- Associated Press - Wednesday, January 3, 2018

TERRE HAUTE, Ind. (AP) - Starting 2018 with subzero temperatures and a wind child advisory was a challenge for many hikers Monday.

For the many people who braved Monday’s cold, however, a First Day Hike at Turkey Run State Park was the place to encounter a winter wonderland on the first day of the new year.

Continuing their 14-year tradition for New Year’s Day, an extended Putnam County family gathered at outside the park’s nature center to hike Trail 3 - a rugged, ladder-strewn maze through the woods and canyons, over rocks and streams.

“We always take Trail 3. We figured if we are going to do it, we might as well go all the way,” hiker Wesley Smith said of the challenge.

He was one of about two dozen in the family group Smith-Huffman-Whitesell-Hartlaub who were bundled in warm winter clothing, hats and gloves.

Most of the group gathered at the base of the suspension bridge crossing Sugar Creek for a photo to memorialize the annual hike. Because of the cold, they limited the age for their youngest hiker in their group to age 7, and the oldest to whoever was up to the challenge.

“This is a tradition,” said Bob Huffman of Bainbridge. “This is the coldest it’s ever been. We all get together and do the hike, then we go back to my place where I have a big pond. We’ll ice skate, sleigh ride, and have a big pitch-in meal.”

Unlike most years, some of the adults in the group walked across the frozen surface of Sugar Creek rather than walk across the suspension bridge.

“It’s going to be easier this year because it’s gonna be frozen,” Huffman said of the hike. “Some years we get wet in the streams.”

Despite the frigid temperatures - registering at 4 below zero outside the nature center - the park hosted many hikers on the sunny Monday.

Terrissa Miller and her 15-year-old son Michael made the trip from Lowell, Indiana, in Lake County specifically to hike at Turkey Run.

“We just came on a whim,” Miller said. “We wanted to make it a new tradition. So we drove down and spent the night at the (Turkey Run) Inn,” she said.

The Millers have visited several state parks, she said, and she commended her son for humoring her in starting their tradition on such a cold day.

For those who took Trail 3 - labeled on park maps as very rugged - there was no turning back at some points as icy and slippery slopes allowed hikers to descend, but not climb back the way they just traveled. The ladders and ledges also called for careful footwork.

Lindsey Harrell, interpretive naturalist at the park, organized and led a group of hikers on Trails 6 and 11 for an hour-long journey.

They had 19 hikers who learned about the park’s history, visited Turkey Run Hollow, the Lieber Cabin and the restored memorial to Richard Lieber, a founder of the Indiana State Parks system.

“We saw deer tracks, but that’s all as far as wildlife,” said Harrell, who was accompanied by volunteer Jordan Johnston.

“A lot of people like to winter hike, see the landscape and see how wildlife acts. They enjoy seeing what animals migrate or hibernate,” she said.

Monday’s First Day Hike was part of a nationwide celebration of state park systems. First Day Hikes originated more than 20 years ago at the Blue Hills Reservation in Milton, Mass. Indiana’s Department of Natural Resources organized its First Day Hikes in 2013, and this year hosted 32 events throughout the state.

Though temperatures are expected to stay below freezing in coming days, Harrell said the park trails will remain open during daylight for hikers.

She advised everyone to keep an eye on the weather, wear enough clothing and warm boots, and to carry survival blankets as a precaution.

“Make sure you’re ready for the elements,” she said.


Source: (Terre Haute) Tribune-Star, http://bit.ly/2qkGJjt


Information from: Tribune-Star, http://www.tribstar.com

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