There are few things better than to start the New Year off with a (pardon the pun) step in the right direction. I have had the pleasure of leading the First Day Hike at York River State Park for eight of the ten years I’ve worked here. When the program first began, only eight hikers joined me on a quick walk along Beaver and Woodstock Pond Trails. Over the years, participation has grown. The better the weather, the more people participate in what has become a tradition in the Virginia State Parks.
Looking at the lower photo, it is easy to get put off by such a crowd if your’e looking for a quiet and healing walk in the woods. But, I find that hiking in groups does have some advantages. First of them is that it can be a good intro to outdoor activity for newbies. Beginners at anything may feel that they are all alone and stepping out with the wolves. With a group of like minded people, there is nothing to fear even if you’ve never been on a trail before.
This leads to a second advantage of group hikes; meeting people. I enjoy making new acquaintances and friends and helping them discover the beauty of the outdoors. There is a Canadian family who came to one of my Spring Break events five years ago that return every year to participate in a new program I am offering. I’ve met an elderly fraternity brother from another state who shared some circles of friends with me. Mentioning that some Christians celebrate Christmas on January 6th revealed a Serbian lady in our group on year who grew up in that tradition.
It is when we interact with each other that we pick up tip to enjoy our time outside even more. Someone may be looking for the perfect sea-side excursion and wind up chatting with a recent visitor to False Cape State Park. Another person may have brought her camera and shows off some fantastic images of Canvasbacks to some kids who like ducks. A couple of guys might talk about the gear they use when camping. I have seen a few friendships and new hobbies born from group hikes.
The serenity of a solo, or hike with one or two companions is something that I greatly enjoy. But, I advise anyone not to shun a group hike.