Anniversary Blog

“…and remember, the truth that once was spoken, “To love another person is to see the face of God”.
Les Miserables

Today, marks our two year wedding anniversary.  We celebrated with a 30 minute phone call.

Most of our conversations of late, have lasted an average of 2 minutes and 58 seconds.  He is usually in some impossible place where the signal dies or he has not had a chance to charge the phone in days.

In the background a waitress with heavy heels took the order of a truck driver with a Boston accent. I could hear her as she walked away at high speed to put the order in. Customers shuffled in and out of the door in steady succession punctuated by the cadence of the bell that must have been hanging above the door.  I heard all of this, as my husband and I reminisced about our wedding day.

In a voice teeming with what I have learned over the years is a simultaneous mixture of pride and awe he normally reserves for court cases he has won, I listen as my husband calls each memory forth, word after delicious word.  “Remember how special our foot washing ceremony was? I was afraid I would fall off the stage as I washed your feet”?   Or, “That Worship band had atheists singing about Jesus.  Man, that was awesome!”.

I only stop him when he says we should do it again soon.  Has he lost his mind?  Doesn’t he remember how much work that it was to try to plan for 1,000 folks?  We laugh together as I only half jokingly ask him to admonish the very thought of it.  Now that I think about it, I would really love to do it again. I know I am crazy right along with him, and we are a perfect pair.

These are the moments I miss.  The moments where we just share life with one another.  Where I get to share my heart with my husband and he shares his with me.  No agenda.  No deadlines.  No interruptions.  This is something I believe we will never take for granted again. He began walking at 6AM at a fast pace just to be able to talk to me today!

He has been hiking the Appalachian Trail since March 14, 2012 and although I have visited him a few times during the over 1, 500 miles he has already walked, it is never enough.  He has hiked through the deaths of both my 26-year-old sister, and my Aunt.  He has missed births and birthdays, weddings and graduations.  He will not get that time back nor will we have the opportunity to replace these moments.  But, he walks with determination, purpose, and my 100% support.  He has survived and pressed on where most have given up and gone home.  Always in the forefront of his mind are the Miners who cannot drink their tap water at home.  And, the people who’s families have owned their land for centuries who are suddenly dying of cancer from the coal dust they breathe.  His goal is to raise awareness about the evils of Mountain Top Removal Coal Mining and to gain support for the people of Appalachia.

There have been times he has wanted to give up and come home.  Fatigue. Pain.  Hunger.  Weariness. Loneliness. Broken equipment. Crazy people. All worthy opponents.  But, he continues on with a purpose and quickly talks himself into pushing forward.

I have not written on his behalf in a while, and I must apologize to you faithful readers.. Recovering from the shock of my sister’s death has been more difficult then I could ever have imagined.  I thank you all for your patience and continued interest.  And, thank you for following his adventures on Facebook in the absence of my updates.

Christian has flip-flopped.  He made it to New York and decided that he did not want to take chances on unpredictable weather in Maine.  Baxter State Park is not a year round park and he was afraid that he would miss the deadline and never make it to Mt. Katahdin before it closed.  So, with the help of our friends Ian and Liz, he caught a bus from New York to Maine. He is now in the process of walking back to New York where he left off which will complete his 2,200 hike of the Appalachian Trail.  He plans to finish sometime at the end of October or early November.

He journals daily and I will share one of his latest entries with you now:

8/8/2012 11:05 PM

What a day, but to say that implies that there’s any other kind of day in my life right now.  I didn’t get as far as I wanted to.  As I was following the trail I didn’t see any signs or blazes, which isn’t unusual but, it looked and felt like the trail.  When I got to the top of the mountain it just stopped.

Now, I feel fine and I’m doing well, but the lack of sleep last night is having an effect on me, my coordination isn’t there and I’m in my head more.  Not ideal conditions for climbing. I am starting to really know what my limits are and what is healthy for me.  I decide to set up camp because going any further could be dangerous and foolish. I really want to make it to see Ian and Liz but, this may set me back.

I just found out that my pack is in need of a serious repair. If it blows out I am stuck.  I cannot hike without a working pack.  It is my survival.  A couple of weeks ago as I was putting it on, it seemed like the waist-belt was looser.  I tried to figure it out, but couldn’t.  I checked on a replacement at an outfitter but they were no help.  It has gotten bad enough that I can clearly see the problem and my pack is not long for this world without a major repair.

I am so tired right now, I need to stop writing.  My sleep deprivation is catching up with me.  Tomorrow, I will cross the New York line.  Hard to believe I have walked from Georgia to this point.

Oh, before I forget again, I saw three more bears which brings my total up to 19.  I was hiking and up ahead some day hikers were making noise and I asked them why. When I got to where they were, a mother and two cubs were the answer.  It has become so common that most thru-hikers don’t react. As long as I don’t have to fight them over my food again, live and let live.  Never thought I’d become indifferent to seeing bears in my daily life.

Christian Torp

We have decided to place all of our fundraising efforts now, towards Kentuckians for the Commonwealth.  We did not raise all of the funds needed for Christian’s trip but, he has spent very frugally and  we trust that we should be able to handle his expenses.  We ask that you now donate to the organization that Christian began this walk for in the first place,  Kentuckians for the Commonwealth.  Please visit out Razoo Page to make a donation, at: http://www.razoo.com/story/Appalachian-Voyage

To date we have raised $250.  Our goal is $5,000.

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August and Everything After

I spoke with Christian (Muzungu) tonight.  He has reached a milestone!  Today, he officially passed the 1,000 mile mark of his journey.  He will make it to Harper’s Ferry tomorrow.  He was thrilled to be at a hiker hostel that allowed him to stay for free because he is a thru-hiker.  This marks his first stay at an establishment where everyone else was a section hiker.  He was thrilled to meet more people who will have internet access soon and can study Mountain Top Removal for themselves.

My goal is education.  So few people I meet out here are even aware of it.  It is astounding to me.  They are hiking in mountains that may not be there much longer.  They need to be made aware and then go research it for themselves“, he said.

When he meets new people it is always the same.  Once pleasantries are exchanged, inevitably hikers get around to asking one another their reasons for hiking.  It is the perfect opening for him to discuss Kentuckians for the Commonwealth (www.kftc.org) and the work he has engaged in with them.  I have received several emails from people who have met him on the trail and wanted to thank him for alerting them to the issues.  Most people have not met someone willing to walk over 2,000 miles to further a cause they believe in. They are usually keen to listen.

In the event that you have not read the latest newspaper article on his journey, Christian has made the decision to “flip-flop”.  He will head to Maine soon after he reaches Pennsylvania in order to complete the entire trail as he intended.  He believes if he continued on at her current pace, he would not make it through Baxter State Park before they close it down for the season.  He will make the change some time in August.  We are working out the details now.  To read the article click on this link:

http://www.kentucky.com/2012/07/02/2246599/hike-half-over-for-lexington-man.html

Lastly, I want to thank everyone for your patience during our mourning period in our family due to the loss of my dear 26-year-old sister, Chanda.  Blogs have been slower as we have been grieving but, I feel confidant that I will be able to resume my old pace of at least one blog per week (sometimes more) going forward.  Please note that we do daily updates on our Facebook page at: https://www.facebook.com/pages/Appalachian-Voyage/339413656102651

We have decided to place all of our fundraising efforts now, towards Kentuckians for the Commonwealth.  We did not raise all of the funds needed for Christian’s trip but, he has spent very frugally and  we trust that we should be able to handle his expenses.  We ask that you now donate to the organization that Christian began this walk for in the first place,  Kentuckians for the Commonwealth.  Please visit out Razoo Page to make a donation, at: http://www.razoo.com/story/Appalachian-Voyage

To date we have raised $200.  Our goal is $5,000.

Please read this article that will appear in today’s New York Times magazine by Jason Howard, fellow member of Kentuckians for the Commonwealth.  http://www.nytimes.com/2012/07/09/opinion/appalachia-turns-on-itself.html?_r=1

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The way she walks, and talks, really sets me off…

You may recognize that as a verse from Fire by the Ohio Players, and the line above I’d say is applicable to my lovely wife La Tanya, which it certainly is, but my reason for writing it is different, forest fires. I hear the trail is closed in less than a few miles from where I now am, Luray, Virginia and I need figure out alternative plan, immediately. There is no reason for me to continue on that mile, only having to turn about and backtrack… and figure out the alternative path. The outfitters here in Luray, Appalachain Outdoors Adventures, (the only outfitter so far along the trail I’ve had a good experience with) said that there isn’t any alternative route blazed so skippin this part of the Shenandoah may be my only option. And as for news other than that?

I’ve resigned myself that I may have to flip-flop. A “flip-flop” is when a hiker at some point, often Harper’s Ferry, West Virginia gets transit to Baxter State Park in Maine and then continues their journey south to finish where they left off. With my slower pace and enjoyment of the journey, this might be my only option. Many of those who’ve passed me speed along the trail with their ipods in their ears and their youthful exuberance pressing them on to an ending.  I’m not here for the finish, I’m here to “take the long way home” (queue Supertramp now). Not that there’s anything wrong with speed, to each their own, but I’ll get there when I get there and I’m in no particular hurry. When I get back I’ll be a family man for the next 20 years or so, might as well be laid back now- besides, our kids Won’t be old enough for me to make them carry my stuff for a time or two…

The terrain in the Shenandoah’s has been easier, softer and less rocky than much before it, but as always with these popular parks there’s an abundance of oppressive rules for the thru-hiker. At least here, unlike the Smokies, we are able to camp in other areas besides a shelter site.  But,  still we must be so far off the trail, away from such and such, so on and so forth.  After a long day hiking the last thing I want to do is go bushwacking for a few hundred feet to find a clear, level spot and remember from whence I came in the morning. Luckily, today’s mail pickup of a replacement water filter from my wonderful wife dictated a slower pace and I was able to camp near shelters each night- although the tent sites that one is required to use don’t accomidate a hammock, and I got rid of my sleeping pad with my tent, so shelters are useless.

And the bugs in Virginia are worse than they are in equatorial East Africa, and can bite through my long sleeved base layer so that’s no fun, and Israeli style cous-cous and quinoa have become my staple foods. Absent the toxic FDA approved food additives (like arsenic in chicken feed) I’m happy with the change and given the change am happy that I’ve kept my 18 year old MSR Whisperlite stove so I can simmer things for 15 minutes without a problem or spening too much in the way of fuel- I’ve gone to burning only unleaded gasoliine, at .47 cents or so a fill up you can’t beat it (but for supporting the fossil fues industry.)

Much to do and time is short, thank you for your support, God bless and spread the word, Appalachia can’t win this fight alone!

Solidarity,

-MUZUNGU

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A corner store…

Resupply days: my least favorite of days. To the un-initiated they sound wonderful: not trudging all day over mountain after mountain, nearly unrestricted eating of rich town food, catching up with family, maybe a shower, maybe a bed, but to the hiker they spell trouble. Too many hikers find their bankrolls dwindling on town days, many cannot resist a night, or two, sometimes three renting a room… on and on the pitfalls go.

Yesterday I told myself I was making up time and committed myself to walking to the Brown Mountain Creek Shelter, 18.3 miles further than where I had stayed the previous night. By twilight I was nowhere close and then decided to stop and eat as I often do- but I was committed. I arrived at Brown Mountain after 8 hours and 55 minutes of walking over the course of the day, over the course of the “day”, by arriving not long after 4 AM. Not much sleep I awoke at 7 feeling refreshed and made the trek into town.

Breakfast.

Stopping at the road to check my guidebook for which way to hitch a car pulled over and the driver rolled down the window. A two time thru-hiker he was going where I needed to go and though he normally runs a business charging for rides, he stops and picks up hikers he passes for free. I asked him about a locally owned greasy spoon/diner type resturant.

They’re all gone. Frank’s for the Memories, a favorite among hikers closed this last year, though it is yet in the guidebook it is no more. Another option, Hardee’s, not in town, of course, but on the road upon the outskirts so as to better funnell money out of the local economy was not an option for me. My next downtown option, Bluedogart Cafe was a bit too uppity for my taste. I want my breakfast heavy on the meat and cooked in lard, a wrap on the menu is almost a certain no go. No unlimited coffee, more than $1.50 for a cup of coffee? Passing Lewis’ Grocery and Deli I stopped in and was delighted to find and old school corner grocer, surprised they still exist and with a lunch counter. Unfortunatly, their fare was but burgers and the coffee machine was no more. Amazingly the purveyer said that he wished he had more at his home, living nearby, but that he had finished it all this morning and had no more to offer me. Nothing like an actual owner/operator business and not a multination mega-conglomerate, but more on that later. On speaking with many I heard a time of two that Kenny’s Burgers on the outskirts of town may fit the bill, so there I went.

Breakfast was over, and coffee wasn’t unlimited but at .50 cents a pop I ate what I gots and I wasn’t dissapointed, the equilivent of a whole chicken, 8 pieces, fried and a, okay, three large coffees. Time there finished, bird gone I left on my next errand, groceries. Wanting to support what is both a dying breed as well as likely the cornerstone of a sustainable future economy I first went to Lewis’ Grocery and Deli and I was not dissapointed.

I wasn’t able to do much of my grocery shopping, but they were both willing and able to sell me one stick of butter, not limited by packing or automated stocking systems and able to not sell but give me only the olive oil I needed, going home to get his own and filling my bottle for me. Hours I spent talking and fellowshiping, over the course of which I ate again and had a delightful time. If I hadn’t more to do I’d probably be there yet.

A new theme is emering over the course of this journey, the dying small town. It’s clear that Buena Vista once had a thriving downtown. Empty storefronts and little shops of varying eclectic character are now what populates the city center; populating, but by the skin of their teeth.

What is it about cheaper and faster that has so captured America? It’s like America’s on crack, which is only fitting after it flooded the ghetto’s with drugs in the 60’s and 70’s so as to styme the work of the civil rights movement- it may be fun for a minute but it only kills in the long run, like a self-checkout line for the soul. A moments convienance or a morning’s rush to save a second- and costs a job, or a life. Where do our priorites lie? Does the economic security of the Kroger cashier concern us at all, do the lives and livlihoods of the people of Eastern Kentucky and West Virginia cause us a moments pause or is it only the number at the bottom of our KU bill that merits our concern?

I’m neither too neive or too cynical, I know these things matter to you, the issue is that you are left without a meaningful choice. This also isn’t a duality, it isn’t either black or white as so often there is no meaningful choice and no other viable option. Like a two-party system, bad and possibly worse are your only options and in an ever changing world even those offering an alternative are left without the luxury of offerring too much in the way of true choices in terms of sustainability and social responsibility given the constraints of their own viability. How is Lewis’ Grocery and Deli possibly going to compete with a Wal-Mart Supercenter – – – unless we all make a determined and concious choice to put our money where our mouths are.

I know these are hard words and I know it’s not easy to make a conscious decision to spend more for something you know you can get cheaper elsewhere; something that can be bought more conviently and in a way and place that can save you time and hassle, as well as money- but how often is the right thing to do the easy thing to do?

Everytime someone goes to a chain rather than support a local establishment 30% to 40% more of that money is leaving the local economy. Every time it happens it becomes a little harder for everyone to find a local establishment to support. Each time local establishments must not increase wages as they otherwise would without said bottom line focused competition. Every time your local options grow a little smaller, each time they become more like the chains to compete. Each time your own wages get brought down a little lower and each time your labor powere diminished.

What true sway does the local workforce have when labor can be given to younger and less experienced persons?

What power does an employee have when their job can be shipped to China at a moments notice?

People don’t often realize it, but the people have the power. These things can only occur so long as the social body lets it. The minute enough people say no to the corporations, to the governments then the powers of this world must quiver and quake.

The power isn’t in the vote, the vote is dead, what real choice is there? Did anything change after the 14th Amendment? Did anything change after women’s suffrage? Did anything change after the Voting Rights Act?

But did anything change after the Montgomery Bus Boycott?

Political, legal change only occurs because the change is already on it’s way. We’ve only had significant, substantial social changes because We, the People made the change and the powers that be were forced to change. It’s clear from the history of this great nation that that’s the way it’s always worked, and that it’s always been intended to work that way. Forget not that from the very beginning we were founded upon the following words:

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. — That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, — That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness.

The Declaration of Independence, July 4, 1776

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Birthday Blog

Christian and I would like to thank you all for your patience in waiting for our blog to return from hiatus.  My 26 year old sister passed away suddenly, and unexpectedly and it has left our family reeling with shock and unspeakable grief.  However, we have also had moments of peace and have experienced overwhelming love from many of you.

On behalf of our family, thank you for the countless cards, emails, Facebook messages, phone calls, and prayers.  We even had family and friends drive over 500 miles from Pennsylvania and Virginia respectively, to be with us in our time of mourning.  We have been so overwhelmed by the sheer volume of love that we have been unable to respond to all of you individually.  But, we want to say thank you from the bottom of our hearts.

Thanks to the generosity and prayers of Rev Jon Martin and Green Spring Presbyterian Church, Christian was able to get on a bus to come home and be with the family for a week. It may have knocked him off of schedule temporarily, but we were all thankful for his presence.   Then, his gracious mother (who drove down from Upstate New York) drove him back to the exact spot he had left off on the trail one week later.

I will return to posting Christian’s journal entries this week.  However, June 4th is Christian’s Birthday and we wanted to share a very special Birthday Blog for our readers.  I want to share three things with those of you who have been on this journey with us.

#1  A Precious Moment

Tommy and Tammy Lanham are friends of this blog.  Tammy took our Official Engagement Photos.  She also took the last professional photos in existence of our family before my sister’s death.  We cherish those photos and that photo session full of laughter and silliness now more than ever.

As you may recall, we have some homeschool families following Christian’s blog and using it as a teaching opportunity for their children.  Tommy and Tammy Lanham are one such family.  They attended my sister’s Memorial Service and their 6-year-old son was literally bouncing with anticipation because he was to meet Christian at the service.  Tammy tells me that they sat behind us and her son could not tell from the back which man was Christian.  He was so thrilled when he found out that he was sitting in the exact same seat a few rows back from him, that he exclaimed “Mommy, mommy…I see him!  I see Christian!  He’s in the same chair as me”!

After they met Christian, I had the chance to sit with these bright and beautiful children and ask them what they thought of his adventure.  This sweet  little boy who is wise beyond his years told me that he is ready to hike the Appalachian Trail with Christian.  It was such a warm and tender sentiment and brought light to a dark moment.  Christian is so greatful for your nightly prayers, kids.  He will have a surprise for his Homeschool followers in a few weeks.  Stay tuned.

The Lanham children watching one of Christian’s video updates during homeschooling.

#2  Worthy Walk

When I asked Christian what he wanted for his Birthday, I suspected he would want me to send something special in his care package or arrange for him to pick some hiking accessory up from an outfitter.  Instead, he simply asked that I remind our readers the reason he is walking.

A few years ago we walked into a meeting that would change our lives as a couple, and we have never been the same.  Kentuckians For The Commonwealth (KFTC) was having an annual meeting a few hours away from the city in which we live.  We did not know anyone but decided to join them for the weekend retreat based on their literature, some work we had seen them do in our community, and the price of the weekend.  KFTC does not turn down people who want to participate in events and activities if they lack funds.  Even if one cannot pay the full price of admission, one is still welcome.  It would be us and more than 150 strangers but, we were up for the adventure.

We met Mickey McCoy, a former high school English teacher and former Mayor in the town of Inez who was one of the first environmental activists we personally encountered that shared his faith openly.  He got involved when the streams and creeks near his home began to fill with black sludge and his water coming out of his spigots turned into a rust color.  In an interview with his wife, he remarked:

“I think too that we both kind of see this as a spiritual issue – protecting the planet.  And its not going to be something that is easy to do, ever.  Because the Bible will tell you that greed’s a hard thing to fight. And so we basically just say: “We’re just going to have to keep trying.” We see it as our mission, as our cross to bear”.

We met a coal miner carrying his oxygen tank.  He’d contracted Black Lung from the mines but the coal dust in the air near his home had exacerbated the situation.  He couldn’t sit out on his porch because the air was so thick with coal dust.

And, we met the inspirational Beverly May, a Registered Nurse who became the subject of the documentary “Deep Down”.  Beverly’s family had lived on her land for centuries when Mountain Top Removal (MTR) began destroying the mountaintops around her.  A Coal Company offered her money for her land and she refused to sell because she knew they would just blow up the mountains.   She once brought the dirty brown water that came out of her spigot to the Kentucky State Capital and asked the Governor if he would drink it because it was what she was expected to drink.  He declined.  Instantly, I loved her moxie.

All three of these beautiful and passionate souls have been arrested for civil disobedience, some on several occasions and they show no signs of stopping.  Ordinary folks have been empowered by an organization willing to fight along side them when no one else will,  and they have become extraordinary.  Each has had significant successes against big coal companies with unlimited funds and fancy attorneys.  It is no match for regular citizens who are tired of being poisoned.

Christian and I with 2 of the members of “The KY 14” Tanya Turner and Mickey McCoy (former educator and Mayor from Martin County, KY). They were joined by the likes of famous authors Wendell Berry and Silas House and a former miner/mining inspector. These folks staged a sit-in in our Governor’s office to raise awareness on the destructive nature of “Mountain Top Removal”. The Governor previously declined several attempts from his constituents to meet about this issue. The 14 arrived and refused to leave without him hearing the cries of the miners, the people who can’t drink their water, those suffering from cancer due to the carelessness of coal companies, and the families of the dead. They were willing to get arrested to stand up for those without a voice. To us they are heroes.

Christian says:

  • I walk for the over 60,000 additional cases of cancer that occur near Mountain Top Removal Sites.  A study linked these cases directly to strip mining and MTR.
  • I walk for the 40% higher birth defect rates near MTR sites.
  • I walk for the coal miners who risk their lives daily only to come home to coal dust laden air they can’t breathe.
  • I walk for Bopper Minton’s little girl, and children like her who take several medications just to be able to breathe, daily. http://bopperandmark.com/
  • I walk for the rivers and streams, mountains and valleys destroyed by companies that have the audacity to blow up the mountains God made and a people that would stand by and let it happen all in the name of profits.
  • I walk for the coal miners who lost their jobs due to MTR.  They have been replaced by heavy machinery that further destroys the earth and takes jobs from human beings.
  • I walk for the poor and impoverished, poisoned, dead, and dying Appalachian people who are expendable to big business.
  • I walk for the drinking water we all drink.  These problems are not merely confined to these places.  Where do we think the water and air go?
  • I walk simply to make you aware that this is happening.  Coal companies are blowing up mountains, the settlement and pollution from the dynamite and other chemicals is being introduced into our water supply.  The law says these companies do not have to clean up their mess.  We say, they do.  Better yet, we say they don’t make a mess of our lands in the first place.
  • Most of all, I walk because I am a Christ-follower and the word tells me in Micah 6:8 that justice, mercy, and walking in humility with the Lord are qualities myself and my wife should have.  I love justice and mercy and poor people being refused access to clean water in America is not justice (nor anywhere else for that matter).  Poor people being forced to live with water they can set on fire with a match, air they can’t breathe because of coal dust, and unhealthy dangerous living conditions is not okay.

# 3 Make this a VERY Happy Birthday

We would love for you to see for yourself some of the work KFTC has done over the years. Some very talented folks put together an informative video.  The first 3 minutes are merely historical images of grassroots activism.  But, then you begin to hear the voices of regular people facing extraordinary hardships.  You will watch victims turn into advocates and champions.  You will see what happens when people are informed and empowered.  You will see a people not content with regurgitating sound bites they have heard, but who have investigated for themselves and speak original words that bring change to their communities.  We ask that you take a few moments to become inspired by people who personify the famous quote ” Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.

 http://vimeo.com/30448462

Finally, we ordinarily ask for a personal donation for Christian’s trip and his expenses.  But today, his greatest wish is that you give to the organization that has given so much to us.  A voice.  Training.  The belief that we can change things and allies to stand beside to help us follow through and achieve our goals.  As a Birthday gift to Christian, please visit our Razoo site and donate on his behalf to Kentuckians for the Commonwealth, DBA Kentucky Coalition.  He would like nothing more than to be able to help KFTC continue their work.  They empower people to use their voice and tell their story.  They teach us how to lobby our legislators and to have long term relationships with them.  They educate us so that we know more than some of the lawmakers.  Knowledge truly becomes power in the hands of the people.

Thank you,

Christian and Tanya

http://www.razoo.com/story/Appalachian-Voyage

Christian Torp and fellow KFTC members preparing to lobby the U.S. Senate in Washington, D.C. KFTC trains regular folks to be empowered to talk to legislators about the issues. KFTC members do not merely regurgitate facts they are fed…they become capable of researching the facts for themselves and articulating them by telling personal stories. KFTC members are tenacious. They don’t give up.

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Hiatus

Christian will be taking a hiatus from the AT beginning on Tuesday May 15th as he will return to Lexington, KY to attend my sister’s funeral. He will head back to the trail the following week. Please be gracious with us for our lack of posting during this time.

Christian has used some of his AT monies to purchase a bus ticket to come home and be with the family. Our family is very close and Christian spent a lot of time at the Spades table playing on the same team as my sister, or strategizing how to beat her.  Our games always ended in laughter.

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The following was my Facebook Status earlier this evening:

“Today, I had the distinct honor of being in the room at 4:35 PM when the doctor called time of death. I counted her fingers and toes again for old time’s sake and thanked God for His mercy and grace. She fought kidney disease for many years and God finally decided that she didn’t have to fight anymore. I’m hoping she is hanging out with my dad in Abraham’s Bosom talking about what a trippy life she led and marveling at how wonderful she feels for the first time in years. Please pray for my mom and my sister’s fiance who is devastated beyond words. And, pray for my brother. The single most difficult thing I have ever had to do in my entire life was to tell him our sister was gone. As for me…I serve a mighty God who has given me a peace that surpasses all understanding. I am walking in His grace. Incredibly sad and mournful, but eternally thankful for the time we had”.

Christian made it to Abingdon, VA today where his friend Pastor Jon Martin greeted him and spent the day with him.  I am so thankful for him being in town today because normally, I would not have been able to reach him due to lack of signal.  When he received the news he immediately wanted to be by my side.  But, we found a way for him to be here with us and still continue on the AT.  Chanda would have wanted him to carry on. She was rooting for him to make it to Mt. Katahdin.

Thank you in advance for your prayers and well wishes. We are thankful for God’s grace and peace.

Carpe Diem!

The Torps

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Kincora Hiker Hostel, a Tree House, and a Wife

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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I met a wonderful 23 year old Trail Name, Doc who was hiking to start his new life.  We bonded instantly over his hat which bore a Sharpie drawn T.A.R.D.I.S from my favorite British show “Doctor Who”. Image

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

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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:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ixYgsdWf4bc&feature=youtu.be&a

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