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Ring in the New Year with a Hike in an Iowa State Park

Ring in the New Year by taking a hike in an Iowa state park. Three Iowa state parks are participating in the national First Day Hikes event held in all 50 states Jan. 1.

America’s State Parks First Day Hikes offer individuals and families an opportunity to begin the New Year rejuvenating and connecting with the outdoors by taking a healthy hike on Jan. 1, 2012, at a state park.

“This is a good opportunity for Iowans to start the year off by reconnecting with their state park during a time of year when most of our visitors are staying inside,” said Kevin Szcodronski, chief of the Iowa DNR State Parks Bureau. “Parks offer a completely different experience in the winter, from hiking or skiing on our trails, to ice fishing and even winter camping.”

The DNR has events planned at Walnut Woods, near Des Moines, Dolliver in Webster County and Mines of Spain near Dubuque. Participants should dress for the weather and may want to bring binoculars, a camera and a water bottle. Contact the park for more details.

Hikers can expect to be surrounded by the quiet beauty of nature in winter, with views and vistas unimpeded by foliage. Watch for bald eagles overhead, and keep an eye out for deer sightings, wild turkey, squirrels and numerous songbirds.

Walnut Woods will host a two- to three-mile hike, with shorter options available. Hikers will travel through popular birding areas in the Raccoon River valley. Participants should meet at the lodge at 9 a.m. Dogs are welcome, but must be kept on a leash. Snowshoers or skiers are welcome, if the conditions allow. Hot chocolate will be provided following the hike.

Dolliver will host a half-mile hike beginning at 1 p.m. Scenic views of the Des Moines River and its sandstone bluffs can be expected. Participants should meet at the south lodge.

The hike at the Mines of Spain begins at 1 p.m. from the E. B. Lyons Interpretive Center. Participants should plan to arrive one-half hour early to register and may have the chance to see Iowa’s largest woodpecker―the pileated―standing almost 12 inches tall. Cocoa, coffee and refreshments will be available for all participants. The centers exhibits and displays will be open for viewing.

“Many of us make New Year resolutions. How about you and your family starting out 2012 in a healthy and fun way by hiking in a scenic state park?” said Szcodronski. “This is a resolution that you’ll be able to check-off as accomplished on Jan. 1 and set the stage for future enjoyment and exercise when you return throughout the year.”

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