A First Day Hike with intention

After a morning of cooking to prepare for a traditional New Year’s Day meal, we headed out on our annual “first day hike”. While official First Day Hikes are now sponsored by America’s State Parks Alliance and generally take place in state parks across the country, we chose a local park for our first day excursion of 2020.

Saxapahaw Island Loop Trail

Saxapahaw Island Park is located on a small island in the middle of the Haw River in the town of Saxapahaw and is managed by Alamance County Parks. It’s quite a unique park in that it is really in the middle of the river, is only 30 acres big, but has hiking trails, river access, and a nature play area with a 45-foot-long wooden fish-shaped slide (yep, that’s right!). Because it’s in the middle of the river, lowland tree species dominate the park’s landscape and provide ample shade in summer. Today, the winter tree skeletons made beautiful art against the bright blue sky.

As we walked along the trail, the sound of the rushing river water seemed to push us along the trail as if telling us to keep up. But we took our time, and walked with intention. Intention to savor the sights and smells, intention to breathe in the fresh air, intention to appreciate being alive on this first day of a new decade. Walking with intention, slowly and mindfully, we were gifted with a few delightful little surprises along the way…

Of course, the star of this park is the river itself, and in places today the light and blue sky rendered it exceptionally beautiful.

The Haw River as seen from Saxapahaw Island Park

One of the most unique features on the Haw River here is an old V-shaped fishing weir made of stones that crosses the river. I haven’t found much about it, except for a reference to a Samuel Woody’s fishing weir in an archaeological report from 1986. At low water levels you can clearly see the V shape…

Historic fishing weir across the Haw River

One other surprise was finding a group of four hammocks strung up along the river. Beautiful day for a nap, or just a few swings, under the winter skies…

The birds were flitting here and there – kingfishers, kinglets, chickadees, and more. We even happened upon a small patch of pretty pink-leafed plants that seemed to think it was spring…

We left feeling refreshed and recharged, richer from our time with the wild things that share space on a tiny floodplain island in a small rural town among the running waters of the mighty Haw River. Grateful for the wild things, the woods, the water that connects us all, and for the special time we spend together enjoying all these things.

Here’s to a year full of wild things and good intentions! Happy New Year, everyone.

Peace to you.


  1. I didn’t know much about fishing weirs before looking up the report you mentioned, and then Googling a bit more. Apparently this particular weir, dating only from (probably) the first decades of the 19th century, is not too old…one in Maine was carbon-dated to about 4000 B.C.! Thanks for documenting your hike in such an interesting way.

  2. This is a pretty neat post and the pictures are beautiful. New Years Day is my husbands’ birthday, so we decided to take our children and to go to Hanging Rock State Park. There we walked the Hanging Rock Trail,it has been on our list for a little while now. It was rather crowded that day but we were still able to stop,sit/rest and appreciate everything around us. The trail was slightly challenging for us, as we hadn’t been on a challenging hike in about 6 months, but we left with our kids feeling a happy-tired, thankful for the ability to tackle such a challenge and pleased that our children were so enthralled with the trip out.

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