Ah, a brand new year. What resolutions shall I make? What personal projects shall I undertake? Those thoughts crossed my mind as the day dawned gray and cool, with rainy snow forecast for the afternoon. The hour was early as I arose and all was calm and fairly mild as daylight advanced across my little corner of the western hemisphere. A perfect day, I decided, to embrace the National Park Service’s "First Day Hikes", a nationwide initiative designed to get Americans outside, drawing fresh air deeply into their lungs as they put one foot in front of another, striding along the multitude of hiking trails that imbue our nation’s scenic state parks.
And so I rose, even before breakfast and, pulling on long underwear and heavy sweatpants, warm gloves and waterproof muck boots, drove up my rural Baltimore county road to my local and most favorite of wilderness areas, Soldiers Delight Natural Environment Area in Owings Mills, Maryland (http://www.dnr.state.md.us/publiclands/central/soldiersdelight.asp), a federally designated wild land just two miles from my home, on whose board of directors I have acted as vice president for the past five years (http://home.comcast.net/~soldiersdelight/).
Organized hikes were scheduled for parks all over Maryland later in the day, including a hike of the Serpentine Trail at Soldiers Delight at 1:00 p.m.. But I wanted my nature fix early, so I chose the Choate Mine trail for my "First Day" hike. Well marked and wide, with picturesque views of oak savanna bordering the globally unique serpentine barrens which distinguish SDNEA, it was an ideal trail to exercise the legs of a girl who has seen far more wineglasses than workouts over the past few days. At such an early hour, mine was the only car parked at the Overlook, a scenic parking area with a vista to the west that never fails to give me pause, as if I am looking clear to the distant shore of my childhood and my family so far away on the California coast.
Squirrels scampered across my path as I made my way along the gravelly trail. Songbirds chirped their heed of my passing. The sun tried in vain to peek out from a persistent gloom, but no flakes or drops deigned to spoil my adventure. Passing alongside picturesque Red Run, a babbling brook that twists through my neighborhood, I noted smidgens of snow still lingering in the shadows of leeward slopes. It was beautiful out, and oh, so peaceful, a perfect opportunity for some deep soul-searching and studious contemplation of the direction my life should take in the year ahead.
Not a hiker? Don’t despair. There are trails in our state parks to fit every conceivable measure of fitness. The key is to notice your body as it experiences the great outdoors. Feel that air drawn into your lungs. Enjoy the sense of satisfaction once you’re back at home, the chill air on your face only a distant memory as you sit in front of a crackling fire with a cup of hot tea warming your hands. That’s how I spent my day, this first rotation of the earth in 2013. It’s going to be a good year.