This week in the ongoing Washington Blade series spotlighting the members of the LGBT sports community, we meet two members of the outdoors club, Adventuring.
Adventuring leads hikes year-round along with biking, tubing and rafting in the summer months. Many of their hikes are along the historic trails and vistas that are in abundance in the Washington area including hikes through Rock Creek Park, Civil War battlefields and the C&O Canal.
This weekend the group will host the Whiteoak Canyon-Robertson Hike on Saturday and the Blackberry Ice Cream Hike on Sunday. On the weekend of Aug. 12-13, members will join the Capital Climbers (rock climbing) in Shenandoah Park for the Big Meadows/Meteor Shower Weekend.
After six years of active duty in the Air Force, Jireh Aki was looking for an outlet into the LGBT community that involved the outdoors. He found the Adventuring group on a Meetup post.
“I attended my first hike in Shenandoah National Park and fell in love with the group. One of the first members I met became my best friend,” Aki says. “The members are welcoming and inviting and encompass a diverse age group.”
Aki grew up in Long Beach, Calif., and played no sports while attending a performing arts high school. After a year at University of California, Santa Cruz, he joined the Air Force and arrived in D.C. in 2012 after being stationed in Okinawa. He was deployed in 2013 and returned to the area to serve at Andrews Air Force Base.
He is currently working as a government contractor for the Department of Defense and attending University of Maryland with an emphasis on global politics with a background in security.
Now serving as the Adventuring membership chair, Aki says the group has opened him up to other clubs under the Team D.C. umbrella such as Capital Climbers and the D.C. Front Runners.
“The Adventuring hikes are a wonderful way to escape the hustle of the city. The tour guides are a wealth of knowledge about local history and it’s nice to put it to sight and see where things took place,” Aki says. “I am hoping to bring in more younger adults so this continues to be an active and successful club.”
The life path of Jeff Hughes is just about as winding as the trails he likes to hike. Band, choir and theater filled his life in Pittsburgh in high school because the sports he tried didn’t interest him.
After graduating from University of Pittsburgh, he attended Georgetown Law and subsequently began practicing law. From there he segued into legal and government consulting and is now working as an independent health & lifestyle coach.
“My encore career is doing something I really care about,” Hughes says.
Hughes came out later in life and he wasn’t sure about where he belonged in the community. It was a combination of things that made him stick with Adventuring after discovering the group in 2005.
“It was a very easy way to become more comfortable with being gay. I began meeting good people and it was a relaxed atmosphere,” Hughes says. “Over time I also started to fall in love with being in the woods. It has become a fix; I need that time out in nature away from the city, the cars and the stress.”
Hughes, Adventuring’s president, also enjoys that the history of the club is being preserved by reinventing hikes that began in 1979. One is the Skyline Drive to Hoover Camp hike which is recreated each year using a different route.
“Some of our original members still join us and one of my favorite hikes is through Shenandoah followed by a day spent in Harpers Ferry,” Hughes says. “The areas we hike are filled with natural beauty and steeped in history. It’s exhilarating.”