Pilgrim Journal: Alabama; Hot Day, Cool Summit (9)

Shirley Christy, the woman who awaited my arrival at a summit with a glass of cold ice water. With her are a son and granddaughter. We sat and chatted for about an hour - just south of Oakton, Alabama.

Shirley Christy, the woman who awaited my arrival at a summit with a glass of cold ice water. With her are a son and granddaughter. We sat and chatted for about an hour – just south of Oakman, Alabama.

Earl dropped me off at a crossroads where I could continue walking south on Rte. 69 towards Oakman, Alabama. I had gotten into a nice little rhythm by now. I walked against traffic and would wave at everyone who drove past. One of the charming things about the rural south is that strangers pretty routinely wave at each other while passing. I figured it was a way of blessing people. If they waved back, they were blessing me in return. If not, I figured they really needed the blessing.

The road forward was a long uphill climb. Walking up hill is a little harder than walking in a plain path under normal circumstances: with 75 lbs. strapped to your back it is a LOT harder. I stopped to rest fairly often. The great thing about walking uphill, though, is that when you reach the top of the rise it is so much easier walking from then on, though you hope the walk back down isn’t real steep. If it is too steep, it is almost as hard walking downhill as it is uphill. Your legs are constantly tensed as a sort of brake. It is also much more dangerous when carrying weight for you are much more likely to slip and roll, maybe twisting an ankle along the way.

I walked through the little town of Oakman. There was a church just getting out, a few people shopping at the little dollar stores, but otherwise not much happening. I had had a big breakfast with Earl’s family that morning, so I was not hungry and didn’t stop for any food. I just slogged on. After a while, the climb began to get wearying – and I was really looking forward to reaching the top of the rise.

When I reached the top of the rise I was startled. It was straight for a little ways, then another rise. That was unusual. I walked to the end of the plain path and rested up for the next climb. When I reached the top of that rise, same thing. All day long, each time I reached the crest of a hill it was only to find another hill looming before me. It was a heavy slog. I was beginning to wish I would have picked up some food in Oakman; I was definitely wishing I had some cold water. I was hot from all the climbing and the water in my bottles was warm. Warm water will keep you going, but if it tastes good to you, you are doing some seriously hard traveling.

As I neared the top of my fifth summit of the day, there was a house set back on the left. A big dog came trotting towards me. It was eager, but did not seem aggressive. What was surprising was the dark-haired woman right behind it, running vigorously, seemingly after the dog. The first thing she said to me was, “Are you walking for God?” It was the first time a stranger had ever asked me that (though not the last). I grinned and said that that was, in fact, exactly what I was doing. She jumped up and down, clapping her hands with the exuberant glee of a little girl, exclaiming, “I knew it! I knew it!” She invited me up into the yard, where she had one of those decorative wishing wells set up. Sitting on the edge of it was a big plastic cup, the large convenience store type that Michael Bloomberg doesn’t approve of. It was filled with ice and water. The woman told me she had it waiting for me.

The woman’s name was Shirley Christy. She had seen me 15 minutes earlier as she passed me coming home from church in Oakman. She had a feeling I was walking for God, had told her husband so, and waited for me to reach the house. She pulled up a seat for me under a large carport, which housed several F-150 pickup trucks, one of which her husband and a friend were working on. She excitedly told her husband that she had been right: I was walking for God. He turned, shook my hand and said hi, then went back to work on his truck. Shirley got her kids and a little granddaughter around and we talked for a while about what I was doing and about her family. She loved my name because her daughter was named Charli – and Charli was the mother of the granddaughter she was watching that day. I chuckled and told her that was ironic. Her name was Christy and she had a daughter named Charli; my name is Charlie and I have a daughter named Christie.

We laughed and chatted for about an hour. I needed the rest – and the first cup of ice water was absolutely heavenly. You have no idea how good simple things can actually taste until you slog sweatily along in the mid-day heat without much relief for hours at a time. One of Shirley’s daughters said she had read about me on Facebook – somebody at school had told her. It might have been hyperbole, but already I was getting over 10,000 hits a week on my “Abraham’s Journey” Page I had set up to follow my pilgrimage – and it tracked where I was at, so it was entirely possible. As I prepared to leave, Shirley got me a couple of sandwiches, including a delicious grilled one she had brought back from town. We became Facebook friends and I benefitted from her prayers throughout my journey, as she got more than a few back from me as I walked.

After I left, I walked only about another hour. Things seemed to have leveled off, but I thought that was enough for one day. I would make camp a little early, enjoy a sandwich and read a while.

 

 

About charliej373

Charlie Johnston is a former newspaper editor, radio talk show host and political consultant. From Feb. 11, 2011 to Aug. 21, 2012, he walked 3,200 miles across the country, sleeping in the woods, meeting people and praying as he went. He has received prophetic visitation all his life, which he has vetted through a trio of priests over the last 20 years, and now speaks publicly about on this site. Yet he emphasizes that we find God most surely through the ordinary, doing the little things we should with faith and fidelity. Hence the name, The Next Right Step. The visitations inform his work, but are not the focus of it. He lives in the Archdiocese of Denver in the United States.
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40 Responses to Pilgrim Journal: Alabama; Hot Day, Cool Summit (9)

  1. bransk1p says:

    I am unsure to how exactly your mission is to be performed nor the logistical needs necessary for it to be properly undergone in accordance to the will of God. My only wish for you is to remain steadfast in God as you already are & for your rather unusual ministry to be performed with the fullness of the grace & dignity that God has given so far & shall continue to give along the way as these times progress forward.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. malachi99 says:

    Come on Charlie stop holding back. As an early Christmas treat a few more pages Sir. A nice fire roaring, a glass of Bushmills, and a tale to be told 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

    • charliej373 says:

      Another installment next Sunday!

      Liked by 2 people

      • Kati says:

        Love reading these, Charlie. Alabama is a neighbor state to TN. How much of our great state of Tennessee have you seen?

        Liked by 1 person

        • charliej373 says:

          Oh, I’ve been in Nashville, Knoxville, Memphis. I stayed in Nashville with my aunt for a few months when I was young. I was once in a little lunch bar in downtown Nashville. Only about 10 people there…but some drunk was singing to the delight of everyone there…he really could sing. I found before I left that it was Waylon Jennings…who apparently was wont to give an impromptu concert when he had enough sauce in him. It was impressive.

          Liked by 1 person

        • the phoenix says:

          Hi Kati, I’ve visited TN twice this year (May and October) and several times in the past. I’m a big fan of the Smoky Mountains. You’re blessed to live there. And in both May and October, an orange cat climbed onto my car … In fact, one in May jumped into the front seat of my car through an open window while I was taking pictures along a back road. There were three of these orange cats in all. Maybe someday I’ll get an orange cat of my own.

          Liked by 1 person

          • Kati says:

            Hello Phoenix!

            You are certainly right about being blessed to live here. We are CONSTANTLY aware of God’s goodness in that respect. We have wild turkey, deer, rabbits, possum, racoon that can be sighted often here. Last year, I was fortunate enough to watch two young red fox kits playing in one of the fields near our garden. One doe, who is missing part of her left hind leg, has fawns here every spring. I have prayed that she will be especially protected, particularly during hunting season. Last spring she had twin fawns, this spring a single fawn. She is a wonderful mother and her babies do very well.
            There is no way that a person could live here and not believe in God!

            As for orange cats, we used to have a very large orange cat that was gorgeous and friendly. That was when we lived on a large farm. The Farmer’s Co-op asked if we would give him to them as they had a huge mouse problem in their warehouse and we obliged as he was an excellent mouser and we had several cats in our barns. Apparently, he preferred our farm as he found his way home after about 5 days and never left again. 🙂

            I hope you come back to our state soon. We live in Middle Tennessee.

            Liked by 1 person

          • charliej373 says:

            Along my pilgrimage I saw tons of grey foxes, but only one red fox. I think the red fox was in California, but I may remember wrong. The grey foxes were very curious…they would come around where I had made camp and cautiously walk a perimeter back and forth, peering at me, usually with their tails real low.

            Liked by 1 person

      • Bev says:

        I just love that she asked if you were walking for God. It makes me realize that I am not nuts. When the contractor who was a Polish refugee (yes, he arrived in Canada as such before the breakup of the Soviet Union), arrived at my yard, I was still in sleep a long time mode. So I went outside in my long bathrobe and asked him if he knew that God had sent him. Darned if he didn’t say yes.

        Liked by 1 person

  3. anne ovari says:

    I’m usually so behind in catching up with all the posts and comments that it is probably too late to say anything.This time it seems I’ve got in early (slow and steady wins the race!). Thank you Charlie for this installment of your pilgrimage. You write so well I felt like I was struggling with you up all those hills! Here in Tasmania we wave to one another along the country roads too. Maybe I should try waving to the city folk also especially as you said it was like everyone receiving a blessing.☺

    Liked by 2 people

  4. Chris says:

    Such an inspiration you are Charlie. So much walking, you had my feet aching.Such a blessing to find Shirley Christy when you reached the fifth summit. By the way, my name is Christy too. I hope to meet you and the rest of the gang here one day at top of a summit somewhere, some day,on earth or in Heaven.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Mary A says:

    How did you stay so CLEAN!!! You look positively spiffy!

    Liked by 1 person

    • charliej373 says:

      Well, remember this was right after I had been a guest at Earl and family’s – so I did get a shower. I often cleaned up in streams. But when you live outdoors all the time, it is not quite the same as simple sweaty labor. I usually smelled musky – not sweaty, but musky.

      Liked by 1 person

  6. Bob says:

    Your walk reminds me of some of those times in college when I hitchhiked to the Trappist Monastery in Ava Mo and did more walking then riding and a few hills besides. Yes that cold water was appreciated.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. narnialion54 says:

    Charlie,
    such a lovely story. I woke up this morning, read it, went back to sleep and couldn’t stop thinking about it. Full of wonder and earthiness. Those hills and heat and the weight of the backpack. Christy waiting for you with such joy! Then the wonderful large cup of ice cold water. Entertaining angels!

    Liked by 2 people

  8. Connie says:

    I am thinking your and SHirley’s angels got a real kick out of helping set up your two meeting each other- just seems like too many coincidence’s not to be God-incidences!

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Peter says:

    Hi Charlie,

    Just a quick question pertaining to your pilgrimage. You mentioned that some people were aware of your journey via Facebook. With greater notoriety, did you ever notice how the common folk dealt with other travelers on your trip? Were the people as generous to others that accompanied you? Just curious??
    Blessings,

    Peter

    Like

    • charliej373 says:

      I traveled alone, Peter. So I really don’t think there was anyone, except maybe that girl, who knew about me when I met them. At the height of it all, I was getting 50,000 views per week – but I never again met anyone who claimed to have heard about it before I turned up.

      Like

  10. donna269 says:

    My husband and I want to walk the Camino de Santiago….it’s on our bucket list. We are late 50’s so you are really inspiring me with your stories….such inner strength and resolve! God Blessed You to experience this.

    Like

    • charliej373 says:

      You get into a rhythm, Donna. You can do it – so long as you don’t try to press to show you can. Rest whenever you feel the need. Persistence is what tells.

      Liked by 1 person

    • the phoenix says:

      Hi donna, Santiago de Compostela is another place I’ve traveled to … But not walking el camino on foot. Instead, it was on a tour bus as part of a pilgrimage to Fatima, Portugal. I hope you and your husband can fulfill your dream of pilgrimage.

      Liked by 1 person

    • Chantal says:

      This is where I am living. Galicia is a beautiful place. Santiago is beautiful and so is the church. At least there is a chapel with the exposition of the sacrament there. Many churches are closed. This is where God has asked me to be.

      Spain seems to be determined that I get hitch, however…. I never knew I had to work so hard to try to remain single.
      One would be suiter has finally been able to let me be free without expecting me to be his. This is the one to whom I taught the Divine Mercy Chapelet. I know he hung on to it for dear life. The other cannot imagine that God would actually want me to remain single and that I would actually be happy remaining so. I´ll be meeting with a priest friend of his today. Add to the whirlwind that all of us were perfectly happy before meeting each other and not looking for a relationship.

      Anyways, I do encourage you to do the walk to Santiago.

      Chantal

      Liked by 1 person

  11. the phoenix says:

    Hi Charlie, Five summits in one day is quite an accomplishment, especially when it’s unexpected. I used to be a cross country runner in high school, and almost preferred uphill to downhill, because both my coaches and my dad who had also been a runner taught me strategies to run uphill, like it’s a good idea to take short, quick steps close together and lean into the hill. You can also imagine that there’s a rope tied around your waist and someone is at the top of the hill helping to pull you up. Whereas downhill you have to be careful of falling, and especially in a race when you’re wanting to go for speed, keeping control can be a challenge. (Yes, I fell down a hill during a race once.) As for water temperature, as long as it’s clean water, I’ll take cold or warm and not mind so much either way.

    Like

    • charliej373 says:

      Well, Alabama summits are much gentler things than Colorado or California summits. But I am glad I got plenty of practice early on on the gentle summits – for it came in mighty handy later when I had to deal with real ones.

      Like

      • the phoenix says:

        You’re so right, Charlie. Never visited Alabama but I did try to visit Rocky Mountain National Park out in Colorado. Discovered that I can’t breathe at that altitude so I had to retreat back down the mountain after one difficult night in Winter Park and stay down around places like Denver and Golden … Meanwhile, I did get to visit that shrine you were talking about earlier, the Mother Cabrini Shrine … and that was unexpected, and helped make the journey worthwhile. Because I had planned my trip to Colorado around landscape photography, and then was unable to visit the landscape itself, but had to turn around on a gorgeous day only about 25 miles or so away from the national park, so close but yet so far. It was like being on the border of the Promised Land but being unable to cross it. Some of us, it seems, were only made for small mountains. Meanwhile, Alabama sounds like it was a worthy challenge for you while you were there.

        Like

  12. narnialion54 says:

    Hi phoenix
    I don’t know what your symptoms were and at what elevation, but if you don’t have any underlying medical conditions, you need a couple of days at 5,000 feet before you ascend to 8,000 feet or higher (the elevation of much of Rocky Mtn. Nat. Park.) My son flew into Denver and attempted to climb to 9,000 feet the next day and got horribly sick. He was able to do it once he acclimated. Hope that helps!

    Like

    • charliej373 says:

      I like the higher elevations. When I visit family at the lower ones in the Midwest and the South, it feels kind of like breathing soup.

      Like

    • the phoenix says:

      Good Greetings, narnialion54 … I like your name … May I offer you a piece of Turkish Delight? One of my nicknames is in fact the Queen of Narnia based on my love of winter. 🙂

      Sorry to hear that your son had a similar experience on his first day in the Rocky Mountains, but I’m happy to hear that he was able to acclimate and enjoy his trip. Let’s just say in my case that regarding the effects of elevation, the thought of calling 911 had crossed my mind by the time morning came, and I had felt compelled to stay overnight at about 9,000 feet because I felt it was unsafe for me to drive the rental car alone down the steep, narrow, curving mountain roads in the dark.

      Your words sound very encouraging, especially if I ever feel that the Good Lord is calling me back to Colorado. Thank you very much. In any case, I still feel like I was meant to go there, and go where I did the first day … sometimes it’s not about art.

      Like

  13. narnialion54 says:

    Good Evening, Daughter of Eve, Phoenix. I grew up in Vermont and love winter also. 🙂
    C.S. Narnia Chronicles kept hope alive in me growing up and I am still enchanted by them!
    I hope you are able to return to CO some day, perhaps to offer take photos of the building of The Shrine at Mt. Meeker! if not before. I will look for you there! I have to admit though, that Charlie’s acknowledgement of the invisible world right around us is even more fascinating, mysterious and wonderful than Narnia!!

    Like

  14. the phoenix says:

    Narnialion54: Vermont, have never been there, but I hear the autumn there is gorgeous too. C.S. Lewis classics are a literary treasure, it’s good to hear they still enrich you! I grew up in Western New York, near Buffalo, experienced the Blizzard of ’77 … And it was on February 5, 2006 when I visited Narnia, according to the date and time stamp on the photos I took there of the lamp post. Taking photos of the Shrine at Mt. Meeker does sound like it would be a far greater accomplishment than visiting Narnia … you are kind to envision us meeting there, and that would be a wonderful meeting. Definitely, Charlie’s saying “Acknowledge God, take the next right step, and be a sign of hope to those around you” … applies when it comes to both journeys and inspiration of every variety, visible or invisible, putting God first, since everything good comes from Him.

    Like

  15. ellenchris says:

    Welcome NarniaLion. A couple of years ago I went on a short term mission trip to Bolivia. We got on a plane in Miami at sea level and got off the plane on top of the Andes in La Paz at 12,000 feet. That was it — no gradual acclimatizing at all. We spent most of the trip at 13,000 feet, hit 14,000 briefly and never went below 10,500. A lot of the folks in the group were very sick almost all of the time. Most of them had taken altitude sickness medication. I did not take medication, and I was just fine, except to climb stairs slowly. Don’t have any idea why. It must be something genetic, maybe? I was in the Rockies once and would really love to go back there.

    Like

    • Bob says:

      The altitude never bothered me much except for once when I and a friend with no time at altitude hiked up Quandary peak in one morning. I had a headache that night as we camped at 10,000 Ft. I have heard a study that Ginko Biloba may help with altitude adjustment as it may improve circulation so it may be worth trying. And I got my wife on 2 backpacking trips in her life the second we did a 3 day hike up and down Mt Whitney in Ca. She thought I was crazy when I suggested it but when she heard an 80 year old lady was again doing the hike and she didn’t want to be outdone! That was in our younger days.

      Like

  16. narnialion54 says:

    Phoenix, photos of the lamp post are quite rare, I’m told. Wow!
    Ellen and Phoenix, you would love the sub alpine forest at Wild Basin, Rocky Mtn. National Park.
    Cascading streams, fragrant piney air, fireweed, dragonflies, a grey fox and in the distance, the eastern slopes of Mt. Meeker and beyond that, snow covered Longs Peak, over 14,000 feet high.

    Like

  17. ellenchris says:

    I am in favor of Aslan’s reign: Always Christmas and Never Winter — instead of the White Witch. But my favorite is *The Silver Chair* Very timely for right now, I think. If you spend all your time chasing the green serpent, it will capture you.

    My husband and I once camped on the side of Pike’s Peak and spent some time in Estes Park and also at the National Park. We were looking down on a whole lot of critters that looked like mice, and when we looker through binoculars, we realized that it was a herd of elk. Our Adirondacks here in NY are beautiful, but no match for the size or scale or huge distances out in the Rockies. I hope to go back someday. Maybe to visit the Shrine — ? That would be nice.

    Liked by 1 person

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