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Oklahoma State Parks will start the new year with an old tradition, hosting First Day guided hikes at various state parks across Oklahoma.
The guided hikes will happen at 20 parks, but in all state parks in Oklahoma, people are encouraged to start the year off by hitting the trails and starting a new, healthy habit.
One of the more popular state parks hosting New Year’s Day hikes, Quartz Mountain, is near Lone Wolf, in Kiowa County. The park will have two guided hikes. The first, at 11 a.m., will take attendees through the Sunset Trail, a half-mile loop that’s considered a moderately difficult walk, with a few steep portions.
The second, beginning at 2 p.m. at the park office at 14722 Highway 44a in Lone Wolf, will take attendees on a two-mile trek to Baldy Point. This hike also is considered moderately difficult, with steep portions and an elevation gain of 300 feet.
Makayla Marshall, the Recreation Director for Quartz Mountain State Park, will be one of the guides for the two tours. She is originally from Michigan, which sees weather considerably colder than Southwest Oklahoma typically does in January.
“First Day hikes are kind of new to me,” Marshall said. “I’m excited to get to be outside in the winter here.”
In Michigan, Marshall grew up being outside most days of her life. She developed a love for nature and ecology that eventually led her to work in various capacities at state parks throughout the country. She said that working for parks is a way to give back to nature, and to help others to appreciate it more deeply.
“I’m excited to take people to explore parts of their state they haven’t experienced before,” Marshall said.
Marshall was surprised by Oklahoma when she first started working at Quartz Mountain. She said it was a meeting place for many different types of ecosystems seen throughout the U.S.
“It’s so diverse,” Marshall said. “It’s a place where Eastern grassland meets the short-grass of the Southwest. There’s a lot to see here.”
The weather for Saturday is forecast to be cold in most of Oklahoma, but despite this, Marshall expects a healthy turnout for the first day hikes. Coffee and hot cocoa will be provided to help guests warm up. Marshall says she is used to the cold weather, having the advantage of coming from a Northern Midwest state.
“Oh, yeah, I’m going to be just fine,” Marshall said.
The hike at Great Plains State Park at Mountain Park will begin at 10 a.m. Sunday. Participants should meet at the park office 22487 E. 1566 Road, Mountain Park, for a moderate level short hike to the entrance by Upper Mountain (2 miles) or continue along the trail to the east entrance, to the dam, then back (5-6 miles). Leashed pets are allowed. Information is available by calling (580) 569-2032.
The hike at Fort Cobb State Park is set for Jan. 8. Participants should meet at 10 a.m. at the Eagles’ Nest Pavilion, County Street 3530 and Eagle View Road, for a moderate 3-mile hike on the Western Oaks Healthy Trail. Leashed pets are allowed. Information is available by calling (405) 643-2249.