DC-based LGBTQ hiking club celebrates 40 years of DMV adventures

The group gathers NoVA and DC residents to take on the Shenandoah Valley, and offers a supportive community beyond city life.

Photo courtesy of Bill Horten

Fifty years ago, the Stonewall Riots sparked a new chapter in the gay liberation movement. And today, LGBTQ Pride Month is celebrated across the United States and around the world throughout June, with parades and events, including the annual Capital Pride in Washington, DC.

As motorcycles revved their engines and marching bands tuned their instruments to prepare for this year’s DC parade (held on June 8), members of Adventuring, a DC-based LGBTQ outdoors club, held their banner and a few rainbow flags high in honor of the group’s own anniversary. This year, Adventuring celebrates 40 years of connecting LGBTQ members with one another through nature.

According to Bill Horten, the club’s publicity chair and an active member since the 1990s, the outdoor activities club began as a program run by the Gay Community Center of Washington, DC in 1979 as an alternative to the city’s bar scene.

Founder Pete Kostik found that it wasn’t nearly as common as it is today for there to be multiple places for LGBTQ individuals to meet and interact with others in ways beyond nightlife. Thus, the club was created as a way for local individuals to find a way to connect and bond with others beyond the city’s limits.

The first hike took place on May 6, 1979 as the group made its way to President Herbert Hoover’s Rapidan Camp in Shenandoah National Park.

The early years of the Adventuring LGBTQ Outdoors Club. The club has completed hundreds of trips since its inaugural year in 1979. (Photo courtesy of Bill Horten)

Kostik led the hike with a small group of men and completed eight more before the end of the year.

The group has since grown from its original all-men crew to include more women over the years and has successfully expanded their communication beyond a monthly hard-copy newsletter (it was, in fact, the ’80s when they were trying to publicize more frequently) to emails, social media and local Meetup groups to reach out to female-identifying members of the LGBTQ community.

Now, the club hosts several events every weekend throughout the summer, as well as hikes through the colder months of winter and in various locations, too.

From the beginning, the club has never charged membership dues. Rather, they collect minimal gas mileage fees and park entry fees after coordinating carpooling from local Metro stations throughout NoVA and the DC area. That way, according to Horten, even interested individuals without proper transportation can coordinate a ride to the hike from an accessible point for everyone.

In years past, the group has also included kayaking, canoeing, rafting and tubing trips and hopes to bring them back with more interest in upcoming months.

As Horten looks forward to a long-distance trip to Spain with the group (and another in the works for the Grand Canyon next year), he credits who is he today with his participation in Adventuring.

“It was life changing,” Horten said. “I joined in the ’90s and met my partner of many years. I moved out of the U.S. and back, and [Adventuring] helped me to dream about seeing the world.”

Bill Horten at Capital Pride in Washington, DC. (Photo courtesy of Bill Horten)

Kostik celebrated the 40-year anniversary back in May by retracing his steps from that original hike. This time, Adventuring had 38 past and present members hike their way to Hoover’s Rapidan Camp.

Horten believes the participation is a testament to providing a local, supportive community that LGBTQ individuals need. He knows that as he waved his own rainbow flag through Dupont Circle and down 17th Street NW for 2019’s Capital Pride Parade, someone, somewhere, might just be inspired to lace up their hiking boots to take on the world, too.

For more information on Adventuring, visit adventuring.com, or find the group on Facebook or Meetup.

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