Take a Hike!
Wyoming's Volksmarch trails put purpose in your hiking

By Amber Travsky
Wyoming Tribune-Eagle
Thurdsday, July 27, 2000

CHEYENNE Ė Wanna go for a walk?

Cheyenne residents Ron and Betty Green do, and Curt Gowdy State Park is just the place.

On a recent morning the Greens donned sturdy hiking shoes, brimmed hats, loose-fitting pants and sunglasses. Their light packs contained water, a map, a couple of granola bars and first aid supplies. Each carried a walking stick to complete the ensemble.

Starting from the Aspen Grove camping area at Granite Reservoir, the Greens went through the gate and headed up the trail. Orange directional signs point the way.

Ron and Betty are volksmarchers.

The American Volksmarch Association, or AVA, is a national organization that promotes walking. There are volksmarch trails, called events, across the nation and in Europe and Asia.

The volksmarch trail at Curt Gowdy is especially scenic.

"This is one of my favorite hikes," Betty Green said. "If you go early in the morning you can usually see wildlife, especially deer and bluebirds."

The couple passed through a second gate. This one is marked with a traditional volksmarch sign on which the letters "IVV" are stacked vertically. Those are the European initials for the International Volkssport Federation .

The trail continues through sagebrush openings and then passes patches of pine trees. The Greens hiked up a short side trail that opens to a panoramic view overlooking the lake. Granite Reservoir sparkled in deep blue below. A sign indicates this is a turnaround point, so the Greens backtracked down the hill and then continued along the main trail.

"The entire hike takes about two hours," Ron Green said. "It goes out to some interesting rock formations and winds through the valley."

The total distance is about 10 kilometers or 6.2 miles.

This volksmarch trail is one of nine that have been established in Wyoming state parks. "To have a volksmarch trail in a state park requires the help and support of the park superintendent," Ron Green said. "At Curt Gowdy weíre lucky because Superintendent Don Allen is a strong supporter of the trail."

Allen has been at Curt Gowdy since 1988, and he helped get the trail established.

"I like having the trail here because itís one more way to get people out of their cars," Allen said. He gives Cheyenne resident Emma Fosdick a lot of the credit for making the trail a reality.

Fosdick worked for the Wyoming Recreation Commission in 1988 and was asked by Max Maxfield, her boss at that time, to establish the volksmarch trails in the state parks.

"I was in the accounting department," Fosdick said. "It was quite a change to go from doing accounting to working on these trails."

Fosdick retired in 1994 and is president of the High Plains Wanderers, the local volksmarch club. The club hosts several walking events during the year. A schedule may be found on their Web site, http://www.angelfire.com/wy/Volksmarch/index.html.

All volksmarch trails are given a difficulty rating from one to five. The Curt Gowdy trail is rated two-plus. It is a moderately easy walk on a non-paved surface. The terrain is rolling and the elevation varies from 6,450 to more than 7,500 feet. Because of the uneven surface, the trail is not suitable for strollers and wheelchairs.

Of the nine state park trails, the one at South Pass City Historic Site has the highest rating: a four. Ron Green said that trail is tough.

"You have to be in reasonably good shape to hike that one," he said. "It starts in the grounds of the historic site and then goes off into the surrounding area and passes by an old mine site. There are some steep hills, and the trail can get rough and rocky."

The Greens and Fosdick have hiked all nine Wyoming state park trails. Fosdick said when the trails were opened 13 years ago the state had an award for people who walked them all.

"We had about 10 people who earned the award," she said. "Most werenít from Wyoming, though. Itís hard to get Wyoming people walking."

The whole focus of volksmarching is to encourage people to walk. The events arenít races. Participants go their own pace. Some run, others stroll. Thereís no starting gun; you begin when you choose.

With each event and each kilometer walked, volksmarchers earn credit. Each member has a book to record their mileage and events. The Wyoming state park volksmarches are seasonal events. Most of the trails are open from May 1 to Sept. 30. Volksmarching also has year-round and weekend events.

To get volksmarch credit for hiking the Curt Gowdy trail, check in at the fee booth at Granite Reservoir. It costs $2 to get credit for the event. There is no fee (aside from the park entry fee) to walk the trail without the volksmarch credit. At the end of hike, volksmarchers may check in at the both and get their volksmarch books stamped to show they completed the event.