Hiking into the New Decade

A refreshing hike at a state park sets the new year and decade in a positive direction.


by Sue Smith Romero

General Nicholas Herkimer's historic home.


It’s 11:30 on the morning of January 1, the very first day of 2020 - a new year, a new decade. Marilyn Whaley answers her phone. It’s her daughter Lori calling with a spontaneous invitation. Marilyn’s only just finished her first cup of coffee at her home in Herkimer and she’s still in her pajamas, but she’s always up for an adventure.


“Life is more fun when you do things on the spur of the moment,” she tells me later.


By 1:00pm she’s bundled up and hiking down the trail along the Erie Canal at the Herkimer Home State Historic Site in Little Falls. Her daughter, grandson, their dogs, and about 40 other people crunch through the light layer of snow on a First Day Hike. It’s a New Year’s Day event organized by state parks in all 50 states, now in its 9th year. The New York State Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation listed more than 75 hikes on its website. But this is the first time it’s been held at the Herkimer Home.

A map showing the many First Day Hike locations in New York.


The air is crisp and fresh, around 30 degrees. A few flurries flutter from the overcast sky. We can glimpse the Erie Canal through the bare trees and hear a train’s whistle as it passes by.


Further along the trail, Kevin Joyce explains a paper map to members of Boy Scout Troop 25 of Mohawk. They’re working on their hiking and orienteering requirements. “This is a great opportunity to get out in the fresh air,” he says. For similar reasons, Corinne Wilson has brought her Little Falls Girl Scout Troop 61014 out to work on their winter hiking badge.


And Micheal Earl has led his Pack 16 Cub Scouts, also of Little Falls, on the hike. “We want to get them out to exercise and be outdoors in nature more,” he says. “Too many kids stay inside on video games.”


High on his shoulders, his daughter Charlee chimes in with her agreement, “I love nature!”


Marilyn Miller of Mohawk has joined other First Day Hikes in past years. She said she does it to be healthier and get outside more. And she hopes a hike on the first day of the year will set a trend for more hiking during the rest of the year too.


As General Herkimer’s stately brick house comes into view at the end of the hike, Marilyn Whaley says, “I never want to be a little old lady sitting in a rocking chair.” Though she says she’s 69 years old, it would be hard to think of her as anything but vibrant after spending some time today hiking with her.

Would you like to read more stories about the Utica-Rome area? Check out Green Pencil Magazine.

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