Pocahontas visitors take advantage of great weather for a New Year day hike

Pocahontas State Park welcomed hundreds of visitors on the first day of the New Year.  With mild temperatures and lots of sunshine, individuals and families enjoyed casual walks and mountain biking through the various trails located in the park.

There were folks fishing and kayaking on Swift Creek Lake but many of the visitors were there to attend the park’s First Day Hike event.  Eighty-four of those visitors made it to the boat ramp on time and joined Chief Ranger Perry DeMay for their first hike of 2012.  

“I expected around 20 folks but we had 84 to show up for the hike,” said DeMay.  There were more who wanted to catch the 12 noon hike but found themselves stuck in traffic that was backed up at the park’s entrance.   For those who missed the group, they still made the 2.5 mile hike on the Forest Exploration Trail.

Virginia State Parks joined a national movement, coordinated by America’s State Parks, and offered a First Day Hike on Sunday, Jan. 1 to help people start the New Year refreshed and rejuvenated.   Celebrating its 75th anniversary, all 36 Virginia State Parks offered the ranger-led hike to provide a good, close-to-home opportunity for families to recover from the holidays and rediscover the great outdoors.

On the trail the group got a healthy start to the New Year but they also got a chance to learn more about the park and how to have an enjoyable hike by following trail signage and maps.  Chief Ranger DeMay told interesting facts about the park and the family that lived along this particular trail.  Thirteen home sites and 18 cemeteries have been identified in the park.  Most date back to the 19th century.  

The home site of Patrick and Julia Gill is marked by signage as well as two grave markers, one that belong to their daughter Fannie who died in childbirth in 1872.  The signage also points out that the population of Chesterfield County in 1870 was 18,470  and by 2000 the population had grown 1,400 percent to 259,903 residents.  Further on down the path the legend of Split Rock is told. 

“Split Rock is a huge rock with a huge crack. It looks like a heart, “ said Chief Ranger DeMay.   “It is legend that this was the most favorite part on the Gill land for Fannie.  She visited it all the time.  In childbirth she died with an infant daughter and they are buried here at the park.  About four days after she was buried the rock mysteriously split.  It was almost like the land was saddened.  It had a broken heart because she wasn’t able to visit it anymore.”

The group kept a fast pace led by DeMay’s son Austin.  They climbed a few hills, enjoyed the sunshine and the outdoors and left the hike determine to return and hike again.  Follow Chief Ranger DeMay on twitter for updates about the hike and his park adventures by using the link below: http://twitter.com/#!/ParkRangerPerry.

First Day Hikes originated over 20 years ago at the Blue Hills Reservation, a state park in Milton, Massachusetts. The program was launched to promote both healthy lifestyles throughout the year and year round recreation at state parks. Many other states have offered outdoor recreation programs on New Year’s Day, however, this is the first time all 50 state park systems have joined together to sponsor First Day Hikes.

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