Monday, February 19, 2018

Frigid temps don't freeze out park's New Year's Day hikers

By Jimmy Daniell Isaac
Jan. 2, 2018 at 1:03 a.m.

Park Ranger Onlie McGee takes a selfie with a group of hikers Monday before leading them on a First Day Hike  at Daingerfield State Park.

DAINGERFIELD — Rain would've kept Robert Tompkins from driving north for a frigid first-of-the-year hike, but he might've braved snow.

"Because with snow," Tompkins said, "you can stay dry if you have a hoodie."

Tompkins, the East Mountain resident's wife and dog were among about 50 people split among two New Year's Day hikes Monday at Daingerfield State Park. Layered in threads, knits and gloves, the hikers endured subfreezing temperatures brought to the region with a previous day's cold front.

"They fought and braved the cold," Park Ranger Steve Killian said of the 21 people who arrived for the 11 a.m. hike.

According to the National Weather Service, temperatures then were 4 degrees colder than during the 2 p.m. hike.

"We didn't come at 11 for that reason," Tompkins' wife, Terry Tompkins, said as she stood in the afternoon sun.

Killian said he was taking the hike no matter who showed up, but knew the odds were good for attendance because of the weather.

"Sunshine always brings people out independent of the temperature," he said. "It's a good way to get the year started."

And with that, hikers traveled the Rustling Leaves Trail. The ranger-led hike took them over Iron Hill to see pine vistas — part of a 2 1/2-mile walk around the lake.

"We do have multiple programs where we teach people about the aquatic environment in the lake," Killian said. "We have programs on mammals, skulls, skins and tracks. We have archery programs. We have fire-building programs. We have a wide variety of programs here at the park."

Daingerfield is among 92 open state parks, and about 80 percent of them offered New Year's Day hikes, he said.

Killian focused his tour on physical activity, health and wellness and encouraged hikers to think of Daingerfield State Park as their "outdoor gym."

"I go to a gym myself," he said, "but when I walk around, I'll exercise, run, walk, hike — I feel better than I do if I'm on a treadmill inside, and I think a number of studies will bear that out."

The Tompkinses, who both work in Longview, said they already had discovered Daingerfield State Park as a hiking destination but seeing the New Year's Day hike mentioned in the News-Journal recently gave them an idea on how to spend their holiday.

"This is our first time," Terry Tompkins said of the annual hikes. "We come over here and walk a lot but we've never done the New Year's Day."

And as her husband attested, the hike takes commitment.

"This is a nice hike," Robert Tompkins said. "It's two-and-a-half miles just around the lake. It's easy to go in a circle, and when you start, you know you've got to finish."



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