Nancy Sepulvado started the new year by hiking Saturday at Martin Creek Lake State Park with her cat, Pan, at her side.

“We usually do a First Day Hike every year,” Sepulvado, of Laneville, said. “This is a tradition for us.”

Sepulvado’s husband fished at Martin Creek while she participated in the First Day Hike with her cat in a pet-carrier backpack. The First Day hikes are part of a nationwide program that many Texas state parks participate in each year to encourage hiking and getting outdoors to start the new year.

Sepulvado said she has participated in other First Day Hikes, including at Tyler State Park and Mission Tejas State Park. She enjoys hiking in general, and she said she’s hiked every trail at Martin Creek Lake before.

“I like finding new things,” she said. “I like the exploration and the adventure of it. You never know what you’re going to come across.”

Supulvado took part in the first of two planned hikes to start the new year at Martin Creek Lake State Park. A second hike was set to start at 2 p.m.

She chose to participate in the First Day Hike at Martin Creek this year because Jimmy Fitzgerald, whom she knows, was leading the hike.

Fitzgerald, of Henderson, volunteered to lead the First Day Hike on the Old Henderson Road Loop trail at Martin Creek.

“This is a trail that was established many years ago by the early settlers, and it was what they used to travel back and forth during their trades as they got their provisions,” Fitzgerald said of the approximately 1-mile trail.

Like Sepulvado, Henderson said he also enjoys hiking throughout the year.

“I like being out just experiencing nature — the sounds, the smells, the sights,” he said. “You can hike this trail every day and there’s something different every day. Although the path may be the same, what you see and experience is different.”

The hike, he said, is an opportunity for participants to focus on getting in shape, to think about the upcoming year and “try to focus on doing something maybe different than what you’ve done the year before.”

For new hikers, Henderson offered a bit of advice.

“First of all, the advice I would give is to let somebody know where you’re going and when you expect to be back,” he said.

Additionally, make sure to wear comfortable shoes that cover the feet and that provide ankle support. He said to also wear clothing appropriate to the season, carry water and always bring some type of light, whether it be a flashlight or headlamp.

“Stay on the path. If you say, I’m going to do the Henderson Road Trail, stay on that trail,” he added. “If you decide to go somewhere else, tell somebody.”

To learn more about East Texas state parks, visit tpwd.texas.gov/state-parks/.

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