Traveler, do not rest.
By New Year’s Day, you’ll have probably matched the meal intake of Lewis and Clark, combined (around 5,000 calories a day, mostly Paleo) – without the concomitant pushing of pirogues up a river. It’s time for a little exercise.
“Walking outdoors in winter is great, if you just break the inertia,” said Loren Flynn, manager of Travelers' Rest State Park in Lolo. “Once you get outside, it’s OK.”
While most state facilities are closed on the New Year’s holiday, Flynn and a half-dozen fellow park managers will lead guided rambles through their favorite haunts at the beginning of 2015. The Montana State Parks Department is holding its second annual "First Day Walks" at seven parks throughout the state.
In addition to Lolo, sites include Kalispell's Lone Pine State Park, Bozeman's Missouri Headwaters State Park, Great Falls' Giant Springs State Park and First People's Buffalo Jump State Park, Glendive's Makoshika State Park and Helena's Spring Meadows State Park.
At Travelers' Rest, Flynn said he was looking forward to introducing more people to the new paved path along U.S. Highway 12, as well as some of his more hidden routes through the cottonwood thicket bordering Lolo Creek.
“Back in here is where you see most of the wildlife,” Flynn said as he probed deeper into the brush west of the park’s Lolo Creek bridge. “It wouldn’t hurt to bring binoculars, in case we see something cool. If there’s snow on the ground, we’ll play it by ear.”
State Parks spokeswoman Betsy Kirkeby said the First Day Walks were part of a national movement organized by the American State Parks Organization and National State Parks Directors Association to promote outdoor recreation.
“It encourages people to get outside and unplug from their TVs,” Kirkeby said. “It helps start the new year off in a healthy way.”
While Travelers' Rest owes its existence to the archaeologically verified evidence of a Corps of Discovery campsite along the creek, the 51-acre park has also become a popular pedestrian link for Lolo strollers. Its location southwest of the intersection of highways 93 and 12 makes it a quiet and scenic bypass from the more-trafficked parts of town.
“It’s nice that you can get down here away from the highway,” said Lloyd Gillin, who frequently walks in from his Highway 12 neighborhood a mile up from the intersection. “You can look up at the mountainsides and feel like you’re out of the city environment.”
The First Day hikes are intended to be casual jaunts of one to three miles covered in a hour or two. Flynn said he’d have hot chocolate and cookies available, and could open up the visitor center’s historical displays if there was any after-hike interest.
“I hope it gets cold again,” Flynn said of the unseasonably bare ground around the park. “If we get snow, you can see animal tracks right here along the bridge. We’ve recorded 135 species of birds in the park. Just this fall a snow goose was No. 134 and a common redpoll was No. 135.”