Christian and I had a wonderful time this past weekend at Kincora Hostel in Hampton, KY. Originally, Adam Farmer and his family were going to allow us to use their cabin for free in the same town. But, such is the life of a hiker, one never quite knows when they will come out of the woods. We can estimate but, there are so many variables and factors out of their control that things change, a lot. Poor weather, zero days needed to heal aches and pains, slowing down to hike with new friends…and so much more. When we found out the date, the cabin was already booked for that weekend.
Not being from that area, I looked online and read some reviews about places to stay. Kincora Hiker Hostel was repeatedly ranked as the #1 hostel experience. The only problem? If you are not a hiker on the AT, you are not welcome at Kincora. Bob Peoples, the proprietor of the establishment is an avid hiker, volunteer on the trail, AT Thru-Hiker, and lover of people. His Kincora Hostel caters to the men and women who are dedicated enough to attempt to hike the trail. Because we wanted to stay together, we knew we could not book Kincora. So, I booked Black Bear Resort instead. Situated just a mile or so from Kincora and from the AT itself, the owners were delightful and welcoming on the phone. What was not welcome was the $90 a night rate. It is customary for Hiker Hostels to give large discounts for AT Thru-hikers. Oftentimes, they pay $20 or less for a bunk, a meal, and laundry services. Even though I mentioned that the stay was for a hiker and his wife, the price was not reduced. I wanted to be able to cook for Christian and was promised a full range stove and a full refrigerator. So, I reluctantly reserved the room, knowing that I would need to make some sacrifices to pay for it. But, also looking forward to spending quality time with the man I love.
In the meantime, Christian made his way to Kincora the night before I arrived. He met Bob Peoples and re-acquainted himself with his friend Baltimore Jack whom he had met earlier in the hike. Mr. Peoples is world famous for his hospitality, love, and servant’s heart for everyone who enters his hostel. A recent widower, his days are filled as they always were: making repairs on the hostel, greeting weary travelers with a love one rarely encounters this side of Heaven, and driving hikers into town to re-supply. After his wife passed away, Baltimore Jack and a steady stream of AT volunteers come to help him by reflecting the same love back to him that he graced them with on their own AT Thru Hikes. Ask any seasoned hiker about Kincora and Bob Peoples, and they immediately break into a peaceful grin.
I picked Christian up at Kincora on Friday night and he was reluctant to leave. He wanted to see me, of course, but he also wanted me to experience Bob Peoples. With all of the enthusiasm of a Little League Ball Player introducing a friend to their favorite Pro Baseball player, I finally met Bob Peoples. The only way I can describe our encounter is that in an instant, without him doing or saying anything ecumenical in nature, I knew this man walks with Jesus.
Mr. Peoples spends his days in service to others. On this day he had re-tiled one of the bathrooms, cleaned up after rambunctious raccoons, and driven a young hiker to the train station 50 miles away. When I asked him what he likes to do for fun,he replied “I like to build Habitat For Humanity Houses and I love going to church on Saturday nights”. The man simply radiated kindness and humility and it was hard to leave his home.
We drove the mile or so to the resort to check in. As we walked into the tiny room, I was crest fallen. The stove I had been promised was merely a hot plate and the tiny dorm room sized refrigerator wasn’t large enough to hold all of the items I brought with me to cook for my man. I tried to remain positive as we were shown to a room underneath the owner’s home no bigger than a minute. Even though I could have spent $35 less on a nice hotel room in town, I continued to make the best of it so that my bone weary husband would enjoy himself. I cooked a dinner of marinated pork chops with mango sauce, asparagus, salad, and a baked potato and we set about catching up on all of the news we have missed in one another’s lives. The calm of being together was interrupted by a very loud television and heavy walking across our ceiling. It would seem that we could hear everything the owners of Black Bear Resort were saying and vice versa. Not exactly $90 worth of privacy.
In the morning Christian took the car and drove to Kincora to have a chat with Mr. Peoples and Baltimore Jack. He knew they did not allow non-hikers to stay at Kincora, but he had to try. He returned ecstatic! Not only would they make an exception and welcome me at Kincora but, to allow us to have some privacy, Baltimore Jack would give up his Treehouse hideaway for us. I would later discover that this beautiful place was far removed from the rest of the hostel and completely secluded. We had to walk up the and away from everyone else for quite a bit to get to it. But, the view was spectacular and I had the sweetest sleep I have ever experienced in the Treehouse! We were also given full use of the large kitchen so that all of the perishables I had purchased would not go to waste, and it would only cost us the donation of $10. We couldn’t pack fast enough.
Kincora allowed us the chance to relax and reconnect. But, I also got a chance to experience a little bit of trail life. All day and evening hikers descended upon this oasis looking tired, hungry, and wondering if there would even be room for them. Once they put their packs on a bunk and had a shower, they would wonder out to the common areas like cave dwellers leaving the dark for the first time and encountering sunlight. They called their family members and loved ones. They cooked a meal. They leisurely read books. They slept without fear of bears or bugs. Their bodies took on new shapes as they began to relax.
We fell quickly into geek speak, leaving those around us to ponder what a Dalek, a companion, and a Time Lord had in common and why on earth we were afraid to blink. As we chatted I discovered his deepest desire in life. No longer would he be a slacker. Back in the “real world” he’d lived with friends and moved aimlessly through parties, meaningless relationships, and a profound lack of responsibility. He lamented that he had “never really done anything with his life”. Hiking the AT was a way of maturing himself and teaching himself to follow through with his goals. When he completes the trail this year he will head off to college knowing he can accomplish hard things.
We also met Rigatoni and Angel Hair, a couple from Colorado who were very wealthy and were hiking the AT to learn to “be more appreciative for everything in life”. They knew money could not buy happiness and they wanted to learn to appreciate the simplest things. Angel Hair said that since they had been on the AT, she had an appreciation for things like the taste of an orange. No longer would she devour it. She has learned to do without such luxuries on the trail and when she encounters fruit she takes her time with it, savoring every morsel, the smell, the feel, and the experience as a whole. She feels more mindful and aware and does not consider herself the center of things any longer. She feels a greater responsibility to her fellow man and to protect the earth.
I poured Rigatoni a cup of coffee and when he learned I was not an AT Thru-hiker but would spend my weekend caring for my husband, he gave me an honorary trail name. “iWife”, which stands for Ideal Wife.
We slept in a treehouse, hiked, met some amazing people, and I cooked great food. Best of all, I got to spend time connecting with my husband in nature. This weekend was truly a gift
Today’s donation total rose to $2,620. We still need $2,380. We also want to thank Mary Love for the donation of a brand new headlight complete with red bulbs and batteries. And, Jennifer Lewis who baked amazing goodies for Christian (which he and some hiker friends promptly devoured and some groceries to help with Christian’s re-supply. Thank you to those who have supported us. Please mail donations to: Christian Torp, P.O. Box 861, Lexington, Ky. 40588.
Video Interview with Christian May 6, 2012: