A small contingent of Fort Riley Soldiers and family members were among roughly 80 walkers and 10 dogs present at the 2019 First Day Hike at Tuttle Creek State Park Jan. 1.

Staff at Fort Riley's Outdoor Adventure Park, Directorate of Family and Morale, Welfare and Recreation, helped Soldiers and families wishing to partake in the opportunity by offering a free ride.

"It's part of a national program, First Day Hike, put on by America's state parks," said Tuttle Creek State Park manager Todd Lovin. "There will be hikes all across the country. We are out here to get people excited about the outdoors -- they can hike and do outdoors stuff almost every day of the year. There are very few days you can't actually."

Tuttle Creek State Park was one of 19 parks in Kansas hat took part in the annual event, according to Lovin. Milford State Park, west of Fort Riley, hosted their event in the afternoon with nearly 50 people in attendance.

With temperatures in the teens and wind chills in the single digits, walkers bundled up for a chance to get outdoors and start off the new year actively.

As the crowd gathered inside the office before heading out, Lovin complimented the people who attended saying that a previous year featured nicer weather, but less people. He also said that same year, a park in North Dakota hosted the largest gathering despite temperatures being sub-zero.
For Courtney Kyle, wife of Staff Sgt. Robbie Kyle, 116th Military Police Company, 97th Military Police Battalion, the morning offered a chance to be outside with their daughters Savanna, 10, and Ariana, 5.

"It's great, they seem to be enjoying it," she said of the two girls who were bundle up beneath layers. "It's a little cold; but they are enjoying it."

Master Sgt. Calvin Ellis, 541st Combat Sustainment Support Battalion, 1st Infantry Division Sustainment Brigade, said he was glad to be around other people who wanted to start the new year off right.

"It's a first hike, it's where you want to start the new year," he said. "You don't want to start the new year off inside or with a hangover. All these people here are looking toward some future or resolution -- to get your mind clear. [You're able] to just go out there for a walk and think about what you're going to do for the next year."

Ellis said he was impressed with the turnout for the event.

"I thought that there might have been a smaller turn out," he said. "It's 15 degrees right now, I thought that might have been a deterring factor; but it hasn't. There are (almost) 100 people just out here walking along this trail bringing in the new year."

Lovin said he also was pleased with the turnout.

The walk explored two trails at the park: Eagle Pass Trail and Western Heritage Trail.

"It's a leisurely walk," Lovin said. "I will just lead out and if they say, 'That's enough, I'm getting cold' or 'I'm getting tired,' no offense taken if they want to go back to their vehicle and leave."

Once through Eagle Pass Trail, the group stopped for a few moments at Rocky Ford Campground to let any slower walkers catch up. There, the group continued to Rocky Ford Dam and Rocky Ford State Fishing Area.

Here, several people took the opportunity to take photos with the water from the Big Blue River rushing over the dam forming large ice formations.

Walkers returned to the starting point from there, many with a quicker pace as they worked their way back toward their vehicles.

Ellis, who is an avid GeoCache enthusiast, took the time to find one that was hidden off the path. He said there are often prizes for being the first to locate one in a new year.