The Air Force and Defense Media Agency joined the USAF 50 Summits Challenge participants during the official start of our challenge in DC. Check out the video they produced and meet some of the folks who took the Air Force flag to the highest point in our nation's capital!!
Trip report from team leader Major Chris Wilson:
The USAF 50 Summits Challenge is now in motion! The DC kickoff was a huge success with over 30 participants from all over the DC metro area and as far as Iowa and Idaho. It was amazing to meet the local base Chaplains, families and servicemen of all ranks, members of the TACP (Tactical Air Control Party) community which included the career field functional manager and a Silver Star winner, and a two-time cancer survivor!
Weather was beautiful with a clear, breezy, and balmy 73 degrees and the Air Force Memorial was the perfect backdrop to the start of the hike. After some socializing and introductions, we walked through Arlington National Cemetery (150th year anniversary) to honor the memories of those lost in the last 14 years of war which was somber but a fitting way to start our journey to the top of America's capital. Whether we were reflecting on lost friends, family members, or coworkers, we hope this project can create an environment of healing and motivation...and I was personally reminded of why we are doing this.
After Arlington, we walked around the Netherlands Carillon (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Netherlands_Carillon), the Marine Corps memorial, and through Rosslyn across the Key Bridge and into Georgetown as the Potomac was a flurry of kayakers, stand-up paddle boarders, and boaters. Dipping down a small trail to the C&O Canal Towpath (great biking trail), we followed the canal a half mile and crossed under via a tunnel onto the Glover-Archbold Trail. A lesser-known green space in DC, it was a spectacular hike along creeks, cool forest, people walking their cats (serious!) and a vertical elevation gain of around 200 feet over 3 miles...gasp!
We rounded up the hike after 3 hours at Fort Reno which is the high point in DC (451 feet) and took a picture with the team before we parted ways! For anyone who thinks this was super easy...the dog who accompanied us gave up at 6 miles and had to be carried.
Throughout the hike, we were all inspired and humbled by the tenacity and spirit of Candice (read her blog at http://www.kissestocancer.com/) who is a cancer survivor and fighter who signed up to do all 8 miles! Finishing the hike with her and seeing the support she received from her close friends encapsulated the resiliency and community this project is emphasizing. I was equally inspired as my friend (who is experiencing TBI after 10+ deployments) brought his 12 year old son and both expressed desire to participate in more summit challenges! As a team, we can all climb higher peaks and achieve more than thought possible.
Special thanks to the Capital Hiking Club for helping create the route and Arlington National Cemetery for allowing us access through the employee gate. I also want to thank TSgt Nicholas Kurtz from the Defense Media Agency as he documented the kickoff and was running in front of us through Arlington!
Thank you and hope to see you all on future summits as we help each other get to the top of America!
--Maj Chris Wilson
50 Summits Challenge