First Day hiking has become enormously popular across the U.S., providing would-be enthusiasts the opportunity to jump-start their engines with a group of like-minded companions.
However, a January 1 hike planned in the New River Gorge in West Virginia is offering participants something beyond the usual — the opportunity to hike with active-living mentor Levi Moore.
Confined sporadically to a wheelchair until three years ago, Moore hiked more than 1,000 miles in 2018 and has become a chief proponent of active living in West Virginia, a state long plagued by inactivity and poor health.
His legs rendered useless by an un-diagnosed attack of gout, Moore languished for years before an enterprising physician discovered the cause and helped him return to health. But even then, he found himself back at the starting point.
How did he find the will to regain his strength and push beyond?
"Having had that ability taken from me against my will, I promised I'd never stop walking, so long as I was able," Moore said Friday while nursing a return of the affliction in his shoulder.
"The beyond is to see what more I'm capable of doing — and to help show others what they are capable of."
How might many of us push beyond and take the first step along that trail, hampered, perhaps, by habits, negative thinking, or compromised health?
"Do what you can now — until you can do what you couldn't before. Everything is just one step at a time."
Though First Day Hikes originated in state parks nationally in 2012, an initiative of the National Association of State Park Directors, Tuesday's hike is being sponsored by Active Southern West Virginia and hosted by ACE Adventure Resort.
Lewis Ledford, executive director of the park directors association, spoke enthusiastically of the planned hike, which is not in this case associated with a state park, "but it doesn't need to be," he said.
"The program has spread far beyond the nation's state parks, and we whole-heartedly encourage all hiking on that day, whether or not it occurs in a state or national park or appears on our map of participating parks," Ledford said.
Read more: Seven state parks in West Virginia to host First Day hikes
"First Day Hikes have spread into Canada, and we hear there are some now in Australia. What started off as a program in western Massachusetts has actually become a national movement, which is exactly what we'd hoped for."
Though originally planned to take place on National Park property in the New River Gorge National Park and Preserve, the shut-down of the federal government might have scuttled the program had ACE Adventure Resort not come to the rescue.
On the gorge near Oak Hill, West Virginia, the 1,500-acre resort maintains a system of woodland trails that the public is encouraged to hike free-of-charge, according to Chris Colin, special events coordinator for the resort.
"We have more than 35 miles of trails that are open and free for the public to use," Colin said.
"A trail map can be obtained by visiting the welcome center, which is open 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. through the winter months."
Moore said the January 1 six-mile hike is rated easy-to-moderate and will cover approximately six miles of trail that access stunning overlooks of the gorge and visit the portals of the Erskine mine.
The hike departs from the resort welcome center at 10 a.m. and should return at about 2 p.m. The weather is expected to be cloudy, and temperatures may range from 34 to 54 degrees.
The resort welcome center is located at 1 Concho Rd, Oak Hill, WV, 25879, a drive of approximately 10 minutes from the U.S. 19 expressway's East Oak Hill exit.
Participants may register for the event by contacting Active Southern W.Va. or by registering on its Facebook page to provide hike leaders an idea of the number of participants.