"I loved having the opportunity to take people through the park," said Hays. "Even though all of the participants had visited the park at one time or another, I was able to share some information with them about the park that they didn't know."
During the First Day Hike, Hays guided the hikers from the Ozark Chinquapin Nature Center on Highway F along Fire Tower Trail to Deer Leap Trail and then along the River Trail back to the nature center.
The 19 hikers who participated in the event traveled around two and a half miles through the park. The group included a family of six from Nixa, a family of four from the Monett area, a couple from Springfield and several local community members.
"They appreciated having the opportunity to take part in the event," said Hays. "The family from near Monett had never seen an eagle, and we saw several eagles in the trees on the hill across from the nature center when we started."
When the group came down the Deer Leap Trail, they had the opportunity to see more eagles near the Roaring River Hatchery, said Hays.
"Everyone enjoyed the opportunity," said Hays.
During the hiking tour, Hays had the opportunity to share some of the park's history and talk about portions of the recreational areas that were constructed by the CCC (Civilian Conservation Corps). He also shared information on the different rock formations the groups encountered along the trails.
First Day Hikes originated over 20 years ago at Blue Hills Reservation, a state park in Milton, Mass. The program was designed to promote healthy lifestyles throughout the year and year-round recreation at state parks.
Last year's First Day Hikes were the first time that all 50 state park systems joined together to sponsor the program.
Nature enthusiasts who were unable to attend the First Day Hike are encouraged to take part in one of Roaring River's other upcoming winter activities. The park will hold eagle viewing events on Jan. 19 and Feb. 16.
For more information on the eagle viewing events, call the nature center at 847-3742.