Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Walking In The Land Of Love

Former governor to demonstrate knot tying.

"Yes, it's true. Hiking changed my life, and now I want to help others." So says former South Carolina Governor Mark Sanford, the man who disappeared one day "to go for a hike", and ended up with an Argentinian mistress named Maria Belén Chapur.

Just how that could have happened seems mysterious to outsiders, but among Appalachian Trail thru-hikers, section hikers, trail crews, and others familiar with the 2184-mile (3515 km) route, it's simply another case of "trail magic".

Usually this phenomenon is limited to unexpected gifts of food, cold drinks, or sometimes a shower and a place to hole up and remove ticks, but Sanford hit the jackpot.

"We get very, very few cases anything like this," said Benton K. Shaffer, Director of the The Appalachian Trail Conservancy. "Although it's not unknown for romances to develop while hiking the trail, it's like being struck by lightning - you can't plan for it."

"And," he continued, "this is the first recorded case of two people from separate continents, who never actually met, getting this kind of action."

Governor Sanford was, at the time, simply out to relax on a day hike. Ms Chapur, a resident of Buenos Aires, was walking her dog down a path near the Rio de la Plata River, taking the air and admiring the sunset.

Suddenly, each became intimately aware of the other, though neither had even heard of each other before.

"It was telepathic spooky action at a distance," said Sanford, "I knew I had to meet this woman, my true soulmate, so I immediately left my wife and family. Wouldn't you? How often do you find a hiking buddy you know is right for you?"

Governor Sanford's wife Jenny divorced him in 2010, though he remained in office until his term died a natural death in January 2011.

Non-hikers being non-believers, his political career also died, but that hasn't stopped Sanford. He is now promoting extending the Appalachian Trail through Central America and along the coast of South America, all the way to Tierra del Fuego, the "land of fire", and possibly of romance.

And he has started an online hiker dating service called "Plenty of Trips", where other bad boys with tomcat tendencies can search the world for their "true lugmates". "What does the word 'vibram' make you think of?" he asks with a wink. I know what it does for me."

Sanford and Chapur are now engaged to be married, although each maintains an active account at PlentyOfTrips.com "Just in case lightning wants to strike twice."

More:

Ex-South Carolina governor to marry former mistress

El gobernador infiel de Carolina del Sur se casa con su amante argentina

Exclusive CNN Photos: Sanford engaged to Argentinean girlfriend

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