I was able to talk to Christian yesterday. He called me from atop Standing Indian Mountain from an elevation of 5,498 feet. His first words? “I love you, and I am so glad I am doing this”. It would seem that he is loving life in the slow lane. I asked him how his ankle and knee were doing and I am happy to report that he has”completly recovered”.
“I finally have my walking legs and things seem to be getting a bit easier”, he reported. I asked him if he was still seeing the same people he started off with in the hostel back in Georgia.
“No. The two girls are taking a break at a hotel for a few days. I will most likely see them again at some point. We are all walking at different paces but, it does seem to have tapered off. I get the sense that a lot of people have dropped out and decided to go back home”.
That would not be surprising considering only about 15% to 29% of those who start out at Springer Mountain will actually finish the entire trail. Thus far, Christian remains steadfast. Though he did have one complaint.
“Last night I encountered a man at the shelter who told us all that he “tends to snore a little”. He wasn’t lying…well, except for the “little” part. He kept us all up for the entire night with his snoring. But, it wasn’t just snoring. He sounded like he was chopping wood with his teeth and grinding it through his nose. Now, if I were a disco ball and knew my shiny disco ball-like qualities would disturb an entire camp, I would endeavor to sleep in my tent so the poor, tired people could get some rest. I mean, where is the consideration, man?”.
Interrupted sleep patterns and hearkening back to 1975 aside, Christian seems to be in great spirits thus far.
We promised to reveal his Trail Name in this entry and we will not disappoint. But, first we need some background. From what I have been able to discern reading books and talking to former thru-hikers, trail names are a “social tradition” One is either assigned a name by other hikers or folks along the way or adopts a name. This can happen in all manner of circumstances and for a myriad of reasons. But, everyone gets a name. We have friends on the trail named Boo Boo (I believe he encountered a bear and lived to tell the tale), Bo Bo is our friend Brian Garcia. I have no idea how he inherited the name, and a guy named Bayou from New Orleans.
The story of Christian’s name actually begins on our honeymoon to do mission work with girls and women who have been trafficked in Uganda for over a month in 2010. We went to support our friends Sarita and Tyson Hendricksen and their organization, Zion Project. Christian designed and helped construct a playground for Zion Project’s orphanage and became so close to the children that they call him “father”. I taught English, led Bible Study, and participated in Staff Counseling.
If you followed our journey through our Facebook Notes and Emails back then, you can skip this long introduction to Christian’s Trail Name, which is an excerpt from an entry, and go right to his current journal entry below. But, for those of you who missed one of the scariest days of my existence…read on.
December 13, 2010
The last few days have been filled with much emotion, and we have been busier than we have been since our arrival. Friday morning began like most. We got up early enough to shower, put on a thick layer of sunscreen, and an even thicker layer of Ben’s 100 (100% Deet), and have a quick breakfast. Then, we took Boda Bodas to our separate destinations. [Boda Boda’s are essentially dirt bikes driven by Ugandans who act as sort of cab drivers, (many of whom do not speak English therefore, explaining where you want to go can be a challenge). There are no helmets. You simply take your life into your own hands by careening through the dirt roads, full of animals, trash, music, people, and vehicles. There are no road rules, no traffic police, and no insurance. You are completely at the mercy of your Boda Boda. Despite all of this we had ridden them many times and without an alternative, were used to paying them to get us to our destinations. We had seen entire Ugandan families on several occasions on the Bodas. Mom, dad, a few children, and the Boda driver all seated together. What a sight to behold.] Christian went to the welder to check progress on some of the pieces of the play ground equipment, while I joined Angela at the Zion Project office. Because Angela was heading back to the States a full two weeks before us, it was her last day with the children. We decided to change our regular schedule and head out the the orphanage where Christian would join us later. We played some games, sang some songs, and then we had the girls make goodbye cards for Angela featuring some of their favorite things about Uganda. The girls really let their creativity flow. We ended up with cards featuring mud huts, grasshoppers, chickens, goats, and of course….Bodas. When we were ready to leave the crying began. It began with one girl hugging Angela and before we knew it, every girl was in tears along with Angela and I. We were not anticipating the crying because we knew the girls were used to volunteers coming and going. The house mother assured us they would be fine and Angela, Christian, and I made our way to the Boda station, solemnly.
Things were going well on the Boda and we had nearly made it through town when suddenly Christian’s Boda, which was the last one, abruptly and without explanation turned off down one of the side roads. Christian is adamant about being the last rider so that he can keep an eye on us girls. (I love my chivalrous hubby). We just assumed his Boda knew a short cut and he would be waiting for us at Zion Project. When we arrived, Christian was not there. We waited for him on the road for 30 minutes. Still no Christian. I thought maybe, the Boda had gotten lost and Christian decided to go home. I knew once he was home, he would borrow our guard’s phone and call to let me know where he was. We only had one phone. Christian and I were usually together and the phone was largely used to contact other volunteers at Zion Project. But, if you have ever been to Uganda you know one thing. EVERYONE has a cell phone. EVERYONE. So, I knew that he would be able to borrow someone’s just to let me know he was okay. The volunteers and I took Angela to a craft store, but I was so distracted I could barely concentrate. It had been over an hour with no phone call. Where was my husband? Upon returning from the craft store, we called literally every location Christian could possibly have been. No one had seen him. I hired a Boda Boda to drive me all over town looking for him. Panic and fear were setting in. But, I just kept praying. Each location I stopped at I would ask, “Have you seen my husband today”? Being white, Christian kind of stands out next to me. Nearly all of Gulu knows he is my husband. Repeatedly, they would say “No, we have not seen Mzungu”. Mzungu is the word for “white man” in Uganda. No one had seen him. Finally, nearly 3 hours later I received a call from Angela at the ZP office. Christian had just walked through the gate! He had walked nearly 6 miles because his Boda driver turned off and refused to turn around. He hiked his way back. Needless to say, Christian now has a cell phone that he is required to keep with him wherever he goes to avoid cardiac arrest for his wife.
2,000 miles is a lot more than 6, but the name has stuck in his mind and his self-proclaimed trail name is homage to what we consider an extension of our home, Gulu, Uganda.
Hawk Mountain Shelter 3/14/2012 9:12PM
Looking to see what was happening, I gravitated towards the one open fire I saw. There, I was invited to sit with a group of four college students, (one of whom was an International Student from Vietnam), and we made our introductions.
The usual preliminaries followed. Well, at least usual for this place. “Are you thru-hiking?”, “Where are you from, or where do you call home?”, if they give an answer like “Springer Mountain”. And, finally we get around to names. It tumbles out of my mouth as easily as the word bacon, I don’t even think about it “I guess you can call me Muzungu”, and I tell the story of a time that seems far from here but somehow, still near, in Uganda.
In the midst of our conversation, I let them know why I am doing this and found out we’re all on the same page and we talk alike. We know you can’t eat money. I let them know the state of affairs in Appalachia and give them the correct pronunciation (“apple-at-cha”). I let them know of my journey to raise awareness and the blog my wife is writing for me, through my own words. I tell them about my Governor suing the Environmental Protection Agency to stop polluters from being punished, and I share the results of the Ahern and Hendrix studies about the higher rates of cancer and birth defects caused by Mountain Top Removal. I tell them how mountains that had been around for untold years were being blown up for profit. Sufficed to say, they were stunned and left with very little to say as they looked around, probably like me imagining the beauty we sat in being destroyed by dynamite. I guess what is typical in Kentucky’d never even be dreamed of in Connecticut.
It’s 930 now and miles to go in the morning. I guess I’d better get set. There’s a “problem bear” on up ahead and if you camp in one 6 mile stretch, you’re required to have a heavy and expensive “bear proof” container for your food. Of course nobody’s got one, we’re all just planning to take a short day before that area begins or push on through a full day and a half in one stretch.
Today’s donation total rose to $2,240. We still need $2,760. Thank you to those who have supported us. Please mail donations to: Christian Torp, P.O. Box 861, Lexington, Ky. 40588.