Peace Pilgrim

Before Mildred Lisette Norman started calling herself Peace Pilgrim while walking across the country for nearly 30 years, she became the first woman to hike the Appalachian Trail. And while she did lots of amazing things that you can learn more about here, I think the AT part of it seems most appropriate for a Cold Splinters post. The following (there’s more after the jump that you should definitely read) is taken straight from the official Peace Pilgrim website:

Her sixth stage and final step, at which she arrived at complete inner peace, came in the fall of 1952, at the end of a long and extraordinary journey on foot. On April 26, 1952, Mildred Ryder began a 2,050 mile hike of the Appalachian Trail and parts of the Long Trail. She started her hike north from Mt. Oglethorp in Georgia, and headed toward Mt. Katahdin, in northern Maine. On the way, she made a 165 mile detour, and also hiked the northern half of the Long Trail in Vermont from the point where the two trails diverge mid state. She then returned to central Vermont and completed the remainder of the AT trek in October 1952. Completing this walk, she became the first women to hike the entire length of the Appalachian Trail in one season. At the end of this remarkable journey, she also achieved total inner peace and discovered what she was called to do.

She had been hiking for five months, living outdoors completely, equipped with only a pair of slacks, one shirt and sweater, a blanket and two plastic sheets. Her menu, morning and evening, was two cups of uncooked oatmeal soaked in water and flavored with brown sugar; at noon, two cups of double strength dried milk, plus any berries, nuts or greens that she found in the woods.

Life on the trail agreed with her. Hiking reinforced her belief in simplicity and confirmed her ability to live in harmony at need level

, for long periods of time, in all weather conditions. She felt her faith in God-as perceived through nature-strengthen and solidify as a clear and omnipotent source of divine inspiration. She became convinced that material possessions were simply a burden, and that to achieve a daily state of grace, she would need to maintain that simplicity after she got off the trail. The idea to become a pilgrim, walking cross-country for peace, came at this time in a vision. She wrote:

I sat high upon a hill overlooking rural New England. The day before I had slipped out of harmony, and the evening before I had thought to God: “It seems to me that if I could always remain in harmony I could be of greater usefulness – for every time I slip out of harmony it impairs my usefulness. And when I woke up in the morning I was back again on the mountaintop and I knew I would never need to descend again into the valley.

After that…there is a feeling of always being surrounded by all the good things, like love and peace and joy. It seems like a protective surrounding, and there is an unshakeableness within, which takes you through any situations you need to face….

I then saw in my mind’s eye, myself walking along and wearing the garb of my mission…I saw a map of the United States with the large cities marked – and it was as though someone had taken a colored crayon and marked a zigzag line across, coast to coast and border to border, from Los Angeles to New York City. I knew what I was to do. I will talk to everyone who will listen to me about the way to peace. I’m even planning to wear a sign, the back of which will read, “Walking Coast to Coast for Peace” and the front, “Peace Pilgrim.” And that was the vision of my first year’s pilgrimage in 1953.


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3 Responses to Peace Pilgrim

  1. Alma Cogan January 21, 2013 at 9:14 am #

    Mildred is an inspiration. A state of grace can only be achieved if we choose to live simple lives uncluttered by empemera. I once walked from Brixton to Camberwell with only two scotch eggs and a packet of Frazzles for sustenance. Nevertheless, without wishing to gloop in Mildred’s oatmeal, I should also point out that God is probably just a superstition.

  2. Chris Cavallari January 21, 2013 at 6:33 pm #

    I recently listened to This American Life where they interviewed a young man who tried to replicate the Peace Pilgrim idea. He made it three days before he realized it’s a very different world out there today.

    Here’s the link to the show:

  3. Grant Lacquement January 23, 2013 at 8:16 pm #

    Peace Pilgrim is the great American saint. The way she has lived her life has been a profound inspiration for me. Somewhere in the book of her writings (free for the asking – Google for it) she suggests that if you can, spend some time in nature, open and receptive – that will do it for you. I liked the idea and the idea of pilgrimage. We don’t have pilgrimage destinations in the US, so I started hiking-scrambling-visiting the tops of mountains. They are always a special place. After two summers of visiting the mountain tops of Colorado, New Mexico, and Texas, the message that has come to me is keep walking.

    Thank you for visiting this topic!

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