By Brad Fauber
John Tefft has been an avid hiker since his childhood days growing up in New England.
Tefft recalls getting his first taste of hiking as a member of the Boy Scouts of America as a child, and that passion began to grow during his college years at the University of Vermont. A move out west to Colorado for a good period of time after college provided Tefft with a prime opportunity for that love to grow, and that passion finally reached its peak when Tefft moved to the Shenandoah Valley 13 years ago.
"I lived in Colorado for a long time and I did some hiking there, but these mountains here just seem to be attracting me a little bit more," Tefft said Thursday in a phone interview. "I like it out here a little bit more, actually."
Tefft has explored nearly every nook and cranny of the various mountain trails around Strasburg, and five years ago he decided he wanted to start sharing his experiences with those around him.
Just like that, the Strasburg Striders were born.
"It's been five years now, and I kind of started it trying to get my family involved a little bit," Tefft said. "But beyond that it's just kind of been an excuse to get outside on Saturday morning and go do something that I enjoy doing myself a little bit. So it's worked out good."
Nearly every Saturday morning -- as long as the weather allows it -- Tefft and his fellow Striders meet in front of the Strasburg Theater at 9 a.m. before embarking for a few hours on a trek along one of the many trails that the area has to offer.
The core group of Strasburg Striders is rather small -- generally consisting of four or five hikers on a typical trip -- but each member shares Tefft's passion for the outdoors.
The Striders hiking club is open to anyone who wants to explore the surrounding area, and Tefft said it is a good way to appreciate the scenic views that the Shenandoah Valley's geography has to offer.
"It's something that you do and it's really good for your health, and it's taking advantage of this area," Tefft said. "This area is just fantastic as far as [hiking] goes. There is just a lot of recreation in this area for outdoor activities -- a lot of trails are offered and stuff like that. Basically being surrounded by national forests, there are a lot of good things to check out in that regard."
Tefft said the Striders typically stay in close proximity to Strasburg on Massanutten Mountain, with Signal Knob being a frequent destination for the club. But the club has also ventured out to the surrounding areas, hiking to Strickler Knob near New Market Gap, a spot where Tefft said the views are "absolutely amazing."
The Strasburg Striders even occasionally make a trip to West Virginia, and Tefft said they plan to hike Big Schloss, a trail along the Virginia/West Virginia state line, today.
Tefft has seen plenty of spectacular views of the valley during his numerous treks, and he said that the variety of the region is what keeps he and the Striders coming back for more.
"The other part that is really neat about our area is that you have the Massanutten trail close by us, and there is a 70-mile loop trail you could do. Then there's another trail called the Big Blue Trail [Tuscarora Trail]... and it starts over in the national park and goes all the way up to Harrisburg, Pa., where you can loop back on the Appalachian Trail," Tefft said. "So you've got access to short trails, you've got access to the 70-mile trail and you've got probably a 300-mile trail all in our backyard. It's a mecca for hiking."
Tefft hopes to start garnering more local interest in the Strasburg Striders, as he said the real enjoyment of being a member of the club goes beyond the panoramic scenery that unveils itself once you reach your destination.
"I think it's a lot about the pretty views, but it's also a lot about just getting out, and the camaraderie when you're out with other people that enjoy the same thing that you do," Tefft said.
For those interested in more information about the Strasburg Striders, contact John Tefft at email@example.com.
Contact sports writer Brad Fauber at 540-465-5137 ext. 184, or firstname.lastname@example.org