Etowah Indian Mounds, Red Top join First Day Hikes initiative

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Helping patrons step into the new year on a healthy note, Georgia State Parks will take part in the America’s State Parks’ First Day Hikes initiative. In Bartow, Red Top Mountain State Park and Etowah Indian Mounds State Historic Site both will offer activities related to this nationwide effort.

"Red Top has participated in First Day Hikes for several years; it is a statewide program that we are excited to participate in," said Serella Sevanko, interpretive ranger at Red Top. "We hope people enjoy their time outside, and gain a connection to local history and to the world around them on our hike. We love for guests to spend time outdoors and see the importance of the natural world.

"First Day Hikes aim to start the new year off on the right foot by encouraging people to get outdoors. We encourage people to kick off the new year with a First Day Hike to increase their time outdoors and find a deeper connection with the natural world. It is a great chance to meet new people and learn new things, all while enjoying nature. Guests also earn a pin, sticker or walking stick badge to commemorate their participation in the hike. People have responded well to our past First Day Hikes, even coming out in bitter cold weather to have fun and hike with us."

At Red Top in Acworth, the Iron Hill History Hike — First Day Hike will be presented Jan. 1 from 1 to 2:30 p.m.

"This hike will take place along our Iron Hill Trail, meeting in the Iron Hill parking lot," Sevanko said. "Guests will learn about the iron mining history of Red Top Mountain in this ranger-[led] hike.

"We will tour one of our mines and learn about the mining process. Guests will get to see part of an ochre mine, learn about ore-washing and the railroad system. In addition, rangers will point out plants that iron-mining pioneers would have used as food and medicine."

While Red Top will hold its First Day Hike Jan. 1, Etowah Indian Mounds will present a guided trek on the first Saturday of 2019.

"First Day Hikes is a national initiative focused on trying to get people working on their New Year's resolution to get outside and get fit,” said Keith Bailey, curator for the Etowah Indian Mounds. “Georgia State Parks joined in to support this about five years ago.

"Since state historic sites are closed for New Year's Day, Etowah Mounds and several other historic sites began offering a hike on the first Saturday after New Year's Day. This gives people the opportunity of continuing to work on their New Year's resolution within a week of the First Day Hike."

Titled First Saturday Hike, Etowah Indian Mounds' offering will be presented Jan. 5 from 9:30 to 11:30 a.m.

Along with touring the property, participants will learn more about the 54-acre site, where several thousand American Indians lived from A.D. 1000 to A.D. 1550. Regarded as the most intact Mississippian Culture site in the Southeast, Etowah Indian Mounds at 813 Indian Mounds Road in Cartersville safeguards six earthen mounds, a village area, a plaza, borrow pits and a defensive ditch.

"Etowah's guided hike is less strenuous than some other hikes offered around the state," Bailey said. "Our property is generally flat and easy to walk. We, of course, do have the mounds that are a bit of a workout, but the whole hike is less than 1.5 miles long. I like to think of it as a hike for beginners or people who just want a leisure walk where they can learn a little bit about history and nature. Our hike is a mix of both.

"With the first Saturday hike, we start off with the history of the site and looking for wildlife and plants, then depending on the questions that guests have as we walk around, the hike takes a life of its [own]. We hope our guests leave with a smile and an appreciation of our local history and the idea that even a short hike can help keep you fit. For those who plan on joining me on the hike, I would like to remind them to dress for the weather, bring a water bottle and a camera or binoculars for any wildlife you want to look at from a distance or capture its image."

For more information on the Etowah Indian Mounds, visit http://gastateparks.org/EtowahIndianMounds or call 770-387-3747. Further details about Red Top can be obtained online at http://gastateparks.org/RedTopMountain or by calling 770-975-0055.