Craig Howell rests his hand on a tree and looks upward.
Craig Howell, from Takoma Park, Md., has been an Adventuring member since 1985 and a DMV resident since birth. He led his first trip in 1987. Despite arthritis, Howell has hiked all 529 miles of trails in Shenandoah. (Photo by Rhiannon Johnston/Chesapeake Bay Program)

The first time Craig Howell was invited on an outing with the group that would become Adventuring LGBTQ, back in the early 1980s, he balked.

“I remember vehemently rejecting the idea,” Howell said, grinning on a Zoom call as he recalled the invitation. “I was in the Army. That may have been something to do with that. [I’d] had a lifetime's worth of camping in the Army.”

Howell was living in Chevy Chase, Maryland at the time, and his roommate Joe Marks would regularly encourage him to join the outdoor social group made up of folks from the Washington, D.C. metro area. In 1985, Howell finally said “yes” to a hiking trip in the Colorado Rockies, which he’d been to before.

“I thought, well, this is a good chance for me to try to get in the Rockies and put myself in shape,” Howell said. “Here I am all these years later.”

Ever since that day in 1985, Howell has been joining and leading hikes for Adventuring LGBTQ, which has maintained a strong membership for 45 years.

Howell considers himself a “gentle hiker” and tends to leave the rock climbing and strenuous hikes for others in the group. In the Chesapeake region, he’s taken group members to Calvert Cliffs, Washington, D.C., parks and all throughout Shenandoah National Park. As a Civil War history buff, Howell enjoys taking groups to battlefields around Maryland, Virginia and Pennsylvania. For Juneteenth, he led a civil rights history walk through Washington, D.C. neighborhoods that 70 people attended.

Howell's favorite national park is Yosemite, and his favorite local hike is Antietam Battlefield. (Photo by Rhiannon Johnston/Chesapeake Bay Program)

“I must have led hundreds, literally hundreds of hikes all over the place,” Howell said.

Adventuring LGBTQ is organized mostly through, where you can see their events and register to attend. The group currently has 14 hike leaders and coordinates camping, walking tours and white water rafting in addition to hikes. Howell estimates that they have about 300 active members with as many as 40 people attending a single hike.

Each year, the group takes an anniversary trip to the Rapidan Camp in Shenandoah National Park, which was the group's first outing back in May of 1979. The site served as a getaway for President Herbert Hoover and First Lady Lou Henry Hoover during their time in the White House, and is nicknamed “Camp Hoover.”

Howell said that being a part of the group has helped him keep an open mind and adventurous spirit. He recalled one trip back in 1997 to Haleakalā National Park in Maui, when rain clouds surrounding the coast made him think twice about taking the hike.

“One of the people on the hike stared me right in the face and said ‘Fortune favors the bold!” Howell said, laughing as he recalled the experience. “And that's a good thing because that was one of the best hikes we’ve ever done.”

These days, Howell mostly stays local. As a Washingtonian, one of his favorite things about Adventuring LGBTQ is being able to show people all of the natural beauty in and around the Nation’s Capital. He regularly takes members to the Great Falls on the Potomac River, as well as the mountains in Western Maryland where Howell said some destinations rival what you’ll find out West.

“There's so many people who are coming from other places and they don't know what the Washington area has to offer,” Howell said. “I really think it's a privilege to go out and show them everything that we have.”



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