A footpath education

NICK EICHER, HOST: Today is Tuesday, October 27th. Thank you for turning to WORLD Radio to help start your day. 

Good morning. I’m Nick Eicher.

MARY REICHARD, HOST: And I’m Mary Reichard. Election Day is just one week away! And as it’s likely to be a tumultuous week, we’re planning some special programming.

EICHER: That’s right. In place of our usual commentaries, we will be featuring prayers for our nation. 

No matter what happens at the ballot box, we can all agree on the need to seek God’s divine mercy and grace. 

And we’d like you to join us—literally!

REICHARD: Yeah, and here’s now you can do that. Use the voice memo app on your smartphone. Just record yourself praying or reading a passage of Scripture. Then send the file to us at [email protected]. We’ll put those recordings together on at least one of next week’s programs. Maybe more, if we get enough! Again, our email address is [email protected].

EICHER: Coming next on The World and Everything in It: lessons learned “on the trail.”  And I don’t mean the campaign trail.

The year 2020 has been challenging for many people. WORLD reporter Jenny Rough caught up with a homeschooling family of six who’ve learned a thing or two about challenges—and have some insights to share.

AUDIO: [Footsteps]

JENNY ROUGH, REPORTER: October 17th. The desert of New Mexico. Sunny and windy. A family of six—mom, dad, four kids—walks a dirt path. It cuts through York Ranch, a cattle farm that sits right on the Continental Divide. In three miles, they’ll reach Pie Town, New Mexico. Population: 93. 

The Strawbridge family has walked here—from Montana. They make it to Pie Town around noon. 

AUDIO: [Arriving in Pie Town]

They drop their packs on the deck of a hostel for hikers. The kids are wild. Not the temper tantrum, lashing out, misbehaving kind. The good kind of wild. They run free. Play in the dirt. Explore the world. June picks cones from a pinon tree, digging for pine nuts hidden inside… 

AUDIO: [Aiden knocking dirt out of a water filter]

…Aiden knocks the dirt out of her water filter.

Monica Strawbridge has always loved long walks. The feel of the weather. The colors. The therapeutic benefits. Her husband, Vince…not so much. But after some ethical challenges at his construction business, Vince decided it was time to “jump the tracks” and make a radical change for him and his family.

Vince proposed that their entire family hike the Pacific Crest Trail—his wife’s life-long dream. And they did—in 2018. At the time, their oldest daughter, Aiden, was 17. June was 14, Henry 13, and Georgie only 11. 

The hike was supposed to be a one and done experience. The adventure of a lifetime. But at the end of the trail, things felt unfinished. Vince explains over lunch at a local restaurant.

VINCE: And so I think there are some things we are working through together that are not insignificant in terms of where people are with their relationship with God, I think where people are with their relationship with each other…

So they decided to keep walking. 

This year: the Continental Divide Trail, heading SOBO—that’s hiker talk for Southbound. The CDT follows the boundary that separates America’s river systems. Next year, they plan to hike the Appalachian Trail. If they finish all three, they will be the largest family to ever complete what is known as the Triple Crown of hiking. But setting a record isn’t their main motivation. 

VINCE: It does expose them to God’s creation and we know that’s one of the ways that He speaks. Like Paul says it, Jesus say it, the psalmist says it, The rocks, the stones will cry out, the trees, you know, heavens declare the glory, all that stuff puts you in the context of hearing God in ways that are very tangible and clean in terms of his general revelation and expression of Himself.

To hike the Triple Crown, Vince took a step away from his business building high-end custom homes. Now, the family sleeps outside and walks past fancy houses. 

MONICA: It sounds funny, but it’s so luxurious out there under the stars!

VINCE: That’s exactly right.

AIDEN: It’s amazing. 

MONICA: It’s really is. 

AIDEN: We see the Milky Way every night where the moon is not overpowering the rest of the stars.  

Not that there aren’t tense moments. At Arapaho Pass, a crazy snowstorm hit. Henry began to get hypothermia. And June refused to climb the mountain at first. They did reach the other side—eventually.

VINCE: It’s like anything in life. You stand at the bottom, you look at the top, and you think, I’ll never make it. This is awful. I want to die rather than do this thing. And I’ve heard those words from several of the family members along the way. But then you get down the other side and all the sudden, the music is playing, it’s glorious and the wind’s not blowing on the other side like it is on this side. And it’s sunny down in the valley. 

Vince says the practical life lessons are invaluable.

VINCE: There is a tangible connection between effort and failure or risk and reward.  

Each Strawbridge kid has picked a ministry to support. Here’s June:

JUNE: I’m raising money for a horse program at a camp in California, a summer camp that I went to last year. 

And each picked a unique homeschool assignment. Henry’s involves a conservation project, gathering information for a nonprofit:

HENRY: If I catch fish they gave me this app where I can mark down what fish it is, what type of species, what temperature the water.

Georgie’s is photography:

GEORGIE: I really like art. And I really like looking at the beauty. So I think it’s helped me look at things differently. [ROUGH: okay] I look at light differently. I look at the cliffs differently. 

On the trail, Vince and Monica can’t hide in the comforts of home or behind screens. They are in the moment with their kids.

VINCE: I’m going to be cold with you. I’m going to be nervous with you. I’m going to be in pain with you. I’m going to do all those things with you and have to not only overcome it for me but also coach you through that experience.

Back at the hostel, the kids attack the hiker box like a pack of hungry wolves. The hiker box is a pile of discarded items that other thru-hikers have abandoned or donated. A “bad” hiker box might include a pair of old shoes and moldy bread. This is a “good” hiker box. 

AIDEN: Oreo Thins!

GEORGIE: Oreo Thins! 

AIDEN: Are you kidding?

JUNE: Dad, look! A bottle of jelly. Look! Dad!

In addition to the hiker box, the Strawbriges pick up packages of supplies they mailed to themselves weeks ago. Breakfast bars, tuna and tortillas, peanut butter, toilet paper, wipes. They divvy up the goods. Tomorrow, as they continue to head south, their packs will be weighted down. But their hearts, minds, and souls are light.

Reporting for WORLD, I’m Jenny Rough from the Continental Divide Trail.

(Photo/Jenny Rough) Strawbrige family

WORLD Radio transcripts are created on a rush deadline. 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 record of WORLD Radio programming is the audio record.

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One comment on “A footpath education

  1. Loren C Roberts says:

    A family adventure that will last a life time of memories.

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