First Day Hikes Promote Use of Winter Parks in Iowa

ELDORA, Iowa -- The cold did not stop First Day Hikers at Eldora this year. Last year, due to wind chill advisories, the state-wide First Day Hike was canceled. Across Iowa, there were 28 First Day Hikes.

At Pine Lake State Park, the temperature was around 10 degrees as the hike began. But there was no wind, so over 20 people took off on a 1.5 mile hike, led by Park Ranger Andy Place.

“We’re going to hike up the Wildcat Trail here along the Iowa River,” said Place. “Then we’re going to go up to Hogsback trail. We’ll end back here at the cabin.”

Some hikers near the front of the group spotted some eagles. There were signs of beavers trying to gnaw down some trees, and there were some otter tracks along a frozen creek.

“What we want to promote with these first day hikes, is that your State Parks are open year round,” said Place. “If you have the right gear and equipment, you can enjoy your park anytime of the year.”

Place added that there is not a lot of trail clearing done in the winter, so snow shoes or cross-country skis might be helpful.

On the trail, people also heard about the historic wind storm which struck the area in 2009.

“The aspens are really soft trees, so it just basically ripped them apart,” said Place. “The pine trees stripped the needles off and killed a lot of them. The seeds after all those trees were killed in the sun were able to get down to the ground [where] a lot of seeds germinated.”

The walk finished with hot chocolate inside a warm cabin, with a crackling fireplace.

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