For roughly six weeks, he walked along Kansas roads as a sore on his toe worsened from a pesky blister to a painful infection. Still, the former Episcopal priest who lives in Colorado kept going.
On Aug. 10 Peter Munson, still traveling by foot, passed into Colorado and continued until he reached Colorado Springs. The 61-year-old had walked roughly 2,100 miles by then, more than half as far as he planned to go. But the pain in his toe had grown to the point that wearing a shoe felt excruciating.
Finally, he called it quits. At least for the time being.
Munson, who’s walking from South Carolina to California to raise money for charity, canceled a planned Aug. 13 appearance in Castle Rock and paused his walking mission because of the foot injury, which required that he seek medical attention.
“Saturday it was causing me to limp,” he said on Tuesday, Aug. 12, before a doctor visit in his hometown of Arvada. “Taking this week off to see if I can get well.”
The former priest began his journey on March 4 in Charleston, South Carolina. He estimated then it would take 6 million steps to reach his final destination of San Francisco. He now believes, with 1,600 miles to go, the journey will take 7.5 million steps.
Munson hopes to raise money for each mile he walks to benefit four charities — The REMAR Children’s Home and School in El Salvador, the Denver-based Street Fraternity, Episcopal Relief and Development and lastly the Episcopal Church in Colorado. He’s raised approximately $43,000 to date.
Joe Kissell, a four-year member of Christ’s Episcopal Church in Castle Rock, where Munson’s appearance was scheduled, said he was eager to hear the traveling priest speak.
“I’m kind of amazed,” he said of Munson’s mission. “I guess more than anything I’m just glad that there is someone like the former reverend here that’s so willing to do something like that, because that’s a tremendous effort.”
Munson said the idea for his cross-country journey sparked more than 10 years ago.
“I actually heard a calling when I was finishing up a hike,” he said. “It wasn’t audible words, but it was a really clear message about walking across the country, speaking and writing and raising money for people in need.”
Munson is an avid hiker who’s tackled most Colorado’s fourteeners. He felt prepared for the physical feat of walking across the U.S. But the timing wasn’t right in his personal life to begin the journey in 2008. Instead he spent three summers training by backpacking between Denver and Durango.
This year was right year for him, Munson said, so he quit his job, closing nearly three decades as a priest, and started walking.
“Part of the reason I’m walking is there’s a lot of people in the world who still walk to get water, go to school, to go in the field to work, who even walk sometimes great distances to go to a medical clinic,” he said.
His method of fundraising is meant to be in solidary with people who have no other means of traveling, he said. He blogs about his experiences, dubbed 6 Million Steps for Kids, at 6millionstepsforkids.org.
Despite being physically fit, Munson knew there would be challenges. In Tennessee he was nearly attacked by loose dogs, which he fended off using pepper spray. Near Pueblo, he walked through a lightning storm.
“There’s a lot of people in the world that have tougher odds from an early age,” he said. “I try to take in that perspective when my toe hurts or when I’m having a scary day.”
Father Brian Winter of Christ’s Episcopal Church said when church leadership learned Munson’s route passed through the area, they wanted him to share his story with people in Castle Rock.
Winter has also followed Munson’s progress on Facebook, first learning about the project at a clergy convention before it began. When Munson passed through Missouri, Winter connected him with a local friend who found Munson a place to stay.
Munson said he was surprised by the hospitality he’s received in each of the nine states he’s walked through to date.
The trip has taken 160 days so far. Munson ended nearly all by staying in churches or homes of local families who opened their doors to him. He’s needed to camp only four nights.
Winter wished Munson’s Castle Rock visit could be rescheduled. There are life lessons parishioners could learn from his project, Winter said.
“If you’re passionate about something, follow that,” he said.
After his doctor visit, Munson wasn’t letting the troublesome blister, officially diagnosed as a pressure ulcer, dampen his spirits. He hoped to be back on the road by Aug. 19 with the help of antibiotics.
He planned to restart his walk in Boulder, where he’d expected to be by that date, in order to make other speaking obligations his team has scheduled along his route. He’ll spend several weeks walking through Colorado before continuing through Utah and Nevada before ending in California.
“A part of me doesn’t really believe I’m doing this,” he said. “It seems a little surreal to have walked 2,100 miles. Wow, really, how have I done this? But I try to remember the children and why I’m doing it and what I’m walking for.”