Iowans throughout the state kicked off their new year with a healthy hike.
It's part of a nationwide initiative called First Day Hikes, encouraging people to connect with the great outdoors at their state parks and get healthy in the new year. Last year marked the first time all 50 state park systems participated.
The Mines of Spain State Recreation Area in Dubuque County was one of four Iowa state parks that hosted a free guided hike for the public Tuesday.
"Other than getting people out to see the state parks, it's also to get people outside to discover nature, especially during the wintertime, but the hope is that they'll continue to hike throughout the year," park ranger Wayne Buchholz said.
Susan Case came with her husband for the hike.
"We thought we'd come out, start the year off right, get a good walk in," she said. "I don't think the people in Dubuque realize there is to do like this. We've been here almost 24 years and it's taken us a long time to realize how much is going on in the parks. You just have to get out, there's always something going on."
At the Mines of Spain hike Tuesday, several dozen people braved the cold, which requires taking some precautions.
"Dress in layers," Buchholz said." Tell somebody where you're going, and you should never go hiking by yourself anyway, no matter what time of the year, especially when you're in areas like this where you do have cliffs and steep ravines."
The hike included facts about the park and Dubuque's history. Buchholz even tried calling a Pileated Woodpecker by playing the bird's cry on an app for his iPhone.
"It's got calls for virtually every bird in North America," he said of the app.
"I actually never realized that that was the call of the Pileated Woodpecker," Case said. "We've heard it in our woods many times but I didn't really ever know what it sounded like, so now I know we do have one in our woods."
Buchholz said he encourages everyone to get out and get hiking. It's free, family-friendly, fitness-enforcing and fun.
"There were 12 or so people that said they had never taken a winter hike," Buchholz said of the hikers Tuesday. "Some of them I talked to later never thought about doing it until they saw it in the paper."
Last year, more than 14,000 people nationwide hiked more than a combined total of 30,000 miles. This year, more than 400 hikes happened Tuesday at state parks across the US.
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