A recent SUNNY BUT COOL Saturday morning was a perfect day for a walk. Which was a good thing for the more than 125 people who showed up at St Mark’s Cathedral on Capitol Hill to take one for one Wanderers of the Emerald City Event.
Most of these people don’t need an excuse to walk around, but being part of one group gives them another.
Mike Nagan, the president of this club, tells me that it is “one of the many, many walking clubs across the city, state, country and the world” under the umbrella of Volkssport, a long-established international community of people who make it a point to walk.
The Emerald City Club is known for its vacation walks, usually held on Saturdays before or after a big party. The Halloween event is popular with families, says Nagan. (And yes: you might get a prize if you dress up.) About 200 clubs across the country are part of the American Volkssport Association, which calls itself “America’s Walking Club.”
Volkssporting started in Germany to encourage participation in non-competitive sports. The term “Volkssport” literally means “popular sports”, and the walks were called Volkswanderung – yes: people just wander.
It is not about walking fast or even very far; most walks are 5 or 10 kilometers (3.1 or 6.2 miles). Club members plan walks with points of interest – maybe a great view, a historic site, or a great grocery store – along the way. They mapped 21 in Seattle alone and over 170 across the state. “They’re laid out by people who want you to have a good time, a good walk,” says Nagan.
You can find walks on club websites; events in the Pacific Northwest are also listed in a print newsletter, Northwest Pathfinder, which you can order through the Evergreen State Walking Club website. At the Capitol Hill event, I chatted with Dorman Batson, who was dabbing International Volkssport Federation books for those who wanted to follow this walk. (Getting the book stamped costs $ 3, but there is no charge to participate in the walks themselves.)
Batson helped found a few walking clubs in the Seattle area when he started in 1983. He has walked in all 50 states, seven Canadian provinces, and Mexico, and he has taken people on trips around the world. walking theme. He has attended 19 of the 22 national conventions of the American Volkssport Association. “It was a fantastic adventure,” he says.
You don’t have to be a member of a walking club to participate in an organized walk or to try out a club’s marked steps yourself. But club members say membership, which often involves volunteering, adds a more social element.
Jane Clark’s first club walk was a New Years event she found through a newspaper listing five years ago. She went because it seemed like a fun and healthy thing to do. Once she found out how many clubs and walks there were, and met some cool people who were doing it, “I was like, ‘This is it. It’s my thing, ”she said. “I made a whole bunch of new friends, and we’re going for a walk all the time.”
Along with members of other clubs in the area, Clark helped organize a series of rides departing from streetcar stations around Seattle. Part of the idea was to give people an impetus to explore neighborhoods new to them. “Walkers are always looking for something new,” she says.