'First-day hikes' get year off on the right foot

Twenty-three "First Day Hikes" are planned for New Year's Day at Oregon State Parks, including three in Southern Oregon.

First-day hikes have become a nationwide tradition, with 657 state parks in all 50 states sponsoring a New Year's Day hike this year.

Valley of the Rogue State Park will host its first such hike, along with Harris Beach State Park in Curry County and Sunset Bay State Park near Coos Bay.

The ranger-led hikes are free, and so is parking that day.

The Valley of the Rogue hike will run from noon to 3 p.m. and cover about three miles of the Rogue Valley Greenway path along the banks of the Rogue River.

"It's open to everyone," says Pete Reinhardt, the park's manager. "With the pavement, it will be appropriate for kids. A lot of families use strollers on it."

Hikers will meet at the program area of the park, which is off Interstate 5 at exit 45B.

The hike, led by Ranger Lyle Scott, will focus on riparian vegetation and local birds, Reinhardt says.

Dogs are welcome on the hike but must be on a leash, and owners must carry doggie bags to collect waste. Hikers are encouraged to bring a water bottle, snacks and binoculars.

Because this is Valley of the Rogue's first hike under the program, park rangers have no idea how many people will take part, Reinhardt says. Rangers would like participants to RSVP so they will have an inkling of what the attendance will be, he says.

Hikers can RSVP by calling 541-761-1673 or emailing Lyle.Scott@state.or.us.

At Harris Beach State Park outside of Brookings, an easy, 1.5-mile hike will travel between Cape Ferrelo and House Rock. It will cover what park officials call excellent vantage points to view gray whales migrating from the north Pacific to Mexico for winter calving.

The hike is scheduled from 10 a.m. to 11:30 a.m., with parks officials providing hot cocoa and light snacks at the end of the hike. Children and dogs are welcome, but dogs must be kept on a leash no longer than 6 feet, and owners must carry doggie bags to collect waste.

It is the Oregon Coast in January, so expect rain. Call ahead at 541-469-0224 to check for any cancellations.

At Sunset Bay State Park outside of Charleston, an easy, four-mile hike will traverse the Oregon Coast Trail from the gazebo at Sunset Bay to the gardens at Shore Acres State Park, then back to the Sunset Bay beach area.

The hike is scheduled to begin at 8 a.m., with kids and dogs welcome under the same restrictions as at Harris Beach. Meet at the Sunset Bay gazebo, and bring rain gear, waterproof shoes and water.

For information, call 541-888-3778, ext. 221.

For information about all the hikes planned in Oregon, www.americasstateparks.org/first-day-hikes.

Reach reporter Mark Freeman at 541-776-4470 or mfreeman@mailtribune.com.

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