Adventure of the Week: Sacramento walking club praises virtues of hiking

Betty Howland is a chatterbox. Charlie Fowble is the quiet type.

"She went on talking about Volks- sporting, telling me all the rules and regulations for about two hours," he says, recalling their first encounter in Stockton a few years ago.

"I just let her tell me," he says.

She was speaking his language, after all. Fowble, 75, who was a mail carrier for years, retired into Volkssporting, falling in love with the noncompetitive walking sport in Seattle 20 years ago.

"Since I retired, I missed walking," the Elk Grove resident says.

Their rendezvous led them to become the best of walking buds with Walking Sticks, the Sacramento-area club that is one member shy of being the largest club in the United States. A Massachusetts club, Walk 'n Mass, has that distinction with 360 members.

Barbara Nuss, Sacramento club president, followed walking clubs for 15 years in the area. She became an official member in November 2003 when the club was about 15 strong.

The walks are ideal for any age, she says.

"You could take as long as you like doing the walk," Nuss says. "It's beautiful. You don't get lost, and you're in good areas."

The group provides maps for neighborhood and urban walks, with easy-to-follow directions and points of interest. Maps are also available of other cities throughout the world.

Nuss says Sacramento is full of hidden charms that passers–by overlook when they are driving.

Once members wrap up walks, they may submit their walking booklet to the American Volkssport Association for official recognition or Volkswalk credit.

Membership is not required to tag along, however.

Walking Sticks members don't need an 'X' at the edge of their maps. Their treasures are the many Sacramento neighborhood walks they enjoy, members say.

Some treks start at McKinley Park and lead through the charming Fab 40s community. During hot summers, one route starts at Gunther's Ice Cream and ends at Vic's for one more cone. Walks are usually 5K (3.1 miles) or 10K (6.2 miles).

On Tuesday, Howland and Fowble walked with about a dozen others near a bike trail.

Together, they have participated in Walking Sticks meets and traveled the country to take part in scenic hikes. She likes hiking and country walks; he enjoys city walks.

The two walk for enjoyment and for health reasons.

"We're both diabetics," Fowble says. "That's one thing they teach us, that we have to exercise. This is a great way to exercise."

Embracing the sights of their walks, they have built companionships with others.

"But sometimes we are the only two to show up for a walk," Fowble says.

As long as they're walking, they seem to not mind that at all.