Residents ring in 2017 with Hike

Wednesday, January 11, 2017
Heather Hays, registered volunteer for Missouri State Parks, and daughter Samantha Fisher (directly behind Hays), participate and help lead a group of hikers on a hiking trail at Roaring River State on Sunday, Jan. 1, to celebrate the first day of 2017. The annual hike, called First Day Hike, is part of a national initiative of America's State Parks to welcome the new year. About 38 people participated in the 3.1 mile hike, and walked a collective total of 121 miles. Contributed photo

Hike part of national initiative

There are many ways to ring in a new year, but a group of people in conjunction with Missouri State Parks gave their new year's resolutions more than just lip service.

Participants in the First Day Hike put their feet on the trail and made fitness and enjoying their natural surroundings a priority on the very first day of 2017.

On Jan. 1, about 38 people participated in the annual event at Roaring River State Park, part of a nationwide initiative by America's State Parks to welcome the new year.

The 3.1-mile hike started at the nature center at the park and included a combination of three separate trails, The Fire Tower Trail, Dear Leap Trail and the River Trail. The hikers walked a total of about 121 miles collectively.

"This gave people an opportunity to experience a part of three different trails," said Kerry Hays, natural resource manager at Roaring River and Big Sugar Creek State Parks, who led the hike on behalf of Missouri State Parks. "We started at 10 a.m., and ended at about 12:15 p.m. The hike is part of a greater national event every year, and over the last six years we have participated in the First Day Hike event.

"It's a great way to start the year. I look forward to it every year. The purpose is not necessarily just to hike, but to provide information about the natural environment and ecosystems that we're walking through. We provide what's called resource interpretation."

A group of about 12 people also hit the trails at Big Sugar Creek State Park in McDonald County, which was led by Kelly Koch, new interpretive research specialist at Roaring River State Park.

There is no cost to participate in the annual hiking event that offers a unique way to welcome the new year, and focuses on fitness and the natural environment.

"In years past, we've had a hike in the morning and one in the afternoon," Hays said. "We determine the schedule in the fall. Every year, we alternate the hikes. The best place to go for more information is the Missouri State Park's website and search 'First Day Hike.'"

Hays said he's seen some of the same people attending the annual hike for the last four to five years. This year, a couple drove from St. Louis to be part of the event to get their passport stamped for visiting the park and participating in the hike. Afterward, they traveled to Big Sugar State Park to get their stamp from there, too.

This year marks Missouri State Park's Centennial year, and to celebrate the anniversary, upon visiting any state park, of which there are currently about 92 nationwide, visitors can pick up a passport book that contains all the pages for the state parks, and get a stamp. Once all the pages are stamped, they can turn it in for a prize.

For more information about the First Day Hike or Missouri State Parks, people may visit: https://mostateparks.com.

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