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MOUNT VERNON — The practice of volkswalking is very much alive and well in the Skagit Valley.The NW Tulip Trekkers is no stranger to the trails, paths, sidewalks and shorelines of Northwest Washington. The Club offers numerous treks throughout the yearVolkswalking — German for “walk of the people” — is the most popular of what are called volkssports, non-competitive activities. Volkssports include biking, cross-country skiing, kayaking, swimming and snowshoeing.Volkswalking events are leisurely and non-structured. They typically take place at trails, rivers, gardens, historic sites and downtown areas.The club, founded in 1987, has had a membership in a state of flux.It ranges from 80 to 150 members.“We do walks year-round,” said club president Joe Pepia of Mount Vernon. “Rain or shine. They are loosely circular and very easy. Where they start is where they finish. They are family- and pet-friendly.”Basically, a volkswalk is a trek at one’s own pace, whether it’s at a brisk clip or a touristy stroll.“The idea is to have fun and get outside,” Pepia said. “Volkwalking started in Germany in the 1960’s and 1970’s. There was a lot of sporting competitions between all these small towns. There was a lot of competition and people started looking for non-competitive endeavors.”This walking season, club offers 22 walking routes ranging from 3.1 miles to 11 6.8 miles. These volkswalks venture through and explore the surrounding areas of Anacortes, Mount Vernon, Lynden, Bayview, Bellingham, Langly, Birch Bay, La Conner, Camano Island, Friday Harbor, Deception Pass State Park and Ferndale.It isn’t complicated. For instance, for the upcoming Skagit Valley Tulip Festival Walk on April 12, one only has to show up, sign up, get instructions and grab a map. The route will be marked.“So you can go in a herd or by yourself,” said club member Curt Myron of Oak Harbor, “If you want someone to walk with you, we’ll find you someone. We stress safety, scenery and education as well as fun, fitness and friendship. That is really our group’s dynamic.“In the United States, there are 1,835 self-guided walks. There is a self-guided walk in Las Vegas that takes you through the lobbies of every hotel.”Myron, has a thick-ringed book describing every walk in the country. That information can also be found online. There are also multi-day walks. The NW Tulip Trekkers will be hosting one in 2015.“The Gorge Walk,” said Myron, “is 12 walks in four days. It it the biggest multi-day in the Northwest.”The club offers several Friendship Walks where members gather and walk as a club. It is an opportunity for both volkswalking veterans and rookies to get to know one another.Traditional Events and year-round events are also offered.American Volkssport Association sanctioned events are held in all 50 states and 42 countries. Washington and Oregon are two of the most volkswalk-happy in America with about 60 clubs and organizations.Walks are open to everyone and while there is a $3 fee, walkers can choose to pay or not. You do not have to be a member to participate. Members of the NW Tulip Trekkers come from numerous counties. Annual membership dues are $5 per individual and $10 per family.The passport-style booklets are rubber-stamped following the completion of specific walks and Myron boasts a stack of them with stamps from all over the world. Thus far, since joining the American Volkssport Association in 1987, he has logged 19,000 kilometers while walking in all 50 states and 29 countries.Pepia admits he’s not quite as avid, but has still walked 7,500 kilometers since joining the club in 1998.“Once you finish a book,” Myron said, “you send it in and you get a patch, hat pin or certificate. Myself, I like to travel. So we plan our trips around these walks. My goal now is to do 100 walks in a year.”Pepia admitted to doing the same thing.“When I am traveling,” he said. “I always make sure and look for a walk. They usually take you to interesting places.”n Reporter Vince Richardson: 360-416-2181, vrichardson@skagitpublishing.com, Twitter: @Sports_SVH, Facebook.com/vincereports

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