I was not really an athletic child. I grew up in Arizona in the early to mid 70's. I went on my first backpacking trip into Havasupai Falls when I was 13 years old. I was hooked afterwards to hiking and backpacking. Luckily I was in a Senior Girl Scout troop and we focused on backpacking and camping trips. It sustained me.
I also rode my bike everywhere. It never occurred to me to race or compete even today I love to ride my bike but it's not about racing it's about the freedom to move and the feel of the wind on my face.
In High School I had a friend who did all these things with me and we used to do the March of Dimes walks in Phoenix. It was very similar to a volkswalk. We arrived in the morning and then had about 8 hours to complete the 20 miles. My friend and I would walk and stop to look at shops along the way. Our favorite was an embroidery shop.
Years went by. I still enjoyed these activities, but I realized I was not doing as much. Marriage, divorce, death, sadness slowed me down.
About 8 years ago I started doing volkswalks. At the time what I understood about volkswalking was very limited. I knew I liked volkswalking because it reminded me of the March of Dimes Walks and I liked that I had 4 hours in the morning to arrive at the start of a walk.
I used to pay and sign up to do events that started at 7 or 7:30am. Early in the morning of the event I would wake up and think I don't want to walk or bike today. Especially if it was raining. So I would skip the event and lose the money.
Volkswalking I had a window of time to decide if I wanted to walk or not.
I would show up at the event, do the walk, and go home. I saw people and sometimes I would talk to people as I walked next to them but I didn't really know anyone.
Then one year I signed up on my own to do the Burning Boot Walk on Vancouver Island. I looked up the names of who registered for the walk and found out that some volkswalkers were doing the walk too.
I remember Joe handing me a bottle of water out of the back of an SUV and me asking him about the Boot Walk. That conversation and his enthusiasm for volkswalking hooked me. He was President of the CRVC (Columbia River Volkssport Club) at the time and he invited me to their meeting.
I went to the first meeting and volunteered to be their newsletter editor. This simple action has changed my life.
Volkswalking is an amazing activity.
I took my parents on a volkswalk in Portland (the Heartbreaker Walk 2003) and now my parents are very active with the Rogue Valley Walkers, my mom is the current President.
I went from being editor to Vice and then President and now I am a Board Member of CRVC.
As a club we often go to volkswalking events out of town. Some of us will travel together and share housing and spend 3 or 4 days together at the event doing the walks and then find other fun places to go while at the event. I've been to Victoria, Whidbey Island, Shady Cove, Cascade Locks, Grants Pass, Republic WA and the Grand Canyon with friends from CRVC.
It is hard to describe what volkswalking is exactly. I will take a try at it.
The AVA is the umbrella for National Volkswalking. There are State Volkswalking Associations and within the state there are numerous local volkswalking clubs.
The clubs usually put on the weekend events. Although events can happen during the week too. The events have start and finish times.(Usually start 8am-noon and finish by 4pm.) You show up at the event, either declare that you want to walk for free or you want to walk for credit ($3.00). Walking lengths vary from 5km to 10km. Longer walks are offered too. The usual event is a 10km (6.2mile) with a 5km (3.1mile) option.
Walking for credit means that you have the little colored passport-looking books and are keeping track of the events that you have attended or walked, and the distances that you have walked. (www.ava.org
explains this in detail)
Once you fill out the start card and sign the waiver you pick up instructions and map and start the walk. These "event" walks are well marked. Volunteers go out before the event and mark the route with streamers, arrows or stakes.
Often there are other people on the walk but people are staggered due to the start time being open for about 4 hours.
There is usually a checkpoint partway through the walk and there are snacks and water available. Pets are often welcome on the walks, many walks are suitable for wheelchairs and strollers.
I really enjoy events. I have so made so many new friends from the volkswalking community. Even if I show up by myself I run into people I know and soon find myself walking in a small group.
There is another walking option and that is walking a YRE. This is a Year Round Event. These walks are available during daylight hours, start locations vary, and the routes have written instructions and usually a map on the back of the sheet. If you go to www.ava.org
and know the city and State you want to walk in you can search for walks in the area you are interested in. This is a great way to see the city when travelling.
Volkswalking routes are created by people who are passionate about walking. Walk routes often take in all interesting features. Parks, monuments, murals, statues, so much so that walks are often designed to take in as many features as possible in a 10km route.
Volkswalking has made a positive impact on my life. Last weekend I was in Whidey Island at an event that was in Coupeville WA. I stayed at a rental home with a group of volkswalking friends. My parents and many of their club members went to the event too. So I spent time with my parents and their friends plus my friends and also met up with friends from other clubs who were at the event. We did four walks and then did a Year Round Event in Langley WA.
Volkswalking is a hard sport to describe. The name makes it sound like it is something complicated but really it is just about walking.
The complications arise from trying to talk about the books, whether you walk for credit or for free and the terminology is somewhat confusing. Once you get past that volkswalking is about friendship and having fun.
You can be involved as much as you'd like or be someone who shows up to do a walk. It's yur choice.
I think that is what is so amazing about volkswalking. You get to define what volkswalking is.