. He was sleepy because he’d stayed up until 11 p.m. to ring in 2019 with New York City, but was glad once he hit the trail with his brother, Lewis, 13.
“It’s fun to start the year off here,” Lewis said.
They walked ahead of their parents, waiting on a large outcropping near the spillway, the halfway point of the hike.
There, hikers paused to listen to the rushing water and take photos of a bald eagle perched in a tree. Several joked with Ron Puettmann, Lake Macbride park manager, about planting the majestic raptor there for a photo opportunity.
“The deer didn’t cooperate,” he joked back.
Hikers talked about their goals for 2019.
Bruns, an environmental engineer, intends to keep a daily gratitude journal. She’d already penned her first entry by the time the 10 a.m. hike started.
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Elliot Sutton and his sister, Cora, 11, both want to spend more time in the kitchen. Cora wants to learn to prepare meat, broth and tarts, while Elliot wants to cultivate his coffee cake competence.
“I want to try new sports and get in shape,” said Lewis Sutton, an eighth-grader. “I’m going out for track this year.”
Andy Spencer, 62, of Marion, read about the First Day Hikes in the “Iowa Outdoors” magazine and decided it would be his new New Year’s Day custom.
“That’s what inspired me to get out,” he said. “That, and eating too many doughnuts.”
Spencer also hopes to visit all 72 of Iowa’s state parks in 2019, “kind of like a bucket list.”
Iowa’s state park system is calling 2019 the Year of the Volunteer because it hopes to recruit volunteers across the state to help the system prepare for 2020, the 100th birthday of Iowa’s first state park, Backbone, in Delaware County.
Volunteer tasks likely will include trail maintenance, invasive species removal, picnic table repair and building siding staining, Puettmann said. The DNR also plans to build kiosks at many parks to help people step out of the rain when they register for a camping site, he said.
If you are interested in volunteering at Lake Macbride this year, call Puettmann or Nick Rocca at (319) 624-2200.
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