First Day Hike well attended in Pratt

Brandon Case
Pratt Tribune
Hikers of various ages took part in the annual First Day Hike at Pratt’s Green Trails on January 1, braving the cold weather to get in some outdoor time along with friends and some furry pals.

More than 175 humans, and 12 dogs, braved cold temperatures to hike the Green Trails in Pratt, one of many such hikes across Kansas and nationwide that took place January 1 as part of “First Day Hikes” in state parks.

Kati Westerhaus, who is a grant coordinator for the Kansas Department of Wildlife, Parks and Tourism (KDWPT), said the turnout, 47 more than last year, was “incredible.”

The First Day Hike concept dates from 2012 on the national level, with a local hike being offered since 2014.

"First Day Hikes are a way for many of us to start the new year with a dose of nature which helps develop a robust brain and a healthy and wholesome body. In a time of COVID, hiking outdoors is a great way to celebrate safely in 2021," said Linda Lanterman, Kansas State Parks Director. Lanterman said 22 state parks participated in the event this year, although three had to postpone their hike until the second Saturday due to weather conditions.

While most of the humans participating in the Green Trails hike hailed from Pratt County, several also came from Stafford County. Kingman and Finney counties were also represented and even one vehicle with Colorado plates was present.

Those who took part in the event seemed to enjoy the day, especially the wind blocks provided by the woods through which the trails wind.

Prattans Ryan Lunt and Ryan Creadick kept their leashed dogs at a safe, social distance while visiting prior to the start of the event. Midway through the hike, Lunt’s wife, Shea, was holding their young daughter, Clementine, as she hiked with her friend Jamie Hixon.

Numerous families, including the Conkles, participated in the event this year. The Conkle family has enjoyed a First Day Hike for the past three years.

“It gets the boys out and runs some energy off. We like being outdoors, seeing different things,” said Taryn Conkle. The Conkle boys were later seen down the trail, howling in imitation of wolves and burning off some of that energy.

Jason and Kim Ghumm hiked with their son, Erik Ghumm, and his girlfriend, Katelynn McGraw, and their daughter, Katherine Kenworthy. Katherine’s mother, Vicki Steffen, rounded out the family circle. Kim said this is the third year that members of her family have done the local First Day Hike.

Gordon and Carol Stull were joined by their son and his children for the day. 

“This is my fifth t-shirt,” Carol said, indicating how many years she has participated.

All participants in the event receive a t-shirt that commemorates the day, courtesy of KDWPT.

Alma Ibarra, a local massage therapist, said she enjoyed her first ever First Day Hike. 

“I’m happy I started the new year different by working out and thankful for the t-shirt I got, the water, warm patch for our hands, and protein bar,” she said.

A foursome of friends, including Char Pauls, Susan Page, Melissa Rempe, and Suzan Patton, were seen hiking around one bend in the trail. While this was Char’s first year, her friends were all veterans of First Day Hikes.

Sara Wallace and her son, Griffin also enjoyed some outdoors time together, although their usual hiking partner was missing this year.

“We usually do it with Diane Arensdorf, but she’s not with us anymore,” said Sara.

One First Day hiker this year has been a regular at the Green Trails. Lyle Taylor has been a trail volunteer for the past two years. Using a weed eater, loppers, and his walking stick, Taylor helps to keep the trails clear year round.

The biggest job, he said, is cutting back the honeysuckle, but the walking stick also comes in handy to knock down the spider webs during the warmer months of the year.

Taylor, along with several others, also opens and closes daily the gate which allows access to the Green Trails.

Other volunteers at this year’s event included Rick Davis and Nathan Hemphill.

Incidentally, granola bars for all of the First Day Hikes in Kansas were donated by KIND.