Tag Archives: walking trail

Volksmarching: A Sport for the People

On your mark! Get set! Go…at the pace that feels right for you! Today we’re all about a non-race where no one loses, everybody wins, and all you have to do is put your best foot forward and then the other one, and so on. Volkssporting, as the American Volkssporting Association puts it, “is an international sports phenomenon that promotes personal physical fitness and good health by providing fun-filled, safe exercise in a stress-free environment through self-paced walks and hikes, bike rides, swims, and in some regions, cross-country skiing and snowshoeing.” A genuine choose-your-own-pace adventure, volkssporting’s most popular iteration is called volksmarching, where participants are tasked with hiking 6.2-miles (10km) of pre-marked paths.

[Image: www.ava.org]

A sport with no room for agism. All you need is a reasonable sense of humor and maybe a really emphatic “ta-da!” pose. [Image: www.ava.org/]

Volksmarching is characterized by flexible start times for events and lengths that can vary to accommodate participants of diverse abilities to complete the course. Hundreds of thousands of folks have participated in organized volksmarches in the last couple of years, many of them matured in years or mentality beyond the need to come in first or otherwise exert their prowess over their peers. Sounds amazing, right? Here are a few parks where the spirit of the “fun, fitness, [and] friendship” aspects of volksmarch is alive.

[Image: www.allblackhills.com]

This photo shows some of the turnout for the annual Crazy Horse Monument Volksmarch, just about 11 miles from Custer State Park. [Image: www.allblackhills.com/]

Custer State Park, South Dakota

At Custer State Park in South Dakota, the Seasonal Volksmarch Trail is open mid-May to September 30 annually. Volksmarchers at the park can register between 8 a.m. and 5 p.m. to hike the trail. After paying a small fee, those who complete the course are rewarded with a stamp in their distance-keeping book, called a “credit,” and for an extra dollar, a “B Award,” or a medallion from a previous year’s event. Not to mention a sense of accomplishment!

Hot Springs State Park, Wyoming

Hot Springs State Park has 6.2 miles of universally accessible trails and hiking trails, which, you may have noticed, is precisely the length needed for volksmarching. The accessibility of the trails makes Hot Springs an exceptionally fine park to enjoy the sights that come with a good walk in the West. You can access views of the Big Horn River and accompanying mineral terrace, a side effect of the hot spring that gives the park its name. The hot spring, by the way, is accessible at the park-maintained bathhouse and soaking in its free 104 degree pool is an outstanding way to relax after your volksmarch.

Volkssporting is more about enjoying exercise and nature, and where better to enjoy that than along the Atlantic coast? [Image: www.floridastateparks.org]

Volksmarching is more about enjoying exercise and nature, and where better to enjoy that than along the Atlantic coast? [Image: www.floridastateparks.org/]

Sebastian Inlet State Park, Florida

Sebastian Inlet State Park is an exceptional park because it offers access to all the best things that Florida’s excellent state park system is known for: Watersport recreation, camping, fishing, biking with sea and sand abounding in an ecologically diverse and sensorial, vibrant setting. All this knitted in with the Volksport Trail, 6.2 miles on the park’s varying terrain and with elements of all its best scenery. Whether you’re ready to sprint the whole course or looking to take your time at it, you’ll have a great time at Sebastian Inlet.

We talk a lot about sports and activities that are geared toward individuals who maybe don’t have to wonder as often about the types of materials that make up a park’s trails or if there is an accessible restroom with transfer bars. But state and national parks (and indeed, the wonders of nature!) are for everyone, regardless of age or mobility. Volksmarching gets to the heart of the idea that it’s less about speed and competition and more about the journey and the companions we take or meet along the way.

For more on this and other activities where you might enjoy some fun, fitness, and friendship, download a Pocket Ranger® mobile app and find a park to stretch your legs near you.

Hanging out with Llamas and Alpacas

Llamas walking around the ancient fortress of Kuelap in Peru

Llamas walking around the ancient fortress of Kuelap in Peru. [Image: Cynthia Via]

Hanging out with llamas and alpacas is nothing short of endearing as they peek out with their furry long necks. They are grand companions for the road, or “silent brothers,” as the Andean people call them. Llamas (pronounced “yama”) have been around for millions of years first originating in North America, then migrating to South America. Their close cousin, Alpacas are native to the Andes mountains of Peru, Bolivia and Chile. They were mostly bred for their fibers, whereas the llamas were pack animals used during the pre-Columbian era. The Incan Empire in Peru heavily depended on the use of llamas  for transporting goods, crops and other materials between remote villages. Alpacas were vital to the Incas by providing one of the strongest and softest animals fibers, great for making sweaters, especially needed in the cold sierra mountains. They also served as companions for young children and small animals. Llamas and alpacas are symbolic to the indigenous cultures of South America and represent a way of life.

 

Affection for these animals has spread to North America and Europe thanks to hiking and farming initiatives. Hiking with llamas is not only environmentally friendly since they don’t damage the land when grazing or walking, they are also accustomed to high altitude, and are less stubborn than mules and horses. They can alert us when a herd of animals approach in the distance. Llamas are mostly peaceful, curious animals (although they can spit for hierarchical reasons within their herd) and great for people trekking long distance, who can’t endure heavy equipment such as older folks, children and those with disabilities. While an average llama of 300 pounds can carry about 75 pounds (25 percent its weight), it’s not recommended alpacas carry heavy loads since they’re smaller, and less accustomed to taking long hikes. However, many farms allow visitors to feed alpacas and take them for short walks. Alpacas are docile, calm, non-aggressive to humans, and they are able to learn tricks. They are especially therapeutic for children.

If you’re ready to embrace the alpaca’s or the llama’s chill attitude, walk along with them in one these parks or farms!

Llama Trekking

Jackson Hole Llamas offers llama trekking trips in Wyoming through five areas in Yellowstone National Park and Jedediah Smith Wilderness. Llamas will carry your gear as you walk with them, so you can enjoy views of wildflower meadows, forests, waterfalls, geothermal areas, and alpine lakes. Their website even shows off a variety of llamas each with a quirky character description. Similarly, Yellowstone Safari Company offers llama treks in the northern parts of the park, including Black Butte Creek Trail, Specimen Creek and Black Canyon. Swan Mountain Llama Trekking offers short trails and multi-day treks through Montana’s Glacier Country. Some of their longer trails go through Flathead National Forest, Glacier National Park, Great Bear and the Mission Wilderness Areas. They even have a 3-hour wine & cheese llama trek.

The video below illustrates how backpacking with llamas can be a smooth hike.

 

 

Alpaca Walks

Alpacas on the trail. [Cynthia Via]

Alpacas on the trail. [Image: Cynthia Via]

Though alpaca trail packs are rare, some farms allow visitors to feed, pet and take them on short walks. Since most alpacas spend their time within farms, they’ll need a bit of training. If you have your own alpaca, walking is a great way to exercise and build a relationship with them. Walking with alpacas is beneficial for children especially those with autism. In the presence of alpacas, children tend to walk longer and be more invested in the moment.

If you’re in Garret County in Maryland, visit Blue Bell Farm where you can view and walk alongside alpacas as they graze picturesque hills and woodlands. The STARanch Alpaca Trek allows visitors to walk with alpacas through riverbanks and trails along the Caloosahatchee River and Cypress creek in Florida. Patchwork Meadow Alpacas in the Mohawk Valley of New York allows visitors to see alpacas up close and explore their mill-spun alpaca yarn.This 33-acre farm is home to 74 alpacas.

 

If you want to have these furry friends around all the time, maybe think about owning an alpaca or llama farm or volunteering in one like these folks.

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