The Appalachian voyage ends but the journey is just beginning..

THERE AND BACK AGAIN

Today is October 15th, the last open date to summit Mt. Katahdin and I’m at my parent’s home in rural Upstate, New York. I didn’t expect to be here harvesting Winter squash on this date back  in March when I began, with thoughtful determination, to hike up the 604 stairs of the AT Approach Trail in Georgia.  Some people skipped the arduous 8.1 mile Approach Trail, fearing they would never make it to the official “start” of the trail atop Springer Mountain.

Brown’s Guide to Georgia describes the Approach Trail thusly,  ”Because of the Appalachian Trail’s popularity and allure, people with little or no backpacking experience often pick it for their first long hiking trip. Many of the people-with boots that are too new and 
packs that are too heavy-start on the Approach Trail at Amicalola Falls State Park, eager to reach Springer 
Mountain and the AT. Slowed by blisters and aching 
muscles, some of these inexperienced hikers fail to 
make the climb to the top of Springer Mountain the 
first day”.

Steep and strenuous, the Approach Trail is optional.  Maps and AT Trail Guides can navigate hikers to the summit of Springer Mountain without walking up those 604 steps.  I chose to begin there because it was truly the Appalachian Trail experience. So many who have gone before me did not have the option of a different approach.  If I was going to do it, I was going to have the full experience.

I fully expected to complete my Appalachian Voyage but,  as I sit here separating Acorn squash from Butternut, I realize that though my journey along the Appalachian Trail is over, we still have much harvesting to do.  I may not have traversed every step of the AT, but that is not to say that my hike is a failure. My footsteps may not have completely bridged the distance between one point and another, but to have walked 1,726 miles of the Appalachian Mountain Range and spent 214 days in the thick of it, is a victory in and of itself. I have been changed, both literally and figuratively, both mentally and physically…

It’s very difficult for me to walk in bare feet and my left toe sticks up into the air and doesn’t touch the ground as I walk, I’ve discovered. When I looked into my parent’s refrigerator for a snack ,the first thing that caught my eye was a loaf of rye bread and I was about to grab it and just start eating. You can take the man off the AT, but you can’t take the AT out of the man. The way I see myself and my purpose in life has been altered. While I have always wanted to make a positive difference in this world AS I lived my life I now see such change as the reason WHY I live my life.

As I’m sure you would think there are positive aspects of getting off the trail, the coffee is better and I don’t have to dig holes in rocky Pennsylvania soil before relieving myself. Despite all of the changes that have occurred, some things remain the same… as I was composing this entry I checked my email again and had just received an action alert from iLoveMountains.org that just last week an appeal to re-list the Blair Mountain battlefield on the National Register of Historic Places to prevent its destruction by mountaintop removal mining was thrown out by a Federal Judge.

And now for the worst change of all: I need to be re-trained to say Appalachia correctly. Knowing that the more similar and comfortable I made people feel as I spoke to them,  the more powerful my words would be, I worked very hard to get into the habit of saying the name of our region incorrectly, the way outsiders say it. I feel so torn by this but, with all this said, I’m looking forward to the follow-up publicity for the plight of the people in Appalachia, and I’m full of ideas on how we can make this bigger and better.

Over these last months, I was able to touch a great number of people with the stories, the tragedies and travesty that is called “representation” in Appalachia and I have had a far more International scope than I ever would have guessed.  From analogizing our plight to the evils brought up by Canadians about fracking to painting a more accurate portrait of life in America to Germans and English,  this voyage had and has a reach far greater than just the fundraising aspect. Awareness and engagement has become a key focus.

With the walking finished, it’s now time for me to begin writing and reporting, to begin speaking and informing, to begin really influencing public opinion.  I’ve spoken with my wonderful wife and she agrees, it’s time for me to put pen to paper and really start increasing the net that was cast back in March.

Will you help me? I need… we need…Appalachia needs us all to tell all of our friends, our families, the very whole of our social networks about the Appalachian Voyage.  Please send them a link to the fundraising site and most importantly,to ask them to give. Every dollar counts and remember to tell them that a donation of $60 is only $1 for every 1,000 cases of cancer caused by mountaintop removal mining, that’s only a penny for 10 people who were diagnosed with cancer on behalf of the bottom line.  The deadline to give on Razoo is November 1, 2012.

Solidarity,

-Christian “MUZUNGU” Torp

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