Day 52, Damascus, VA Miles Hiked To Date: 467.1 Hiked Today: 11 Miles to Katahdin:
First, Thanks to Dillon for the link to a very cool mattress inflater project on www.Kickstarter.com. Air mattresses are such a huge part of most hikers’ lives and are the
layer of comfort between them and the sometimes harsh reality of nature.
Second, I’ve added a Date/Day/Location/Miles Hiked and Miles to Katahdin section at the top of this blog and intend to update that daily as a quick reference to Chipmunk’s progress. At this point, she’s almost ¼ of the way to Katahdin from her start point at Springer Mountain in Georgia on April 1st.
Yesterday morning, after Chipmunk ate“goat”meal and dressed for hiking, the the brave (and POWERFUL) Valerie (also formerly known as “Springer” and currently known as “Mayor”) who let us pull the crippled truck camper into her driveway for the night, … loaded Chipmunk, her pack and me into her Ford Explorer. She had offered to drive Chipmunk back up to McQueens Gap to re-start her hike where she had left off the day before last. I was concerned about anyone driving up McQueens Gap U.S. Forest Service Road because it really wasn’t very well maintained and it was outright scary at times. But, “Mayor” was up for it and there was no way that Chipmunk would agree to anything less than resuming exactly where she left off of the Appalachian Trail.
After dropping the truck at the local mechanic in Damascus, Mayor found the driving directions in her phone’s navigation system and we started heading up. After about 10 minutes of driving, I saw the entrance to McQueen’s Gap Road and pointed it out to Mayor who said that her navigation did not say to turn there. In fact, about ¼ mile later, her navigation told her to turn left … into a guard rail just south of a bridge, and then get onto McQueens Gap Road. Mayor decided that she’d skip the “head on” with the guardrail, loop back around and enter McQueens Gap Road at the earlier spot. As soon as she did, her phone navigation resumed and directed us to continue up the mountain. The gravel road was rocky and there were low hanging branches and small washouts that were passable on the occasionally very narrow road. She, too, noted that there were few turnouts and that she wasn’t looking forward to any oncoming vehicles. After about 5 or 6 miles, the navigation said we had arrived and Chipmunk confirmed that it was indeed where the trailhead was.
Mayor and I looked around and said, “Where?” Chipmunk pointed out a single white blaze on a tree about 15 feet off the road. There was a small flat area where one could turn a vehicle around so Mayor pulled up and we all hopped out. Tiny bugs filled the orbit around our heads and we swatted them away as Chipmunk pulled her pack on, adjusted her poles and prepared to hike.
Chocolate Chip was in the car whining (not typical of her) because she wanted to see her mom go up the trail. She typically gets out of the truck and tries to follow her before we
tell her she has to stay, sits down and watches until Chipmunk is fully out of sight. I didn’t let her out of the car this morning because with the luck I was having, Chocolate Chip would fall
off the cliffside or get carried away by a hawk! We took some quick pictures of Chipmunk, hugged her and reminded her to walk to the Blue Blaze Café once she hiked into town. She waved and disappeared up the trail into the woods. Mayor and I climbed back into her car, turned around and headed back down the treacherous road. I decided I liked Mayor’s navigation program so much better than Evil Vengeful Rosie the GPS.
a rental car so Mayor dropped me on the way at a Starbucks where I got a coffee and wrote the daily blog update. She looped back around and picked me up after dropping Spicy Jesus at the rental car counter. We headed back to Damascus and stopped in the garage to check the progress on the ‘po white trash truck camper. The good news: the mechanics were able to jack it up, remove the rear wheels, pull the broken parts out and get the replacement parts. The bad news: the wrong size parts arrived and they hoped to get the correct size parts the following morning. Hmm. I asked for the keys and unlocked the camper. I grabbed a pillowcase and stuffed it with clean hiking clothes for Chipmunk and a change of clothes for me. I jumped down, locked the door and headed for Mayor’s car when she said, “Why don’t you bring your dirty laundry and do that at my house when you stay over tonight?” Good Plan! I climbed back into the camper and grabbed our laundry bag.
I looked closer, I saw that it was much cleaner than Chipmunk’s and did not have Big Red’s signature “danglers”: an orange trowel (for when nature calls), hiking sandals and a miniature Niall Horan (of the band One Direction) doll. I apologized and Mayor and I took seats at a nearby table. Before long, Chipmunk arrived and the other lady, known as “Little John’s Mom” understood the pack mixup. They have the exact same Osprey Ariel 55 backpacks so I asked if I could take a pic of the “twins” and she was happy to oblige. Afterwards, Chipmunk grabbed a seat, enjoyed a cold soda while Mayor and I talked with townspeople and hikers.
caloric intake needs AND IT DID! She said she really liked the new flavor but that the Ostrich Apricot was
still her favorite. She’s having a blast trying out each of the flavors, surprised that she actually likes the jerky. She said that the meat was moister than most jerky, not dry and leathery. I tried it, too and I love how the meat marinates in the fruit juices but somehow the nuts… MACADAMIAS, MARCONA ALMONDS (the queen of almonds) stay crunchy! I haven’t been this excited about a product since we discovered Hydro Flasks during our bike tour: a water bottle that will keep ice and water cold all day AND still have ice in it after riding in the hot sun!
While we ate, more familiar hiker faces stopped by our table, including “Boone” who had regularly hiked with “CheatahBeav” and often leapfrogged the trail with Chipmunk. I introduced him to some of our new town friends and got him to say his trail name in a bolder, louder commanding way … which is not the quiet natured Boone’s personality. It was fun to see him goof off a little and have some fun. He excused himself and we finished eating our tacos as Chipmunk took requests and drew portraits on the tabletop Kraft paper. We noticed a commotion two tables over and the restaurant lights suddenly got brighter. One of the 2 hikers who came in with Boone was sitting next to him trying to hold him up; the other was on a cell phone saying that a paramedic was needed. Mayor and I got up and went over, instantly sobered by the situation at hand. Both Mayor and I slipped into tag team parenting mode. She got Chipmunk into the other section of the café and seated at a table where she
wouldn’t have view of the situation at hand. As Boone slumped further in the seat, I got on his other side and tried to keep him upright. His lips were white, his skin cool and clammy and his right arm was limp and dangling at his side. The bar manager, Pony, came by and said he would run around the corner to the Fire Department and bring help back. He returned with a police officer and a paramedic who started asking the pertinent questions: Had he taken any drugs or medicine? “No.” Had he drank anything? “Just Water.” I backed away so that they could slide him to the floor and help him. The other 2 hikers filled in the paramedics, telling them that they had hiked about 10 miles that day from TN 91 towards Damascus and came upon Boone resting in his tent; he said he took a 3 hour break. They said he had only drank about a ½ litre of water and eaten a few snacks during the time they hiked the additional 11 miles into Damascus. They didn’t know him very well; only started hiking together recently after Boone’s hiking partner, CheatahBeav, yellow blazed (hitch hiked) about 100 miles north recently. As one of the hikers held Boone’s hand and continued to talk to the non-responsive Boone, the other hiker whose name is Mark located Boone’s wallet, insurance cards and cell phone. He found a listing for “Mom” and asked if I would call and talk to her. I got voicemail and left a message about the situation, Mark’s cell phone
number and that the incident occurred at the Blue Blaze Café in Damascus, VA so that she’d have a few ways to reach someone back and get information on her son, whose real name is Daniel.
Boone seemed to be coming around and the paramedics loaded him onto a gurney and
rolled him out to the waiting ambulance. Mayor offered to take the three hikers’packs, the hikers and follow the ambulance but Boone’s new friends insisted on riding in the ambulance with him; that he’d need a friend next to him as he came back around. I admired the two young men who rose to the occasion and did the right thing for their fellow hiker and newfound friend. Time and again, it’s been proven to me that if you don’t have the “right
stuff” inside when you start the Appalachian Trail, you surely get it the longer you hike. Again, I am proud to be amongst all the hikers in what is truly one of the best communities I’ve ever called home.
Mayor, Chipmunk and I headed out into heavy rain showers which started just a short time before the ambulance arrived. We made a pit stop at the local grocery store and picked up coffee (“you can’t live without it!”), dog food (oops! I forgot that in the camper at the now
closed garage), chocolate chips for Chipmunk’s pancake breakfast and a few other
necessities. We arrived back to Mayor’s house, brought in all our bags and talked for a short time before I retired to the air mattress and Chipmunk and Chocolate Chip chose the couch.
impressed at how good it sounded.
Also, there’s an upcoming National Trail Days
event on June 1st in Roseland, VA that‘s being hosted by Devil’s Backbone Brewing Company. The event runs
10am-7pm on Saturday, June 1st. I’m not exactly sure where the event is but I believe it’s at or near Devils Backbone Brewing's Roseland address: 200 Mosbys Run Roseland, VA 22967 and here’s their phone #(434) 361-1001. They had exhibited at the Damascus Trail Days and treated me to a free beer at the end of Saturday’s festivities. The beer was remarkable!
I found out it was a “gold”winner at one of last year’s prestigious beer competitions. So, to all of our hiker friends, if you are close enough to Roseland around June 1st, this looks like an
event worth putting your boots to the ground for.
Also, my apologies for the late, late posting of today's blog ... had some WIFI issues.
AND ... for those of you who would like to see what Papa Chip is up to, check out his cycling tour's blog: http://adventurecyclingtransam2013.com/
FYI, we are trying to build support and maybe even get some sponsors to help in the expenses of Chipmunk’s quest to become the youngest solo thru hiker to complete the Appalachian Trail. We could use your help. 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 left of today’s blog post. Feel free to forward our website link (or email updates) to your family, friends, co-workers, etc, (www.ridethenation.org). Chipmunk maintains a twitter account: @openlymtngoat where a common hashtag is #GoChipmunk and she can receive
personal messages directly to her email: firstname.lastname@example.org. She or we (email@example.com) 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)