WASHINGTON - How can you keep your New Year's Resolution and make your dog insanely happy?
Take a hike.
And today, that's what some people in Maryland did when they took part in one of the many "First Hike" events that allowed dogs to accompany their humans at some of the state's 66 parks.
Sonic, Cuddles and Jeffrey were among the dogs all leashed up and ready to go in the parking lot of Sandy Point State Park in Annapolis, Md.
Dalyn Huntley, from Cape St. Claire, Md., said she and her family got up bright and early for the New Year's Day event.
"We wanted to kick off the new year on the right foot!" she said.
Martha Strange brought her little beagle with her from Columbia, Md. She explained that last year, she'd opted for the Patapsco State Park hike -- an outing that was "uphill all the way."
Sandy Point, at the foot of the Chesapeake Bay Bridge, was the better choice, she thought.
Owners and dogs on a hike at Sandy Point State Park in Maryland. (WTOP/Kate Ryan)
"I decided I was going to do it on flat land this time," Strange said.
Before setting out, Department of Natural Resources Ranger Robert Jones gave hikers and their hounds the ground rules: Whatever hit the ground would have to be picked up.
Bags were offered so owners could scoop the poop. With that out the way, it was time for the hike.
"Ready to burn some calories! Let's do it," Jones exclaimed.
Along the 1-mile hike, participants explored the scenes around them, while some of the dogs explored each other, sniffing and wagging tails.
Jones stopped at different points along the way. As the group approached the water, an enormous flock of Canada geese took off.
"We have a lot of migratory birds moving through here. Just recently, we had a Snowy Owl," he told the group. "I'm going to take you in an area where I hope it's going to show up."
At one point, Jones offered members of the group binoculars so they could try to pick out different birds flying above and settling on the waters under the Chesapeake Bay Bridge. The cold temps nipped at the noses of children in the group, and as they got close to the end of the hike, Jones noted the chilly temps and asked, "Can you feel your face? Let's head back."
At the end of the hike, the dogs were offered a New Year's treat of dog biscuits.
The reward for the humans at the other end of the leash? They'd just made good on their New Year's resolutions to be more active.
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