Once again, walkers got to see a side of Mount Vernon that most tourists usually don’t. About 350 walkers participated in The Historical Volksmarch Adventure of 2004 that was held at Mount Vernon Estates last weekend.
“It’s more than just a walk. People who have been coming to Mount Vernon for years say that they’ve never seen some of these areas,” said Ron Hamner, chair of the Pentagon Pacesetters and coordinator of the walk.
Like many of the walkers who participated in last weekend's walks, Hamner has been a volksmarcher for years. He started walking when he was stationed in Germany in 1978 and continued doing it when he came back to the United States. A volksmarch is a non-competitive 6 mile (10 kilometer) walk. It's not a pledge walk or a race, but rather a fun activity to do with a club, with family, or alone.
Volksmarching got its name from its origins in Europe. There are over 350 volkssport clubs throughout the United States, where volksmarching was introduced 28 years ago, and many thousands around the world. Local clubs such as Pentagon Pacesetters host the walking events, selecting a trail for safety, scenic interest, historic areas, natural beauty and walkability.
Now in its eighth year, Hamner said that it’s been fun to watch all the changes that have been going on at Mount Vernon. He has also enjoyed watching the number of farm animals grow in size.
He said that they changed the route of the walk this year because of downed trees on the river side of the estate. The new route went down by the old and new tombs, the pioneer farm and the trees with the Civil War carvings.
“You still get to see the barnyard,” Hamner said. “It’s such a thrill watching the kids with the animals. It’s a really unique place. The thing that impresses me the most is the care they take with the estate.”
“It’s been fun and it helps to keep you healthy,” Hamner said.
Many walks are open for no charge, but walkers can register for the event award (usually a medal or patch) to show that they are a "winner." Medals are usually less than $7. To keep track of how walkers are achieving their fitness goals, they can record their distance and events in record books that are available for $5 each at all events. When walkers register for the event award or pay the credit fee ($3.00 or less), at the finish the event and distance they walked are entered in the record books. After milestones such as 10 events, 30 events, 50 events, 500 kilometers, 1000 kilometers, etc. they can redeem the record book for a Certificate of Achievement, apatch and a hatpin.
Finishing the race around noon yesterday were Donna and Dan Roy and Tom and Danny Falco. Donna, who has done 755 walks, said that they have done this walk every year.
“I think it’s great, I love coming down here,” she said.
Fred Lopez, who has logged over 99,700 miles, had also completed the walk and was looking at photos of past walks.
Hamner was working the grill producing the traditional bratwurst.
“People enjoy them [the wurst]; it reminds them of Germany, except there’s no beer,” Hamner said. “People come for the wurst, they come for the walk.”