Day 164 on the Appalachian Trail Miles Hiked to Date: 1794 Hiked yesterday: 2 Trail Miles, Miles left to hike: 389
First, Thanks to Gmom for your generous donation. Chipmunk is super excited about the idea of possibly get a hotel room; it's been about 2 months since she's watched TV and relaxed in a regular sized bed. Also, she's super excited about the knitting machine you offered her. When the hiking gets mentally hard, she designs knitted items in her mind that she plans to make for Christmas gifts.
Second, Kudos to Uncle Jack! Our 84 year old uncle (Gmom's brother) recently completed a 500+ mile bicycle tour from Paris to Amsterdam. I'm guessing that adventure runs in the family ... and apparently most of us don't think we are too old or too young to "spread our wings".
Chipmunk is no stranger to hiking in the rain and she is one of the few hikers who won't delay hiking because of it. In fact, she first conceived the idea of hiking the entire AT while we hiked in the rain at Shenandoah National Park, almost a year ago. Mind you, she doesn't often wish for rain while hiking ... unless she's hot.
We straightened up the camper, secured everything and just before we climbed into the cab to drive back into town, it started raining. We quickly got in and Papa Chip turned the wipers on as we drove down the mountain. By the time we got to the local McDonald's, it was raining hard. My heart sank. Poor Chipmunk was probably getting soaked, I thought.
It was raining so hard that I told Papa Chip that we should wait until it lets up before we dash into McDonald's and get online. I didn't want to risk it soaking through my bookbag and getting the laptop and my phone wet. They are vital tools for managing this adventure.
Around 9 AM, I got a text message from Whisper letting me know that Mailman changed his hike plan and decided not to hike due to the weather. I understood. I wouldn't want to hike out in this weather either. She asked if we'd seen the latest weather report. I refreshed my phone's weather forecast and saw that it now called for Thunderstorms and Lightning late morning and again late evening. CRAP! I know that Chipmunk knows how and where to take cover but I hated the idea of her being on the mountain during such a storm.
I was thrilled when I received this message to the left. Not only did it demonstrate that she was using good common sense but that she truly knows she can "pull the plug" on any hike plan when she sees fit. Yes, she does apologize in the message but that's Chipmunk's style. She never wants to inconvenience anyone and worries that Papa Chip and I are doing "too much" as it is to help with her adventure.
Simultaneously, we received text messages from Whisper who was helping out a few other hikers with a ride. Apparently, Little Bear, Siren and Stretch had hiked out the previous day, got caught in the overnight hail storm and had to emergency camp in their tents. They texted Whisper (who now has Mailman's truck at her disposal) requesting a ride back to civilization and safety.
Whisper texted us to let us know that Chipmunk was at the same trailhead where she was waiting to pick up hikers. In fact, Chipmunk was following another protocol we have in place. If ever she arrives at a trailhead before us, she is to quickly check for us and then return to the woods, far enough in from the trailhead not to be spotted by any passersby. This is especially important when we are meeting her in towns. During road crossings, she stands back and waits for it to be clear of passing vehicles and pedestrians before she emerges, crosses the road quickly and returns to the safe cover of the forest.
Whisper had seen her emerge for just a moment from the trailhead while they waited for the other hikers and then disappear back into the woods. Mailman was with her and offered to run out in the rain and invite her to wait with them in the truck. Since Chipmunk didn't recognize the truck and didn't recognize Mailman in his rain gear ... she followed the plan and stayed back out of sight. When she saw him jump out of the truck and run towards the trailhead, she pulled her pepper spray and defensively positioned one of her hiking poles out in front of her. I think she scared him when he ducked into the trailhead opening. Once she realized it was Mailman, she apologized and started to explain. He said it was okay and invited her to join them at the truck while she waited for us to arrive.
As we drove up the mountain, the rain let up substantially and was now barely a drizzle. We turned into the trailhead parking lot and I saw a very soaking wet Chipmunk! She was only half smiling and obviously not very happy. We got out of the truck and approached her together. I hugged her first while she started explaining that there were loud claps of thunder and lightning not too far away. She had hiked a little over a mile up the mountain and said that the trail resembled more of a stream than a path. I listened and then Papa Chip and I both assured her that she'd made the right decision. In the end, we all concluded that it was better to end your hiking day early than to end your entire hike early due to an injury.
We thanked Whisper and Mailman for all their kindness and then waited with them for the other hikers to come in, just in case they needed assistance. They didn't and one by one they emerged from the trailhead. First, Siren walked out and told us how they'd hiked until the storm took a turn the night before and then hurriedly set up their tents. As she talked, Stretch, Little Bear and his dog, Riner, emerged from the woods. When they started talking about all the hail, Stretch pulled up pictures on her phone that showed hail the size of grapes! Wow! I was really glad that Chipmunk was in the camper the night of the hail storm.
Once everyone was safe, we told them we were going to head out and take advantage of the down time together. We drove back down the mountain and once we had cell reception again, I called Eastern Mountain Sports to see if a "mail drop" we were expecting had arrived. It had! After Chipmunk changed into dry town clothes, we pointed the truck towards the store and drove in the on again/off again rain to EMS.
When Chipmunk approached the front desk at EMS to inquire about her package, the EMS clerk asked what her trail name was. She said, "Chipmunk." He said, "Cool. We've heard about you. I've got your package right here. Keep up the good work!" We stepped outside in front of the store and Chipmunk excitedly opened the large box.
The supermarket was small so their selection of Haagen Dazs flavors consisted of Chocolate, Vanilla Bean, Coffee and Dulce de Leche. Without hesitation, Chipmunk chose Chocolate. We returned to the camper for the taste test. Chipmunk's conclusion: "Mmmm. That is really good. I wish there were more flavors to choose from; maybe at another store?" I assured her that Haagen Dazs makes a few more flavors and she inquired, "Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough?" I told her I wasn't sure but that we now have reason to check it out at the different grocery stores as we head North. She pointed out, "and South," with a wry smile on her face. We spent the rest of the day relaxing and then drove up back up to the trailhead for the night. (Thanks again, Aunt Carol!)
As Chipmunk got ready for bed, she turned and said, "It really stinks that I hiked about 2 miles this morning and that it won't count towards my trail milage. I have to go out tomorrow morning and re-hike that same section." I looked at her and nodded, saying, "Yes. That's true. But, you made the right decision and sometimes it's better to take a few steps backward in order to move forward." She agreed and then we said our "good nights" and "I love you's" before she rolled over, pulled her covers up and read with her headlamp.
Adventure Is Not Just for Sexy People
I posted my monthly weight loss and fitness update last Friday. On Saturday, I received this message on Facebook:
Dear WA Friends,
I’ve liked and followed your posts here on FB for some time now. I agree with the premiss [sic] of what you are doing, absolutely!
What I have issue with is many of your posts feature unhealthy, overweight women as some type of fitness examples. I know we all need to start somewhere but the post featuring Jen losing only 5 lbs was just too much.
If this was “Weight Watchers” magazine, I could see articles like that as being inspirational. However, you are “Women’s Adventure” so my expectation is a bit different. Being that heavy and never having ridden a road bike until now makes you look like a poser.
Hearing about someone that heavy has lost only 5lbs after a month pretty much confirms that.
I wish Jen and all of you every continued success but I’m pretty much here [sic]. I didn’t post anything negative on your page but wrote you directly. I would never want to hurt anyone’s feelings but I’m sure I’m not the only one who feels this way.
Female Reader (name removed)
... and Womens Adventure writer Jen's Response:
Wow. I had to reread it a couple of times before it actually sunk in. Then I burst into tears. I couldn’t believe that a stranger would take the time to write such a cruel email to someone who’s actually trying hard to change. Coming from another woman, it’s even worse. As former Secretary of State Madeline Albright has said numerous times, “there’s a special place in hell for women who don’t help other women.” We work hard to foster a supportive community of women at this magazine. God knows, it’s hard enough having a vagina in this world.
This message was meant to cut me down and de-motivate me. And it worked. After reading it, I felt deeply ashamed: ashamed of my body, ashamed for trying, ashamed for failing, ashamed for working at Women’s Adventure when I am obviously “unhealthy, overweight, and a poser.”
I felt so ashamed, that although I was in tears, I was scared to call my husband for support. I feared that after reading the message to him, he would take the side of the writer—that he would see the light of day for the first time…. “Thank you for clearing the cobwebs from my eyes. My wife is just as you describe her. Why on earth did I ever marry her?”
Dr. Brene Brown of TED Talk fame, and who has more recently gained notoriety in Oprah Magazine, describes shame as “the intensely painful feeling that we are unworthy of love and belonging.” By calling me a poser and “heavy” numerous times, the message I heard was: “You don’t belong here.” Even at 37-years-old, I find that this message still has tremendous power. I was instantly flooded with vivid sensory memories of feeling unwanted, unloved as a child and teenager—the odd, chubby girl, the loser.
Our magazine is not just for sexy, buff women. There’s a gazillion other magazines that can show you airbrushed photos of Barbie dolls with cut biceps. Women’s Adventure magazine’s mission is to inspire women to try new things, move out of their comfort zones, and challenge them to grow, improve themselves both physically and mentally. Our magazine celebrates discovery of both the self and the world. We aspire to create a magazine that tells you anything is possible. The journey begins with a single step.
We hope to encourage women to not wait to discover their stronger, braver, happier sides—do it today. It doesn’t matter if you think you’re too old, too young, too fat, too weak.
Don’t wait until you “look good” in spandex to start biking; don’t wait until you feel comfortable in a bathing suit to start standup paddleboarding; don’t put off that dream vacation another year. Go now.
While we will continue to support all of the amazing female athletes who dazzle us with their remarkable accomplishments, we are also here for the woman who has never camped overnight in the woods, the woman who’s never biked 10 miles, the woman who’s never gone snowshoeing in a quiet forest in the dead of winter…but wants to.
Since I’ve started blogging about my journey, I’ve gotten numerous comments and personal messages from other women that simply say: “I’m like you.” It’s as if they’re asking, “Is it really okay for me to be here?”
The answer is YES! We welcome you with open arms.
Trying new things and challenging yourself will NEVER make you a poser. In fact, it makes you an inspiration to others.
Adventure is not just for “sexy” people. It is a state of mind. So, go forth, try new things, explore your world, and take one or two people with you along the way.
Be brave. Be kind. Be you.
After reading those words, I, Tammy Warren, declare that as of this day, let it be known that the era of "it's better to look good than feel good" is OVER! We need to stop judging one another, stop shaming one another because we don't fit old-fashioned ideas of what we are "supposed" to look like. In the words of Chipmunk, "I think it's important to show what my body can do instead of what it looks like." Kudos to both Womens Adventure Magazine writer Jennifer Davis-Flynn (for those words of wisdom and strength) and to Chipmunk for embracing the same ideas.
If you enjoy reading the story of our adventure, and you’d like to send some “Trail Magic” to Chipmunk, click on the “Donate” button at the upper right corner of today’s blog post. Chipmunk maintains a twitter account: @openlymtngoat where a common hashtag is #GoChipmunk . She (or we) will try to answer any questions you may have about her hike and this family adventure.
Thanks again for all your support,
Mama Chip, Papa Chip, Chipmunk and her dog, Chocolate Chip
(Tammy, Jay, Neva and Coco)