COLUMBIA CITY — On Mother’s Day of 2011, a woman and her horse plodded through the sands of a beach in Ocean City, Wash.
They reached the water and the woman took off her boots.
“It was boots off, toes in the water, hooves in the water,” remembers 47-year-old Tracy Delp, a resident of Port Orchard, Wash.
Since that Mother’s Day more than a year ago, Delp and her horse, Sierra have been hoofing it across the United States in what Delp hopes will raise awareness for the disease that took her own mother.
“My mom was a colon cancer survivor and then when she died, it was pancreatic,” said Delp, who passed through Columbia City this week, staying briefly at the Whitley County 4-H Fairgrounds and heading back out early today toward the East Coast.
Hauling a pickup truck with a trailer, as well as her dog, Ursa, Delp left the West Coast last year with a veritable entourage of human and mammal companionship.
“We left with a team,” she said early today. “When I had to go back, I had to re-evaluate.”
The idea, according to Delp, was to put the horses on a rotation. In addition, she began the journey in 2011 with a riding partner, Dan Shanafelt. Shanafelt decided to return to Washington after making it across the state to the Idaho border. Delp returned home with Shanafelt and resumed the journey in April of this year.
“I spent the winter chomping at the bit to get going again and unfortunately was reminded that it was not yet time to head out,” Delp wrote in her blog. “After the holidays I started to watch and wait...”
Delp’s expedition is chronicled on her website, coast2coastforcancer.webs.com.
Throughout her journey, Delp, often relies on the kindness of strangers. When help isn’t available, she shuttles on her own with what she calls her “rig,” which consists of her truck and trailer.
Before arriving in Columbia City, she passed through Kosciusko County and had feed for her horse donated by businesses in Clunette and Warsaw.
“With the rig, I didn’t know if it would stay with me,” she said. “There were days I didn’t think I would ever see it again. I’ve actually handed my keys to complete strangers.”
There have been times in the 5,000-plus-mile journey where Delp seemed to channel Lewis and Clark, as well as Horatio Nelson Jackson. Meriwether Lewis and William Clark led an expedition across the North American continent from 1804 to 1806. Nearly a century later, Jackson became the first to drive an automobile across the country.
As she left Whitley County early today, having stayed an extra day to gather strength from a “bug” she caught recently, Delp’s eyes and mental focus extend eastward toward her final destination — Henlopen, Dela.