Community hikes send residents exploring area trails

Ryan Pivoney/News Tribune photo: 
Several dozen gathered Sunday evening, Feb. 5, 2023, at McKay Park for the third community hike hosted by the Jefferson City Parks, Recreation and Forestry Department and Jefferson City Trail Users group. The monthly hikes are meant to help introduce residents to area trails in a family-friendly way.
Ryan Pivoney/News Tribune photo: Several dozen gathered Sunday evening, Feb. 5, 2023, at McKay Park for the third community hike hosted by the Jefferson City Parks, Recreation and Forestry Department and Jefferson City Trail Users group. The monthly hikes are meant to help introduce residents to area trails in a family-friendly way.

Flashlights and head lamps bobbed along the perimeter of McKay Park Lake Sunday night.

Dozens attended the community hike organized by the Jefferson City Parks, Recreation and Forestry Department and Jefferson City Trail Users. Some were eager to explore the park's trails. Others were hoping to catch a good view of the evening's full moon.

"It's nice that they're getting people active, and the kids are invited and the flashlights," said Alicea Mullen, who trekked around the park trail with a few friends. "This is the funnest part, I think, once it starts getting dark and you're out and allowed to be in the park."

Molly Bryan, community relations manager with JC Parks, said community hikes were created in conjunction with the Jefferson City Trail Users group to explore park trails and different hikes around the area.

The hikes are scheduled each month at different locations. Sunday was the third community hike but the first to be at night.

Celeste Koon, of the Trail Users group, said the hike was scheduled at night to coincide with the full moon, which brightly peaked out over the treeline as the hike got under way.

Sunday's full moon was the smallest full moon of the year because of its position in orbit around Earth, according to Space.com. It was considered a "micromoon," the opposite of a supermoon. Although not noticeable with a naked eye, the moon appeared approximately 14 percent smaller than usual.

Koon said the community hike was among the "fun parts" of what her organization does. Jefferson City Trail Users formed about five years ago to support the use, maintenance and improvement of area trails. It has donated funds to put up signs along trails in two parks so far.

"I hope they have a lot of fun out on the trail," Koon said.

Bryan said the community hikes offer a family-friendly way to introduce residents to trails, adding: "It might be intimidating for someone that's new or that's never ventured out on their own."

She said getting outdoors, even for only 20 minutes, can be great for bonding with friends and family, letting energy loose and meeting new people.

Karen Ahrens said it was her second time joining the community hike. She also explored Binder Lake through a community hike last month.

Ahrens, a Jefferson City resident of seven years, said she discovered a new trail during the community hike at Binder Lake.

"I had no idea there was anything like this, like getting people together to do this and not just going out on your own," she said.

The break in frigid temperatures made for near-perfect hiking weather, Bryan said. But that's not necessarily a factor for the monthly gatherings.

"People brave the trails in all different kinds of weather, so it's up to them if they want to come out or not," Bryan said. "But we're really lucky it's like a little spring sneak peak tonight."

Rick Mullen said he and his group were ready to brave the cold, "but we're happy for this weather."

JC Parks is hosting its next community hike at 1:30 p.m. March 12 at Riverside Park.

photo Ryan Pivoney/News Tribune Kim Slaughter walked the McKay Park trail Sunday with her children Quinn, 8, and Wyatt, 10. The trio wore headlamps as the sun set on the park during the community hike.
photo Ryan Pivoney/News Tribune Kim Slaughter walked the McKay Park trail Sunday with her children Quinn, 8, and Wyatt, 10. The trio wore headlamps as the sun set on the park during the community hike.
photo Ryan Pivoney/News Tribune Keith Thornburg and Nancy Thomas stopped along the walking trail at McKay Park during the community hike Sunday to take photos of the full moon. The community hike was scheduled for 6 p.m. to coincide with the rare moon phase.
photo Ryan Pivoney/News Tribune Karen Ahrens (center) walks with Rick and Alicea Mullen around McKay Park Lake Sunday evening during the community hike. The three had previously explored Binder Lake through a community hike last month and said Sunday's weather was nearly perfect for a walk.