First Night Hike — a chat with Olivia Bernard

photo: Heather Phelps-Lipton

photo: Heather Phelps-Lipton

Hi Olivia! What is this First Day Hike? Is that what it's called? The First Day Hike?

OB:              Yeah, the DEC runs it every year, the New York Department of Environmental Conservation. They have events running all over New York state, several of them in the Catskill Mountain area. And ours is gonna be happening afternoon into the evening on January 1.

It's a way to celebrate the New Year, to show people what they can do outdoors, to get them started for 2019!

That's really cool. Is this the first year they're doing it?

OB:             No. it's been running a few years.

Nice. Is this the first year that it's happening that the Catskill Interpretative Center?

OB:              Yes. We've run similar programs in January, like Full Moon Hikes and Full Moon Cross Country Skis. But not something specifically on January 1.

Is it happening at night?

OB:              Kind of — it starts at 3:00 and then it goes til around 5:00-ish, depending on visitor interest. And, so we'll be able to see the day turn to evening without our headlamps, maybe hear an owl, and enjoy the campfire for a little while.

That sounds really beautiful. Do you have to be physically fit to do it?

OB:             No. Most of the hike, or the walk, is gonna be on flat trail. The snow shoeing aspect definitely makes it a little bit more challenging. So, if we do get snow, that kind of bumps it up to maybe a little more moderate. But we can always tailor the walk, depending on the group's interest and the skill levels that come.

Cool. You mentioned snow shoeing. Will there be snow shoes available? Or should people bring their own?

OB:             If they have their own, they should bring them. But we are also offering to pick up rental snow shoes for people at Jimmy's Bellaire. And there is a fee, it's $20.00 per pair. But we're gonna be picking them up for people and bringing them back the next day. At this point snow is seeming increasingly unlikely, but we'll see. We could still get a snow storm coming through.

What about headlamps? Should people bring their own or will you have them available? Is there a rental fee?

OB:             There's no rental fee with headlamps. I happen to have a bunch of extras, so I'm gonna bring in. And if people have them, of course, bring them. But not necessary. We also have flashlights here we can use.

Cool. Other than potential rental gear, is there a fee for the the hike?

OB:             Nope. It's a free event.

Is the hike appropriate for kids? Or is there a way for people to peel off mid-point?

OB:             One of the things I'm gonna be keeping an eye on, going into it, is the weather. Because we do have a couple of kids signed up right now. I wanna make sure that it's not gonna be too cold. I think two hours is a long time for kids to be out, especially doing something like a hike. So, since it's the first time we're running this, it is a little bit of a trial and error situation. But I'm definitely gonna keep my participants in the loop as we get closer, and checking the weather.

Great! How do you recommend people should dress?

OB:             Definitely in layers. Layers is key, key, key. So, it's great to have a pair of long johns for top and bottom. Preferably either wool or polyester. And then on top of that, a nice pair of quick drying pants or just pants that you can move in, that are comfy. And on the top, extra layers. If you have a little backpack, bring maybe a puffy jacket and a sweater to go on top.

And definitely a hat, of course. Those are always very, very important extras. Scarves, hats, yeah.

And snacks? Should people bring snacks? Do you think that two hours is not so long that you need nourishment?

OB:             Well, we have some extra granola bars here, from prior events. So we can definitely provide that to people. But, sure, yeah, if people wanna bring snacks, if they're gonna be out for two hours, it's probably a good idea. We're gonna have hot cocoa at the end, so probably around like 4:30. And potentially marshmallows, too.

 Right on. Well, that sounds super duper fun. Thank you!

Heather P-L