This dreary New Year’s Day didn’t stop Rio Grande Valley residents from celebrating the holiday in our beautiful state parks. The annual First Day Hike held at Resaca de la Palma State Park in Olmito drew a small crowd ready to brave the rain and kick of 2020 in a healthy direction.

Each year, the country’s state parks host free, guided First Day Hikes across all 50 states to ring in the New Year. Last year, roughly 55,000 people participated in the hikes, trekking over 133,000 miles in hikes in different states, according to stateparks.org.

Park Ranger Kelly Cummins also led last year’s group at Resaca de la Palma. She said that the group of eight who braved inclement weather to enjoy the trails had a great time and saw plenty of wildlife.

“We had a group of eight people and one dog. We wore ponchos. I picked a trail that offered more cover, as opposed to the trail that we normally use, in case the weather changed and we needed to find shelter,” she said.

“This event is a good way to get people started on that New Year’s resolution to maybe exercise a little bit more. This kind of activity can be good, in general, for mental health.”

Cummins said that commonly sited wildlife in the park includes javelinas, armadillos, raccoons, possums, and sometimes larger predators like coyotes and bobcats.

The park is a popular spot for those interested in birding, as it is home to over 301 species of birds. There are around 750 species of birds across North America, and nearly 500 of those migrate to the Valley during the winter.

Resaca de la Palma hosts regular programs including a Native Tram Tour, a Bird and Nature Hike, Archery, and a Night Hike.

According to Cummins, the Night Hike serves to demystify some of the things that might scare attendees about being out in nature at night. “We partner with the UTRGV observatory for this program — we open it up and spend time doing observations with some of the university’s Ph.D. students,” she said.

The event is held on the last Friday of every month. For more information on events hosted by park staff, visit the Texas State Parks website, tpdw.texas.gov, or follow Resaca de la Palma’s Facebook page.