Pilgrims in the mist

Trip Start Nov 01, 2007
Trip End Apr 30, 2008

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Flag of United States  , Washington
Wednesday, December 26, 2007

We hope that you all have had a happy Solstice, happy Hanukkah, happy Kwanzaa, or a merry Christmas! We are having an incredible gift for Christmas--a three-day rest after seven straight days of walking. We both have been under the weather with slight colds, and Ruah's blisters have been slow to heal. So Betsy and Bruce Kenworthy offered to come pick us up in Kalama and whisk us down to their home in Battle Ground on Christmas morning, by-passing our scheduled walks to Woodland, Ridgefield, and Battle Ground. We'll be back on the road again and back to the itinerary on the morning of December 28. But back now to some days before:

On December 19, the beginning of our supposed 11 days of uninterrupted walking, we took a city bus south a few miles from the center of Olympia, leaving before dawn the cozy home of Alan and Jane Mountjoy-Venning. We got off at a spot where our contacts had said we could begin our day's walk without having to be close to heavy traffic. Even then, we had 16 miles to walk to the RV park in Rochester, and for most of the way it was rainy and dreary. But the time went by rather quickly as we talked about how our lives might change upon our return and outlined some of our project plans for the summer.

Despite all the time we had spent so far shopping for the right gear for walking in the Northwest in winter, we were finding during this rainy day's walk that moisture was still finding its way past our supposedly waterproof clothing. Louis's "water resistant" gloves became saturated in less than an hour (he had others to turn to), and the bottoms of our pants were wicking up water that was sprayed on us from passing vehicles, even though we were wearing waterproof ponchos. Louis wondered aloud about the many heroic explorers from history, including those who accompanied Lewis and Clark on their expedition two hundred years ago, who faced much harsher conditions with less sophisticated equipment--and of course no campgrounds with hot showers waiting for them at the end of the day. So, all in all, we considered ourselves lucky to have nothing more than a light rain on a relatively mild day to worry about.

During part of the walk, we found ourselves on a scenic but winding road with very narrow to nonexistent shoulders. Luckily, there wasn't a lot of traffic. At one point a police car pulled up with flashing lights. The officer said in a friendly manner that he was checking on us because some drivers had called in and said that a protest was going on and that we were walking down the middle of the road (not true). The officer said he was concerned that we were on a rather dangerous stretch of road, but we assured him that we were pulling our cart and ourselves completely off the road when cars were approaching from both directions. He wished us a safe journey and left.

On part of this narrow road we were walking beside the Black River. We were aware that this area had been ravaged by floods a couple of weeks back, and the water in the river and its tributaries was still running high. At the same time, we were struck by the beauty of many moss-covered trees and many ferns growing on and among the trees (see photo). It was a bit of a fantasy land. We thought of all our friends in New England who were buried in snow, and although we envied them somewhat, we also thoroughly enjoyed being right where we were.

When we arrived, damp and chilled, at the Outback RV park, we were greeted with warmth by one of the owners, Jane, who after seeing what a difficult time we were going to have setting up camp in the rain, graciously gave us use of the park's heated rec room for the tenting fee. This space, which is usually rented by groups, included a half bath, kitchenette, and a carpeted floor to sleep on. Thus we were able to dry out, warm up, and cook dinner and breakfast in comfort. Jane's husband, Will, anticipating our arrival had set aside some firewood and starter and had picked out a tent site for us. The next day he said he had already visited the Peace for Earth website and was in agreement with his wife's generous offer of the use of the rec room. It was such a great act of kindness and not un-typical of our experiences thus far.

The next morning, feeling refreshed, we headed out on a clear day with the sun shining in our faces. For the first time we got out our sunglasses. We walked through a lot of typical strip-developments on this day. As we entered our destination city of Chehalis we began to see the evidence of the floods that disrupted this area a couple of weeks ago. We saw lots of water-soaked debris that had been dumped outside of businesses, and many businesses were still closed. There were many places where the water torrents had caused erosion of the roadside ditches, threatening to undermine the roadways.

On the way to the home of Marylea and Mike Coday, members of the Olympia Friends Meeting, we were struggling to carry our gear up their very steep street, lamenting that this strenuous effort had to come at the end of our day's walk. But as we sat in front of the big picture window in their living room, drinking tea and coffee, we could appreciate the gorgeous view of the valley that their very high location gave them. Their three-month-old granddaughter, Kimberly, gave us big smiles and we enjoyed holding and playing with her. Marylea prepared a delicious "Christmas" dinner that included everything from smoked turkey to pumpkin pie. Marylea and Mike are used to having extra people in their home. One friend who works nearby but lives far away stays with them two nights a week, and over the last several years they have hosted Sudanese young men and have helped them get settled in the area.

The next morning Marylea gave us a ride a few miles south to get our full day's walk to be under 20 miles. In fact, by the time we reached the campground, we had walked 18.5 miles. We walked through lush forests with moss-covered trees and ferns. It was absolutely magical. We stopped at a little interpretive area describing the old-growth forest that surrounded us. At one point we thought we could see through the clouds in the east the snow-covered hulk of Mt. St. Helens, the scene of a devastating volcanic eruption in 1980. We were both getting sore throats and so tried to take good care of ourselves before jumping into our sleeping bags in the cold night air at the RV park in Toledo, Wash.

We had been wondering why the RV parks were full during the winter where we had been camping, so we asked a resident how long he had been there. He replied that he was there for one and a half years because he could not afford to rent a place anymore, and that his situation was typical of many of the park residents. This story helped to put a face on a widespread type of  human hardship that we've only read about in the newspapers. How can we continue to accept the status quo of a country with the very rich and the very poor? What can we do to change this?

After a cool but not too uncomfortable night in the tent, we were both feeling rather under the weather, but bravely packed away our gear and headed out into the rain and cold. We had a little under 14 miles to go, and pretty soon it became apparent that we would not find any amenities, such as cafes or gas stations with restrooms and coffee, for the whole day's walk. It was very windy and cold, and all of our "rainproof" clothing proved to be not so "proof." Water slopped in our shoes and crept up our pants legs again. Ruah's foot blisters were causing her some difficulty again, and Louis now had a heel blister that needed bandaging. About five miles before reaching our hosts' home, we had resolved to check into a motel instead, hoping not to infect them with our colds. Just as we had reached this decision, our cell phone range, and it was Carmen White, our next host, calling to find our when we might arrive. When we told her our decision, she said, "No, no, come here and let us minister to you." She then offered to pick us up, and given our drenched condition and fatigue, we gratefully accepted the offer.

Carmen's husband Steve picked us and brought us to their home, where Russian tea, chicken noodle soup, and grilled cheese sandwiches awaited us. Ruah had been fantasizing about hot tea and chicken noodle soup for several miles, so this was like a gift from heaven. After changing into dry clothes, we fell into deep sleep while Carmen did our laundry, like a good fairy godmother. Steven and Carmen are the parents of Jessica Kershner, whom we stayed with in Tacoma. Steven had been an American Baptist minister, and he is now a police chaplain, ministering to police and firefighters, their families, and victims. He said he believed he was doing more for the Kingdom this way than when he had pastored a church. Carmen does other kinds of ministry in her community and in distant countries through what she called "mini-missions" or what we would call work projects.

We had a delightful evening playing a domino-like game called Mexican Train, which was new to us. We will be forever grateful to the Whites for the warmth, both and spiritual and physical, that they provided.

Reflecting on our day's walk, we realized how lucky we are that no harm came to us. At certain points the shoulders of the road were nonexistent, with steep drop-offs on both sides just beyond the pavement. Ruah used the Earth flag to warn oncoming motorists, which was especially important as we rounded blind curves. When we accepted the offer to be picked up, we had to wait where we were because it was one of the few places we had seen that were wide enough for a car to pull off. This meant that we were standing still for some 20 minutes, waiting to be picked up, and we became quite chilled. We whiled away the time singing favorite Christmas carols, much to the amusement, no doubt, of several horses in a field nearby. Incidentally, we generally seem to attract the close attention of horses, cows, llamas, and dogs as we walk along. Walking in line with our ponchos over our backpacks, perhaps we give the appearance of some kind of four-footed beast. Some horses actually start prancing around in their paddocks, seemingly excited by our presence.

These last six weeks, we've seen an astonishing quantity of empty beer and soda bottles along the roadsides (unlike Vermont, Washington doesn't have a container deposit system to deter such litter). We also come across a lot of odd things in the roadside ditches--for example, a bowling ball, two basketballs, a baby walker, an old wrecked car, and  a few practical items that Louis picked up for possible future use, such as gloves and bungee cords. What's most fun to us is our growing pot of found money. So far, we've collected more than six dollars in pennies, nickels, dimes, quarters, and even a Canadian dollar coin and a German two-mark coin.We'll keep you updated on our rapidly growing retirement fund!

Our walk the next day was again in never-ending rain and gusts of wind, and we were glad when we arrived, drenched, at our next host home. We felt much better on this day for three reasons: The rest and care we had received at the Whites' house, the warmer daytime temperatures, and the 1-1/2 hours we were able to spend midway at a little service station deli  for food, hot drinks, and rest. As we warmed up and dried out at the deli, many people we met were very interested in the purpose of our walk.

We knew that at our next stopping point the host kept five Bassett Hounds, so we were prepared, more or less, for the excited canine throng that rushed to greet us. But we were surprised by their gentle dispositions and endearing personalities. Some of them were "rescued" dogs, including Kitty, who is still a bit nervous when new people come. They were all curious about our backpacks (leaving a bit of their slobber here and there). None of the dogs thought that their 60-or-so pounds of weight precluded them being lap dogs. The sixth resident of the house, Lenore Dickenson, was clearly one of the pack, claiming that she was truly "alpha dog" in the house, despite Abby's official claim to that rank. (The names of all the dogs are on the included photo.) Oliver is famous, since his photo is on the package of a certain brand of dried dog food.

That eveing Sylvie McGee, of Olympia Friends Meeting, came for dinner. She had been working on our 11-day itinerary with Marijke and we had not met her yet. She was a friend of Lenore's and fellow Bassett Hound lover, and that's how we ended up staying with the dogs. We had a fun, relaxed evening, learning a lot about this breed, and we were so pleased to meet Sylvie after seeing her name on so many e-mails concerning the planning of the walk.

We sit warm and cozy in the Kenworthys' home, already feeling better. There's a light snow falling on this Christmas day, making us feel a little more like we're in Vermont. On December 31, we'll be walking into Portland, Ore., and not leaving there until January 5, giving us some more time to rest and heal, amidst presentation at three different venues. Even with our need for this rest, we still are feeling about our journey, understanding now that we need to make sure of having enough rest days. We look forward to meeting new people--and their pets.
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