Being outdoors was a big part of Tom Jennrich’s life growing up, and his family regularly went hiking and camping.
But when the Broadlands resident decided to share this family tradition with his son Jack, 7, he never expected to start a new one.
Jennrich took his son hiking one day last summer as a way to “dip his toe” into outdoor activities. The next week, Jack asked to go hiking again. After the fourth week in a row the father and son went hiking, Jack announced he wanted to start a hiking streak. Jennrich expected they would hike at most eight weeks in a row and the streak would end.
Now Tom and Jack Jennrich are on their 78th consecutive week, and have no plans to stop.
“One of the challenges that we’ve had is time constraints. I mean, 78 weeks, I haven’t done anything 78 weeks in a row,” Jennrich said.
“Except breathing and drinking water,” Jack said, to his father’s amusement.
The two usually average two to three miles a hike, and at minimum one mile. Their record is seven and a half miles, Jennrich said. They started off in local spots but have gone on to hike in Maryland, North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, and soon, West Virginia.
Jennrich said one of their favorite things about hiking is feeling like they’re alone on the trails. Jack likes to explore, and sometimes they find abandoned buildings, caves, lochs and wildlife like baby deer, foxes and turtles. They’ve visited local spots like Billy Goat, Great Falls and Red Rock, but if a spot gets crowded, the two will opt for finding other ones.
“One local trail that we started early on is Red Rocks in Leesburg. We’d go there and didn’t see a lot of people. And then we went back and it was packed so I stopped somebody and was like ‘what’s up?’ And he goes ‘Yeah, it’s great, huh? We read about it in the (Washington) Post.’ And I was like, alright, this place is dead to me,” Jennrich said.
In addition to the one mile minimum rule, the two have another rule: no distractions from technology. They only use their phone to take pictures and use the “Map My Walk” app which tracks how far they go and the path they took. Jennrich takes lots of pictures and posts some on Facebook with the tag #hikestreak. He’s thinking of starting an instagram account so they can post their pictures and track the experience that way too.
They take plenty of water and snacks like granola bars and dum dums for when Jack needs an extra boost of energy at the end.
Jack said his favorite part of the hikes is when they go to spots where he can climb rocks. His favorite spot is Billy Goat, where the pair went on their 52nd week to celebrate a year straight of hiking every week.
“Yeah, that was a good one. He had a great time jumping across the rocks and everything. It’s 5.5 miles and it’s a challenge for us, it’s a good hike and a rock scramble, which he of course loved,” Jennrich said.
“But it wasn’t a challenge for me,” Jack added.
And Jack’s least favorite parts of hiking? When his dad makes him get away from “dangerous” rocks.
“I like walking on the dangerous ones because they’re the best ones,” Jack said.
At the end of the day, Jennrich said he tries to make it fun and engaging and to be patient.
“We go at our own pace. We stop, we discover things, we take pictures of funny-looking rocks, we look at weird sticks. We stop and take snack breaks,” Jennrich said.
The pair have hiked through all seasons, and even in the snow. When a blizzard rolled in, they went hiking the day before it was supposed to hit, but then the next week, the snow was still there, so the two bundled up and hiked two miles at Red Rocks in a foot of snow.
They didn’t see any one else except one other person in snow shoes. The snow was so high that snow got in Jack’s boots.
Sometimes other family members join the two on their hikes, like Jack’s mom, Jenny, and his younger brother Wyatt. Grandparents and some aunts and uncles have been on a handful of hikes. One of their hikes was during a wedding weekend for Jennrich’s sister and more family joined.
But primarily, it’s just the two of them.
Jennrich and Jack’s next goal is to make it to week 104, which will be the two year mark of the streak. Jack hopes to
return to Billy Goat for all their big goals, and to one day reach 1,004. Jennrich on the other hand is doubtful Jack will want to still hike with him every week once he’s college age.
“I do, I do. I wanna.” Jack said.