Lou was introduced to organized walking while stationed at the Spangdahlem Air Base in West Germany. It was 1973. He said, “I saw hundreds of people walking and wondered what was going on.” He soon learned about organized walking on prescribed trails. He joined the local American hiking group, the Spangdahlem Eifel Wanderers, and said he was, “just was possessed. While in Germany, for the really big events, all the German walking clubs would join the Americans.” Fortunately, Lou speaks German.
The Germans call it ‘volksmarching’, meaning ‘people’s march’. It’s a non-competitive form of fitness walking developed in Europe in the 1960s. This article explains more about volksmarching.
(Eifel is a region of western Germany which includes part of the Eifel mountains and Eifel National Park.)
The only equipment needed are hiking clothes, good hiking shoes, and perhaps a walking stick.
Lou often went hiking with his wife, Kathy. “She was a US Marine; I was Air Force. Married her in Stuttgart, May 25, 1973.”
He hiked in Switzerland, Austria, England – all the European countries.
“My best hike was a 4-day 100-mile hike in Holland.
“Another memorable walk was the ‘Death March’, 60 miles in 24 hours. This was also in Holland.
“In Switzerland, city of Stein, was my best. We went back 15 times in 15 years to collect all the country’s medals. It was very well organized.
“Heidelberg Germany – over 2500 hikers attended. We did that one 3 years in a row, 12 miles each.
“France – The Maginot Line – walked 12 miles underground through WWI bunkers.
“There was always pie, soup, and beer at the end of the hike. Food was provided by the ladies of the sponsoring club. There usually was a band also.”
From 1980 to 1984 Lou hiked with some 1000 people each year for 300 miles in the Danish Hiking March. It was an annual event that took 7 days. The hikers stayed overnights in local schools or sometimes in hostels.
Lou did 900 walks for a total of over 7,000 miles over 24 years. Medals on hats are for towns and distances. Medals displayed on the wall in his garage are for completing hikes. Patches are in his scrapbooks.
Traveling was nothing new to Lou. As his father was in the military, the family moved around from his home town in New Jersey to Kentucky, Japan, and Germany. Following his father into the military, Lou served in the Air Force for 28 years — 21 years in Europe (Germany, Belgium, Sicily and Venice, Italy) and 6 years in the states.
When Lou and Kathy were looking for a place to retire, a neighbor from New Jersey, Bob Dods, recommended Tanglewood. He has lived here since June 2004 and has been a member of the Veterans group, Special Events, and the Computer Club.
Last year Lou lost his wife of 45 years. Now he walks alone.