Hikers brave bitter cold temps for First Day Hikes

Arkansas State Parks offer First Day Hikes to help get folks outside to exercise for the New Year.

If your New Year's resolution was to do something crazy right away, joining one of the First Hikes at one of the state parks across Arkansas would have fit the bill.

With temperatures in the teens and biting winds, participants in the annual event had to be hearty and bundled up.

“Brisk day today,” said Steve Donohou, park interpreter at Lake Catherine State Park with a bit of understatement as he greeted hikers. “You know wisdom comes into doubt at this point, but you are interested in taking care of yourself.”

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The program is designed to draw people outside on New Year's Day even if the weather is for the birds.

“The idea basically behind them is you know kind of along the idea of a new year's resolutions,” Donohou said. “Start your year off doing something like a fit activity”

While you do it, park officials like Donohou keep the information and the circulation flowing in the sub-freezing air. He shared stories of species found only at certain state parks and the history of how the Ouachita River formed Lake Catherine behind Remmel Dam, all while blazing a trail to the Falls Creek waterfall.

He brought a chipper spirit to the brisk walk that led to a pretty place. Something the half-dozen hikers could appreciate, even in the cold.

“It was neat. It was something different, and we'll hike again Saturday,” said Susan Maddox who hiked along with her husband, Tom.

“I do some crazy stuff all the time so as long as you wear enough clothes it's good,” said Robert Rachal of Louisiana, who used the New Year's walk to wrap a long weekend of exploring several state parks.

Park officials say a First Hike is better than a gym membership. It's free, wide open and they promise temperatures will climb if you renew your membership.

“When you're out in a state park, walking on a great day like this, it's a win-win for everyone,” Donohou said.

Park interpreters made sure hikers dressed in layers and kept skin from being exposed to the wind. They also recommend letting friends or family know if you're planning a trip into the woods, especially in the extreme cold or heat.

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