Neff Park officials hoping to set state hiking record Jan. 1

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MOODY, Texas (KWTX) For the seventh straight year officials at Mother Neff State Park are looking forward the park’s annual New Year’s Day hike and this year they’re hoping to set a new state park record along the way.

It’s all about families bonding by coming together outside their daily assault from the media and social media, away from their computers and cell phones, and reconnecting with the glory of nature that surrounds them every day but most often goes unnoticed.

It’s called the “First Day Hike” and similar events tale place across the state and the nation at national and state parks.

The Texas Parks and Wildlife Department includes a huge list of “First Day Hikes” and their web page says: “First Day Hikes vary from short, leisurely nature walks through forested trails and along boardwalks to climbs into the mountains of the Chihuahuan Desert”.

The first “First Day Hike” at Mother Neff State Park in 2012 registered 57 hikers but by 2016 that number had grown to 208 and in 2016 the smallest and oldest state park in Texas saw 549 hikers assemble for the “First Day Hike” and that set a state record, Mother Neff Superintendent Melissa Chadwick said.

She said she’s hoping to smash that record this year but the cold weather expected could have an impact on the event.

KWTX Meteorologist Brian Germ says temperatures will fall into the lower 20s Sunday night and into Monday morning and there is at east some chance of wintery precipitation, albeit slight and even if it does happen in shouldn’t be severe.

“The precipitation should be ended by late Sunday night so it will just be very cold with wind chills in the teens or even single digits,” Germ said Friday.

Hikers can expect breezy conditions with partly cloudy skies in the morning on Monday with clearing into the early afternoon but it won’t really warm up significantly.

“Just dress warm, in lots of layers, wear a hat and for sure gloves and sturdy hiking boots, maybe a scarf,” Chadwick said.

Anyone who’s planning to hike but might be concerned about the weather conditions on the morning of the trek is encouraged to call the park office at 254-853-2389 to check conditions in the park.

As late as Thursday Chadwick said more than 400 hikers already had registered.

There are two hikes available for walkers, the first focusing on morning prairie and canyon trails steps off at 9 a.m., the second includes afternoon prairies and canyons leaves the starting point at 2 p.m.

The prairie hikes, both morning and afternoon, are designed for hikers with little or limited experience and the canyon hikes are a bit more challenging, Chadwick said.

Each hike is 1.5 miles in length but there are more than 3 miles of open hiking trails inside the park.

Chadwick said hikers should gather 30- to 45-minutes before the hike start time outside the park headquarters.

A new feature on the prairie hikes is the bird blind that is now in operation in the prairie, not on the visit list last year because it still was under construction.

Hikers who opt for the canyon trails might just see some deer, likely cardinals and other winged wintertime residents, along with caves and canyons and a large limestone escarpment on their way to the watchtower.

Pets, those well-mannered, are welcome as well, but must be restrained on a leash not longer then 6-feet and Chadwick discouraged strollers, especially on the canyon trails.

Participants must pay a park access fee unless they hold an annual pass, but the hike, itself, is free.

Gate admission for the day is $2 for adults, children 12 and younger are free.

Visitors to Mother Neff Park will notice some improvements and repairs in the park, Chadwick said, including the clearing of a log jam under a park bridge that’s backed Leon River water up into sections of the park since torrential flooding years ago.

The river bottom in the park still is closed for use because damage done there by the floods has not yet been repaired.

The Texas Legislature designated funds to make the repairs last year but the relief efforts required after hurricanes ravaged the Texas Coast used those funds, Chadwick said.

The repairs will happen; the funds just have to be re-allocated by TPWD.

The TPWD website lists the following events within a daytrip of Central Texas to celebrate the New Year:

Last Day (December 31) events include:

Happy New Year! Black Light Hike at Midnight!
Fort Parker State Park - Mexia
Take a New Year’s hike at midnight with a Fort Parker State Park Ranger! Visit the 1/2 mile Bur Oak Trail and see what you might with an awesome black-light!

New Year's Eve Hike
Dinosaur Valley State Park – Glen Rose
Hike into the New Year!
First Day Hikes on January 1, 2018

First Day Hike - Morning in the Prairie
Mother Neff State Park – Moody, 9 a.m.
Begin the New Year outdoors!

First Day Hike - Morning in the Canyon
Mother Neff State Park - Moody, 9 a.m.
Begin the New Year outdoors!

First Day Hike - Afternoon in the Prairie
Mother Neff State Park - Moody, 2 p.m.
Begin the New Year outdoors!

First Day Hike - Afternoon in the Canyon
Mother Neff State Park - Moody, 2 p.m.
Begin the New Year outdoors!

Primitive First Day Hike
McKinney Falls State Park - McKinney
Start the year off right with a hike on McKinney's primitive trails.

First Day Hike – Pedernales Falls
Pedernales Falls State Park - Blanco
Join our ranger on a guided hike of the rock formations that give this park its name!

First Day Hike
Inks Lake State Park - Burnet
Start the New Year off right with a morning hike and celebration refreshments!

First Day Roundup Hike
Enchanted Rock State Natural Area - Burnet
Experience the parts of Enchanted Rock that most people don't see.

First Day Bark in the Park Hike
Enchanted Rock State Natural Area - Burnet
Bring your pups on a hike.

Walk this Way at LBJ-2018 First Day Hike
Lyndon B. Johnson State Park & Historic Site - Hye
Start your New Year’s Resolutions off right with a short ranger-led hike at LBJ State Park and Historic Site.

Dino Dive and New Year's Celebration
Dinosaur Valley State Park – Glen Rose
Start the New Year off with a splash!

First Day Hike (Easy)
Dinosaur Valley State Park – Glen Rose

New Year Hike
Meridian State Park - Merdian
How will you start the New Year?

First Day Hike - Rusty's Roost - 10:30 AM
Colorado Bend State Park - Bend
Come out to Colorado Bend and start 2018 with a hike to a river overlook!

First Day Bike Ride (Easy)
Dinosaur Valley State Park – Glen Rose
Ride into the New Year!

First Day Hike – Hackenburg Loop Trail
Pedernales Falls State Park - Blanco
Join our ranger on a guided hike of Hackenburg Loop Trail. We’ll see the beautiful Pedernales River and local plant and animal life, and end at the Main Falls!

How Parks Saved the Country - First Day Hike
Bastrop State Park - Bastrop
Join us for an afternoon of discovery as we jump into a time machine and explore how the Civilian Conservation Corps influenced the lives of people across the country!

First Day Late Start Hike
Enchanted Rock State Natural Area - Burnet
Sleep in, then come on a hike with us!

First Day Hike
Cleburne State Park - Cleburne
Here is your opportunity to get outdoors and enjoy the crisp cool air, with a guided hike from a park ranger.

For a complete list of Last and First Day events, visit TPWD’s website at https://tpwd.texas.gov/calendar/first-day-hikes.