Roaring River celebrates New Year with hikes

Wednesday, January 7, 2015
Heather Hays, left, a registered volunteer with Roaring River State Park, leads a group of hikers along Eagle's Nest Trail Thursday. Jason Johnston/

National First Day Hikes occur in 50 states, Missouri parks host 41 hikes

Kerry Hays, right, Roaring River State Park manager, shares his insights about Eagle's Nest Trail during First Day Hikes Thursday. The trail is 2.75 miles long, and its elevation reaches 490 feet. Jason Johnston/

The Roaring River State Park kicked off the new year in natural fashion Thursday by providing guided tours along two of its trails.

Around 10 a.m., 28 people followed Park Manager Kerry Hays, and his wife and registered volunteer, Heather Hays, on the 2.75-mile Eagle's Nest Trail. Park Ranger Steve Jabben walked behind the group.

"This is the fourth year that Roaring River has offered First Day Hikes," Kerry Hays said. "We are participating as part of a larger state and national initiative to get people outdoors.

"We are thrilled to offer this experience on the first day of each year to give people an opportunity to experience the natural beauty and wonder that is Roaring River State Park."

The trip took between two to three hours. The different surfaces were muddy with patches of ice, rocky and grassy. The hikers saw bald eagles, trees, plants, icicles, rock formations and the Roaring River along their journey. They reached an elevation of 490 feet.

Amy and Gregory Simmons, of Monett, their 13-year-old son, Christopher, and their 9-year-old daughter, Katherine, traveled on their third First Day Hikes event.

"We've kind of made this a family tradition to do this hike," Gregory Simmons said. "We like to do more hiking throughout the year. That's a lot of times easier said than done. My son and I do a little more hiking because we are with the Boy Scouts."

A bald eagle sits on a tree branch Thursday along Eagle's Nest Trail in Roaring River State Park. Jason Johnston/

It has been a different trail every year, he said. Last year was the Devil's Kitchen Trail, and 2013 was the Deer Leap Trail.

"Two of the three years, we've seen eagles on our hikes, so that's really cool," Amy Simmons said.

Thursday's temperature was in the low 30s. Last year's temperature was in the low 50s.

In 2013, the temperature was near 30, and Amy Simmons said it snowed.

Before the group hiked on Eagle's Nest, Katherine Simmons won a red-orange water bottle.

The bottle had a bear paw on it, she said. Some words were in the paw, and paws and measurements were on the back.

"It was kind of a measuring bottle to show you how much water you had in it," Amy Simmons said. "It was really cool, and it was just a surprise."

She kind of had a difficult time hiking up Eagle's Nest because she was already tired before reaching the top, she said. Her legs became more energized while she traveled down the hill.

"I really like the tradition that our family has made out of this, coming down to be outside, to be on the trail," Amy Simmons said. "It's just really fun. I really like it. It's a good experience."

Deb Fanning, who lives about 1 mile north of the park, brought her 4-year-old shiloh shepherd, Zella.

"It's a great way to start the new year," Fanning said. "We do trails a lot. She loves it, and I do, too. Part of our exercise routine is to come down here and walk the trails."

Boy Scouts of America Troop No. 103 from Joplin also hiked the trail.

The troop brought six scouts and three adults, said Scoutmaster Melvin Bowman. It has been on trails in the park. Before Thursday, the troop had never walked on Eagle's Nest, nor participated in the First Day Hikes.

Nearly 30 hikers travel along the 2.75-mile Eagle's Nest Trail in Roaring River State Park on New Year's Day. Rock formations, trees and plants were visible throughout the trail. Jason Johnston/

The trail was awesome because you get to walk along the creek, to see wildlife and eagles and to experience the bluffs, said Billy Bowers, assistant scoutmaster.

"This trail really had a lot of variety, different features available for hiking," Bowers said.

The troop talked about turning the First Day Hikes into an annual event, he said.

"I think all of the boys had a good time," Bowers said.

In the afternoon, the 4,200-acre state park hosted a hike on the 0.4-mile Springhouse Trail, which starts on the southwestern corner of the Emory Melton Inn parking lot.

"Roaring River State Park has trails that can provide a wonderful hiking experience for those with a variety of skill levels," Hays said. "Easier trails, such as Deer Leap and Springhouse, can offer an excellent opportunity to experience the outdoors and get a nice workout. Longer trails, such as Eagle's Nest and Fire Tower, offer more challenges and greater opportunities to be part of a variety of natural experiences.

"When hiking in the park, wear proper footwear that will provide traction, drink plenty of water and use a hiking stick to add an additional point of contact for stability."

Nearly 30 hikers pose for a photo near rock formations on Eagle's Nest Trail in Roaring River State Park Thursday. The park then hosted other First Day Hikes on Springhouse Trail. Jason Johnston/

America's State Parks promoted the First Day Hikes throughout the 50 states. Missouri State Parks had 41 hikes on New Year's Day.

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