You might call him a wayfarer, but Glenn Koster is definitely not a wanderer.
A wanderer has no fixed goal.
The 62-year-old Hutchinson resident in the midst of crossing the country on foot has a definite path and specific intent.
Koster was home in Hutchinson this week, taking a weeklong break as he marks being close to the halfway point of his nearly 4,200-mile walking journey, heading stair-step from Florida to Washington state.
Halfway will be when he reaches Kinsley.
The 9-month trek is intended to raise awareness of the need for adoptive homes and foster parents in Kansas and nationwide.
After he was abandoned at the age of 6, Koster moved through a number of foster homes and two adoptions before he was 13, he said.
His first foster father attempted to adopt him, but was too old under Michigan law, Koster said. He was finally adopted, only to be removed from that home because of child abuse.
A Michigan native, he ended up in Kansas after visiting his in-laws here.
“We were here in 1998 for Thanksgiving, and the day after, as my son and I were walking in downtown Stafford, my son asked ‘Dad, why don’t we move here, where we can walk everywhere?’ ”
Doing work for a computer company, he was able to do so by working remotely. He moved to St. John and eventually to Burrton. When he married his second wife, Charlcie, in 2012, they moved to Hutchinson.
Charlcie, also 62, is a Reno County native and Nickerson graduate.
The couple met while they both worked part-time second jobs at Wal-Mart, and discovered they’d also lived in the same place in Texas at the same time.
Koster didn’t start walking seriously until 2011, when for he took it up for his health.
“It started with a weight loss challenge at Eaton,” he said.
He managed to lose 60 pounds and was able to get off of numerous medications he was taking.
In 2012, the company’s fitness challenge involved counting steps.
“At the time I was working at Eaton full-time, plus 25 hours at Wal-Mart, I was a reporter for the Harvey County Independent and was going to school full time.”
Plus dating Charlcie.
In 2014, Koster, who now enjoyed walking so much, challenged himself to walk 187 miles in 10 days, from Oklahoma to Nebraska.
After accomplishing that, his next goal was a 487-mile trek from Missouri to Colorado in 22 days.
“I got shut down on that three times for medical reasons,” he said, including a diagnosis of Graves’ disease and thrombosis in one leg. “I eventually was able to complete the walk raising money for several Central Kansas charities.”
In 2015, inspired by another man walking from the Grand Canyon to the new Creation Museum in Cincinnati to raise awareness of the museum, he and Charlcie began to plan his cross-country path.
They sold their house and bought an RV, then drove the entire route, mapping out each night’s stops and locations for Charlcie — driving the massive vehicle — to have new places to park every few hours as Koster moved along.
When they initially drew up plans, it had Koster starting in Seattle on May 1 and walking to Maine.
“I was informed by the Washington State Police that three days out of Seattle I’d run into Stevens Pass, which was often still snow packed and icy at this time,” Koster said.
He also realized it would take him through the Midwest in the heat of August and to the Gulf Coast for hurricane season. So he decided, instead, to start Feb. 1 in Florida.
Rather than a straight diagonal, he added stair-steps to add miles, making the walk equal, he said, to walking both east-to-west and north-to-south across the U.S.
“We decided not to take the easy route,” he said. “Foster kids don’t have an easy life.”
He also found no reports of someone walking from Miami to Seattle, so hopes to be the first.
They’ve stuck to the route for the most part, except for a section of Arkansas, where he altered his course to take him through Fayetteville at the request of the director of a foster-promotion agency.
“The director of The Call (Children Of Ark Loved For A Lifetime) heard about us on the radio and reached out,” Koster said. “They had a fundraising walk in April and wanted to know if I’d attend. Fayetteville has the second largest collection of foster homes in the state.”
“As a result, we added one day of walking, but it also meant flying blind for almost two weeks because it was a route we hadn’t driven or mapped. Everyplace else we know what to expect. We prepped each night using Google satellite pictures to see where it was safe to walk and park.”
He generally sticks to state and federal highways.
“The most dangerous stretch was on U.S. 71 coming out of Fayetteville, Arkansas,” Koster said. “There’s a 12 miles stretch there that averages two fatalities a year. The traffic is heavy and there and there no shoulders, not even gravel. You walked in the grass or the ditch.”
One of his scariest moments was in Louisiana when nine dogs came charging after him from a yard. He quickly crossed the street and then a string of oncoming cars helped separate him from the dogs.
“One driver saw what was happening and slowed to stay between the dogs and me until I was out of range,” Koster said.
He walks six days a week, taking Sundays and holidays off. He averages 21 1/2 miles a day, usually starting around 8 a.m. each morning.
The goal is to reach the Pacific Ocean at La Push, Washington, by Oct. 12.
“I won’t walk in hail or when there’s lightning,” he said, but otherwise walks in most weather. He set the lightning rule after a cell tower about 100 yards in front of him was struck one day on his way to Fayetteville. He also finds shelter if there are tornado warnings, two of which he sat out in Louisiana.
“I was coming through the Flint Hills and saw lightning,” Koster recalled. “I realized I was the tallest thing on the tallest hill around. That was not good. I called her, and we did an impromptu rendezvous.”
As he starts each morning, his wife stays behind until Koster gets five or six miles out, then she’ll pass him and stop up the road, giving him a chance for a break. They communicate by cell phone every half hour.
“He gives me a map each day with mileage and designated spots to stop,” Charlcie said.
Even though their data is less than a year old, they’ve had to changes plans a few times as businesses have closed, landscapes have changed or road construction interfered.
As she waits, Charlcie reads — she’s up to 64 books on the trip — or walks through cemeteries or quaint downtowns.
As he walks, Koster makes mental notes to write down each night — he’s planning at least two books from the venture — and takes 100 to 120 photos on three cameras he carries.
“I spend a lot of time in prayer for various people and do some planning,” he said of the hours.
He recently received his license to preach as a Church of God pastor, Koster noted. He’s also planning a coffee table book on historical Kansas churches, featuring at least one from every county in Kansas.
He’s met many interesting people along the way, including Harry from Potter, Koster said.
Koster wears an orange reflective vest as he walks. While passing through Potter, Arkansas, a man running a resale shop called out to him, thinking Koster was part of a road crew. They talked and Koster learned the man and his wife over the years had housed 27 foster children and adopted five.
“Harry from Potter is an amazing man,” he said.
“The idea is not that everyone can be a foster parent or adopt,” Koster said. “But everyone can do something.”
He carries flyers that include a brief page suggesting options, such as being a respite parent — giving foster parents a night out or weekend away — or emergency parents to briefly take a child during an emergency situation pending placement.
People can mentor children, whether through local schools or well-known organizations, or donate items for emergency care kits given to children who are suddenly displaced.
“Eighty percent of kids enter the foster system with only the clothes on their back,” he said. “Groups can put together emergency care bags that include stuffed animals, games and personal hygiene items.”
Koster also had a message for school-aged children.
“When a foster child is in a classroom or school, you may only see them a couple of weeks or months,” he said. “But those kids are among the most bullied at school. Be a friend to them, rather than a bully. You don’t know what kind of change it might make for their lifetime. I was bullied as a child. I know first-hand what goes on. I tell kids, don’t be a bully, be a friend.”