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Whidbey Walking Festival comes to Coupeville today

Jim Tompkins stretches his legs at Bayview Corner. Tompkins joins 400 others this weekend for the Whidbey Walking Festival in Coupeville. - Jeff VanDerford / The Record
Jim Tompkins stretches his legs at Bayview Corner. Tompkins joins 400 others this weekend for the Whidbey Walking Festival in Coupeville.
— image credit: Jeff VanDerford / The Record

BAYVIEW — Jim Tompkins just wants folks to get out there and do it.

Walk, that is.

“What I and hundreds of others do is walk for good health, and because it’s a lot of fun,” he said.

Tompkins, who lives at Useless Bay, is a member of the American Volkssport Association and the Northwest Tulip Trekkers, like-minded groups of walkers who take long hikes through cities large and small around the country.

This weekend, Tompkins and up to 400 others are in Coupeville for the Whidbey Walking Festival. The festival features five non-competitive walk routes from 3 to 13 miles, and the event alternates each year with walks in Bellingham.

“The concept began in Europe years ago with both organized and self-guided walks,” Tompkins explained. “Now, over 50,000 people around the world do it.”

Tompkins himself was a self-described “couch potato” until six years ago, when he and a friend went to a festival and started out on a trail. Since then, he’s taken 325 separate walks.

How does he know that? He keeps a detailed record of where he’s been, how long each walk was — time and distance — and the start and finish points. He’s walked in all 50 states and their capitols.

“The thing is, even if you can only walk around the block, that’s great. Any distance works,” Tompkins said.

He added that his passion for walking has helped keep him fit.

“Overall, I’ve lost weight and now, if I eat an ice cream cone, I don’t gain any more,” he said.

The Northwest Tulip Trekkers is an outdoor walking club based in the coastal counties between Canada and Seattle; membership dues of $5 a year cover the club’s newsletter.

The walk routes in this weekend’s festival lead across natural prairie and farm land, from coast-to-coast, through the historic downtown — there are more than 100 buildings on the National Historic Register — and on to Fort Casey with its disappearing 10-inch cannons, fortifications from the early 20th century and Admiralty Head Lighthouse.

The event’s overall setting is Ebey’s Landing Historical Reserve, a 17,400-acre national reserve. Walkers will see views of Puget Sound, Cascade and Olympic Mountains and, on a clear day, Mount Rainier as well as Mount Baker.

Today’s weather forecast calls for partly sunny skies and 68 degrees.

“Perfect,” Tompkins said. “All the walks are free, but if people want to begin an Achievement Program, there’s a $3 fee.”

Starting at 8 a.m. today, walkers can ride a free bus from the Coupeville Recreation Hall to Jenne Farm, a beautiful farmhouse built in 1908 by Edward Jenne. From there, walkers can explore the fields and woods as they walk back to Coupeville, or walk out to Fort Casey.

Tonight, a pasta dinner rounds out the day, and on Sunday the town of Coupeville hosts a salmon barbecue and a free concert in the park.

On Sunday, there’s a special walk that covers the entire 6-mile route along Penn Cove after the bus drops off walkers at the start point at Monroe Landing.

“During the day, you can listen to music, talk with friends or join in the silent auction at the recreation hall,” Tompkins said.

“For a little added spice, there are lots of door prizes throughout the weekend, including some special door prizes that are for pre-registered walkers only.”

The festival is not a fundraising effort, Tompkins said.

“We’re not about raising money for a particular cause; rather, the program is designed to promote healthy family exercise for the fitness and fun of walking,” he said.

For details, visit www.nwtrekkers.org.

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