Take a Hike!

Take a Hike!

Hiking group brings nature closer to Northern Virginians.

Northern Virginia Hiking Club (NVHC) members hike Lake Accotink Trail in Springfield, on Sunday, Oct. 26.

Northern Virginia Hiking Club (NVHC) members hike Lake Accotink Trail in Springfield, on Sunday, Oct. 26. Photo by Abigail Constantino/The Connection


Dave Gibson, of Fairfax, has been a member of NVHC for 15 years and participates in Fairfax County Park Authority’s Park and Trail Watch program.


NVHC hikers reach Lake Accotink Park from Wakefield Park on Sunday, Oct. 26.

Shortly before 1 p.m. on Sunday, Oct. 26, the parking lot by the softball field at Wakefield Park in Annandale filled up and several people approached Stefan Eom, of Annandale, the leader for the six-mile Wakefield to Lake Accotink hike organized by the Northern Virginia Hiking Club (NVHC).

Several people recognized each other from previous hikes with the group, while others hung back by themselves or in small groups.

Navneet Mundey, of Herndon, is new to the group and this is her first hike—a level D—with NVHC. The club organizes its hikes from A, difficult to D, easy. “I’m trying to get to a point where I can build up,” she said.

NVHC offers hikes for almost each level every weekend and posts them on its website. But, it is transitioning to Meetup. “Meetup has kind of given some new life” to a lot of hiking clubs that were aging out, attracting new hikers with different ideas, said Marie Burton, of Silver Spring and Alexandria. One hike in which she participated highlighted a campaign to call attention to a manmade lake in Maryland that was a water supply for Washington. “Some of the hikes are a little bit more purposeful,” she said.

Dave Gibson, of Fairfax, has been with the club for almost 15 years. He said that Meetup has infused the club with younger members, who have taken positions as hike leaders, like Eom, who joined earlier this year.

THE GROUP started the hike after a short announcement by Eom, who took the lead, while another hiker volunteered to be last to make sure that no hikers were left behind.

The paved trail ran parallel to Accotink Creek, with portions behind Springfield residences. To make it a circuit hike, the group first bypassed Lake Accotink Trail and picked it up in the neighborhood of Danbury Forest Drive. Once on the trail again, the tall trees and vegetation provided cover and fall colors enough to insulate the hikers to the proximity of the suburbs.

“We don’t want to see anything but nature” on hiking outings, said Nancy Totten, of Herndon. On a trip to the Great Smoky Mountains, she and her family saw a mother bear with two cubs. “They were just there and they were so cool...We just felt really privileged.”

But Gibson has seen more than just nature on the Lake Accotink Trail. As part of Fairfax County Park Authority's Park and Trail program, which operates like a neighborhood watch for parks, he has been alerted to issues with the park trails. “One time I got a report that there was some graffiti on the trail,” he said. He found red paint on trees upon investigation.

Recently, several Western national parks have been discovered vandalized by drawings and paintings tagged with #creepytings, which have been traced to social media accounts belonging to a person in New York. The National Park Service is investigating the case.

CONVERSATION FLOWED FREELY as similarly paced hikers paired off, sharing stories about previous hikes. Gibson shared a story about facing off with a mama moose in Granite Canyon in Wyoming 50 years ago. Marivic Llacuna, of Fort Washington, shared her experience of hiking the Inca Trail in Peru. “It rained the entire time but it was still fun, though. It made it more challenging so you appreciated it more,” she said. And, TJ Burnside Clapp, of Arlington, recalled nearly being blown away by high winds while hiking the Green Mountains in Vermont.

Clapp brought her dog Oz to the hike. “I got the dog so I can go hiking a lot more,” she said. Her favorite places to hike in the area are the trails in Great Falls Park. “There are great views” in Great Falls, she said.

Pam Cooke, of Fairfax, missed the group’s Corbin Cabin hike scheduled last Oct. 12 so she and her husband did it the following week on their own. But, “it’s nice to meet up with a group of people to find out new trails,” she said.

Northern Virginia Hiking Club has about 650 members. For more information, visit its Meetup page at http://www.meetup.com/NVHC-Hiking/.