The day started with a swim in a lake so cold I had to keep my head lifted out of the water and my breathing sounded like a baby squirrel with asthma. After the swim, I jumped on a bike and rode 12 miles during a hail storm. Finishing the ride, I ran a few miles on scenic trails only to finish by climbing straight up a steep sand dune.
This is how I experienced a few of the Jessie M. Honeyman Memorial State Park's offerings, outside of Florence. And while triathlons are my idea of fun, you can visit one of the Oregon coast’s most diverse parks at a more leisurely speed for free on New Year's Day.
Since 2012, Oregon Parks and Recreation Department (OPRD) has started each New Year by hosting over 30 guided walks throughout the state, where at least one park ranger or volunteer will share stories about the park’s history, geology, wildlife and plants.
All hikes are free and day-use parking fees will be waived at participating parks on Wednesday, January 1.
It's not required, but visitors are encouraged to register online for the park they want to visit. It helps park staff plan the hike and additionally provides them with participants' contact information should any details change leading up to the hike.
In gearing up for the hike, visitors should prepare for the rapidly changing coastal weather by dressing in layers and wearing proper hiking shores. Water bottles are always good ideas, and if you want to get the best possible glimpses of wildlife, bring a pair of binoculars.
Jessie M. Honeyman Memorial State Park is about 3 miles south of Florence and is the second largest Oregon state park campground. Many hiking trails that are a mix of paved, unpaved and sandy paths, wind through or around the campsites. The west side of the park includes some of the best examples of rolling Oregon sand dunes. It also has two natural freshwater lakes that are open for activities like swimming, boating or paddle boarding.
The roughly 2-mile journey will explore one of the parks oldest trails and is not recommended for strollers and non-off road ready wheelchairs.
The hike for Jessie M. Honeyman State Park will start in the group camp parking lot at 10 a.m.
The second state park on the Central Coast this year will be the photo-friendly Seal Rock State Park. One of the smaller state jewels, the beach features exposed tide pools, rich wrack lines (the collection of kelp, crustacean shells, feathers and other beach detritus) and rock formations. Hikers will be treated to information about marine organisms and tide pool ecology over the course of the hike.
Starting form the Seal Rock parking lot at 9:30 a.m., distance of the hike will cover about 1 mile, and because it will be on sand and rocks, strollers and non-off road ready wheelchairs aren't recommended.
The hike will start at the Seal Rock parking lot at 9:30 a.m.
The author finishing the Oregon Dunes Triathlon on one of the warmer days the event was held.
In next week's blog, I'll share other ideas for starting your year off outside by jumping into Central Coast lakes or the Pacific Ocean. For now, though, keep it dry while still starting out the year out in nature at a First Day Hike. For other upcoming events, check out our Daytime Events calendar. If you want to find live music, art workshops, trivia or karaoke in the evenings, see what's going on around town in our Nightlife page.