Hiking for the soul | WORLD

MARY REICHARD, HOST: Today is Tuesday June 22nd. Thank you for joining The World and Everything in It today.

Good Morning. I am Mary Reichard.

NICK EICHER, HOST: And I’m Nick Eicher. Next up: Spiritual encouragement from nature.

WORLD correspondent Jenny Rough travels into nature with people who take the time to take a close look at the world that God created.


JENNY ROUGH, REPORTER: Three hundred and forty-five point four miles to go. These factions are important when hiking. The distance sounds like a long walk. But it’s not that much for the Strawbridges. The family of six has hiked thousands and thousands of kilometers together.

If you’ve been following this podcast for a while, you may remember meeting the Strawbridge family on the Continental Divide Trail in Pie Town, New Mexico last summer. Vince and Monica are the parents. Their four children: Aiden, June, Henry and Georgie. Currently between the ages of 19 and 14.

AIDEN STRAWBRIDGE: We’re doing the Triple Crown as a family because I think our main thing is that we wanted to be together.

This is Aiden, the oldest daughter. Triple Crown refers to America’s premier cross-country ski trails. The family has committed to hiking all three. You completed the Pacific Crest Trail to the west in 2018. The Continental Divide Trail last year. And now you are on the Appalachian Trail, a footpath along the eastern United States.

They started on March 1st at Springer Mountain, North Georgia. They’ll be in New Hampshire in early June. After a stop in town to shower and wash, they stuff their backpacks and trekking poles into shuttles that take them back to where they left off: Crawford Notch.

On the drive to the starting point, they summarize this year’s trip. Hiking didn’t just bring her closer as a family. You have time to enjoy sunrises, trees, rivers and starry nights. Here is Monika:

MONICA STRAWBRIDGE: There is a kind of wisdom that God reveals through nature. It is the power of his creativity and the diversity of his creativity. There are principles that I think you are out there so much.

Heavy fog can serve as a reminder to trust God when life seems unclear. The fog will lift and the sun will shine again. A fresh blanket of snow can be a reminder of the purity God requires of his people and the gift he freely gave through Christ.

Monica is drawn to the wildflowers. Aiden likes nature’s patterns. As the official photographer, Georgie is all about natural light. It captures everything from ancient rock faces to baby porcupine sightings. Instead of just reading about the lilies in the Psalms or the thorns in Isaiah, hiking allows the family to get up close and personal with nature. This is Aiden.

AIDEN: You understand and you hear it, and you can see the decay and the new life that comes out of the decay.

As he climbs a steep incline in the White Mountains, Vince points out yet another reason nature provides a rich spiritual experience: no distractions.

VINCE STRAWBRIDGE: Walking has something to do with it. By helping you think more clearly, more slowly, and more carefully.

But mainly:

VINCE: The feeling of addiction you have about things that are out of your control. They really are always out of our control, it’s just harder not to acknowledge them here.

Vince says his family’s approach is a little crazy and shouldn’t dissuade others.

VINCE: There are many different ways of doing this.

Day hikes. Half day hikes. Weekend walks. Gap year. Or embark on a long journey, one state at a time, over many years. In West Virginia, the Appalachian Trail is only four miles long.

The Strawbridge’s decision to stay on the trail for months – not once, but three times – was a difficult one. It was Vince’s idea, so he was ready. But Monika?

MONICA STRAWBRIDGE: Oh, I wasn’t for it at all. No no. We were totally on opposite sides. And I mean, we just had completely different visions of what we thought our family should be doing. The children have to go through school and …

Vince’s uncle had a suggestion.

VINCE: Why don’t you two get some couples you trust around? Just say we are somehow incapable of doing this and cannot make a decision on this. Would you help us? Five couples that we somehow gathered in a room and had a lengthy conversation about whether or not we would go for a triple crown.


MONICA STRAWBRIDGE: Vince is convincing.

Still a lot of logistics that need to be clarified. Meals, supply packages and how to deal with unconventional training.

MONICA: The school part of it is still most of it, that’s where I get the greatest fear. I really, honestly, think in my heart, however, that everything – they are fine. You will be great.

Turns out homeschooling can happen on the trail, it just looks different. Here are Monica and Georgie:

MONICA: I heard Jayber Crow in the Smokies in the rain and it was perfect because it’s a quiet, quiet book.

GEORGIE: And he goes into all of his deep thoughts.

Henry has decided to continue his unique approach to education in the years to come. He has developed his own curriculum.

HENRY: I like knowing how all the economic things work, and how stocks and all these things work. I really like history.

All three trails had scary moments. A snow storm last year. That year was the day Georgie was lost.

GEORGIE: I stopped putting on my raincoat because the bugs killed me. I thought we were going to the top of the mountain to the shelter up there. I kept hiking and hiking and actually never thought I was lost until I got to the top and it got really dark.

Fortunately, everyone was reunited.

June, the second oldest, says the nice thing about hiking this year is that they’re closer to home in Florida. Friends and family can meet for surprise visits.

JUNE STRAWBRIDGE: In fact, more friends and family have come to see us. Grandpa comes out. He’s going to come from Florida. There’s not much he can do about having a hip and knee replacement.

One Truth About Hiking and Living: One small step may not seem like a lot. But it’s the small steps that always lead to success. Yesterday the Strawbridges made their final step on their Triple Crown journey. At 10:22 am they reached the northern terminus at Mt. Katahdin, Maine.

Reporting for WORLD, I’m Jenny Rough on the Appalachian Trail.

WORLD radio transcripts are being produced in a hurry. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative recording of WORLD radio programming is the audio recording.

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