Like many people the world over the coronavirus pandemic is having significant effects on our work and day-to-day life. New York City, where the virus has perhaps spread greater than any other place in our nation, is a mere 90 minutes drive from us in Unionville, NY. Churches in our region have cancelled services even through April. At first our church passed under the 50-person gathering limit, but when that number was reduced to 10 even our small church became too big!
The hiking season on the Appalachian Trail is also on hold. The Appalachian Trail Conservancy has recommended against hiking, and various government agencies have instituted rules to close down parks along the trail as well as the shelters (3-sided wood structures) that hikers often depend on. Some may think that being in the woods is a safe place from a virus, but with the coming and going of people this hasn’t historically been the case. For a number of years there have been pockets of norovirus among trail hikers, mostly in the South where the hikers congregate in larger numbers. It is possible that many early season thru-hikers who have given up their hikes may start over going southbound from Maine beginning in the summer. At this point there are still many unknowns. While we previously anticipated seeing a considerably greater number of hikers to our mission this year, the virus certainly brings us to lower our estimate.
There is good news. And we all need good news in these times. A delayed start to having hiking guests over provides us with more time to prepare for them. There are many projects to be done in these preparations. And we’re glad to have some volunteers lined up this spring and summer to help us with the work. Our friend Dave, a deacon at a nearby reformed church, blessed us with a donation of over a hundred feet of poplar boards which Doug is now using for building projects.
Prior to the Coronavirus pandemic closing down much of our world, Doug took a flight to Florida and spoke about Sola – Appalachian Christian Retreat at Grace Bible Presbyterian Church in Cape Canaveral.
Since our last newsletter we’ve finished more renovation projects than can be listed. Some of the projects included painting our volunteer/guest room, completing bookshelves for our hiker library, completing the basement wall repairs, adding a second washer and dryer, and making headway on putting in a bathroom designated for hiker guests.
Recently, Priscilla accomplished a goal of hiking the 8+ mile section of Appalachian Trail between our house and High Point State Park (in NJ). On a beautiful, sunny Wednesday morning, Doug dropped Priscilla and Maple off at the park headquarters where the AT comes through, and 5 1/2 hours later they arrived home, by foot! Priscilla carried Maple on her back and wore a small pack of food and water on the front. Along the way they enjoyed seeing many signs of spring’s arrival, several ponds and streams, a few other day hikers, a field of grazing sheep, and a few dogs!
Finally, you can be praying for us during these times that normalcy will return as soon as possible and that hikers may quickly return to the trail so that we can bring to them the good news of Jesus Christ.
With joy in the Lord,
Banzai, Hot Drinks, and Maplecakes
(Doug, Priscilla, and Maple)