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Volksmarching - it just means "people's walk". It's catching on. There are now 60 clubs across the West.


In southern Bavaria, where the sport began, volksmarching simply means "people's walk.' It's an apt description of this sociable way to enjoy the simple pleasures of walking.

"You don't have to be a hero to join a volksmarch,' says Preston Johnson of Washington's Evergreen State Volkssport Association. "Everybody's welcome, regardless of age or fitness level.'

As our photographs suggest, the idea works all across the West, appealing to young families with toddlers in baby carriers as well as trail veterans festooned with patches from scores of walks.

Volksmarching is a structured but noncompetitive year-round sport. First popular in Germany in the late 1960s, it quickly spread to other European countries, and migrated to the United States a decade ago with returning servicemen.

You'll now find volkssport clubs in every state in the West, from Tacoma to Phoenix, Portland to Colorado Springs, Great Falls to San Francisco--nearly 60 in all. Most concentrate on walking, but many also sponsor swimming, bicycling, and cross-country skiing events. Some occasionally organize triathlons and other multi-event get-togethers.

There's a 10- or 20-km trail a-winding

Courses are carefully chosen, safe, well marked, and usually scenic. Most follow relatively level ground on city streets, country roads, or ocean beaches, and simple footwear is all you need. Most routes are suitable for baby strollers.

Outings are typically loops of 10 or 20 kilometers (6.2 or 12.4 miles), and require 2 to 3 hours for the shorter rambles, up to 6 for the longer.

You begin whenever you're ready (usually between 8 and noon) and proceed at your own unhurried pace, taking time to enjoy the views, talk to fellow walkers, rest, or picnic. Dogs on leashes are welcome. Everyone who completes the marked course by the announced finish time is declared a winner.

If you're not interested in collecting badges or pins, you're welcome to walk the course free; please check in at the information table. But most volksmarchers register (usually $1.50) and have their permanent record books ($3) stamped at the end of the walk. Another fee (usually less than $5) gets you an award--a pin, patch, or badge. Fees pay for marking the course, group insurance, and the like. Registered walkers are asked to stop at checkpoints on the route to have their start cards stamped. You also can get a drink of water (there may even be water bowls for dogs), and concession stands sell soft drinks, beer, and snacks. Rest rooms can usually be found along the way.

Finding a club

For a list of chapters in your area, write to the following regional directors:

Northwest (Alaska, Idaho, Montana, Oregon, Washington): Charles Repik, Box 125, Tacoma 98492; (206) 582-7474.

Pacific (California, Hawaii, Nevada): Ben Wilkes, Box 2461, Clearlake, Calif. 95422; (707) 994-4135.

Southwest (Arizona, Colorado, New Mexico, Utah, Wyoming); Doyle Piland, 1910 Camelot Dr., Las Cruces, N.M. 88005; (505) 523-7034.

Photo: Near Palm Springs Morning sun etches San Jacinto Mountains beyond group beginning 6-mile walk in Rancho Mirage southeast of Palm Springs

Photo: 20 miles west of Portland Armed with umbrellas and undaunted by rain showers, volksmarchers explore a lonely country road on farmland stroll west of Forest Grove, Oregon

Photo: Along the California coast As the breakers roll in, walkers follow a sandy path in Carmel River State Beach, north of Point Lobos State Reserve

Photo: Families collect awards at end of walk in San Francisco's Golden Gate Park; all who finish are declared winners

Photo: Proud participants in numerous volksmarches, they have jackets emblazoned with badges to prove it
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Article Type:Directory
Date:May 1, 1986
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