Day 55, Mt. Rogers National Forest, VA Miles Hiked To Date: 507.6 Hiked Yesterday: 17 Miles to Katahdin: 1676.6
First, Thank you, Thank you, to Aunt Carol for your generous donation to Chipmunk AND CHOCOLATE CHIP! For our readers who don't know, Chocolate Chip was a gift to Chipmunk from Aunt Carol about 3 years ago. Aunt Carol (http://www.libellulefrenchbulldogs.com/) breeds the best French Bulldogs! You need only meet Chocolate Chip or one of her other great pups to see what a fantastic demeanor they have and how much love they exude! Chocolate Chip (a.k.a. Coco Chanel) has been a tremendous comfort and companion to Chipmunk, Papa Chip and me throughout this crazy adventure.
Second, Here's a HEADS UP: I've been having all kinds of technical difficulties: on the minor side, I seldom have a cell. phone signal to receive texts and phone calls. I try to return messages when I do have a signal, but to date my mom, son and oldest daughter are all still waiting for return calls. On the more serious side: it appears my laptop is fried ... kaputz ... outta here! So, I rely on public library internet usage to post the daily blog updates. And all of them have different systems for downloading and saving photos to their computers ... so bear with me if you find a blog with no photos. Also, most libraries are not open on Sundays so if you don't see a blog tomorrow ... or next Sunday ... check back in a day or two and I will do a full 2 day update. Also, it only recently came to my attention that it's a holiday weekend. Like the AT hikers, I lose all track of days and especially holidays. So, there may not be a blog on Monday either.
Third, to all of our lovely, new readers in Damascus, VA: Welcome to the madness! Hope you enjoy! And to all of our readers everywhere (Canada, Norway, Phillipines, France, Germany and other small pockets of the world ... plus the U.S.) I offer this: No, we are not your typical American Family but we are having a good time and glad to have you along for the ride (er .. hike).
Yesterday morning, Chipmunk walked off into a dense fog into Elk Gardens, the beginning of the wild pony area in and near Graysons Highlands Park, a part of the trail that most all of the hikers love. I sent her off with a couple apples cut in half so that she could feed them as most of the hikers do. She did and she took some great photographs ... until she gets a signal or wifi reception, they are stuck in her phone. I'll post them soon.
NOOOOOOOO! It's the GRINDSTONE Campground! Auuuuugggghhhh! For those who don't know us well, our family has a long standing and very competitive game called "The Grindstone Game". It was invented by Papa Chip when the Editor and Captain Oblivious (my two older children) were 6 and 8 years old. They were getting impatient waiting for dinner to be served at a restaurant and Papa Chip said, "Let's make up a game." He picked up some of the sugar packets on the table and they were made by a company with "Grindstone" in their name. He suggested that we all had to use the word in sentences as we talked and that the last one to say the word wins. Well, of course, the game has been going on for 16 years now! It was started before Chipmunk was ever born! But, she learned quick and joined the challenge. It's gotten so bad in our family game, that I've threatened to have it written on my tombstone so that I truly get the final word.
I had to put my fears that Chipmunk and I would talk way too long in the night (using "grindstone" in the most obscure ways in every sentence) and book us a site. I called the campground and was told that they only had two sites left for this evening; that it's a holiday weekend. Holiday weekend? Yes, It's Memorial Day weekend. Humph! I totally didn't realize it until she said it. No problem, I'll just give my credit card and hold it, right? They don't take credit cards ... and they don't hold campsites. The only way to reserve it is to drive in and pay. Although, I hadn't finished everything I needed to do downtown, I decided to head up, pay and be sure that Chipmunk could get a shower (she's smelling like a ... hiker). Just before I left town, I received a text from Chipmunk reporting that she was at Rhododendrum Gap and that she might meet me at Fox Creek instead of the original meet up spot at The Scales Livestock Corral. I texted her back and called her leaving messages saying I need to know which to go to. Then I drove up to the Grindstone Campground. I got the last spot left! Phwew. I told them I'd be back later to set up because I don't take the camper off the truck and they reminded me that their gate closes and locks at 10 pm ... no gate codes. WHAAAAAAT? Really? If Chipmunk goes to the second meet up spot and doesn't get in 'til 9:30, I'll have to get there fast.
As soon as I parked, I saw a couple hikers and asked if they knew or saw Chipmunk today. They didn't know her but had heard of her. They are both from Richmond, VA and their trail names are Bonaire and Jolly Rancher. I truly enjoyed talking with them and hearing their hiking stories. When they told me that their moms worry about them, that they weren't quite as excited about the AT hike as they were, I told them I'd put their picture on the blog so their moms could get a good look at how healthy and happy they are. For the record, they are amongst one of the best communities of people I've known in all my 49 years alive. Also, they were so polite and pulled together. From their stories, I learned that they are quite resourceful, they respect nature, they have that inner sense that sees you through. I'd be proud to call them my sons, too.
As the afternoon turned to evening, the wind was blowing and it was getting cooler out. It was a cold morning yesterday and was supposed to be a cold night. I worried that Chipmunk might not have 17 miles in her legs to make it all the way to Fox Creek. I worried that she'd have to camp or stay in a shelter in the cold weather. I tried not to let it show but I felt like I failed her in the communication area; if only I had a signal and she had a signal at the same time, we could have worked this out.
It turned 6:45 pm and I saw a couple heading out to hike Southbound, meaning they'd pass my kid along the way. I asked them to keep an eye out for her; tell her I'm waiting at Fox Creek parking area and that if she couldn't make it, camp and then meet me there in the morning. While I waited in the truck, John, a "ridge runner" was getting ready to hike up to the first Southbound shelter. He heard what I told the other couple and said he'd watch out for her, too. Around 8 pm, John returned to the parking lot saying he hadn't seen her and told me he lived a mile away if I needed help to do a "search". The word "search" stuck in my mind and I didn't like the feeling of it. I took his info and thanked him.
I sat in the truck, writing a detailed note to Chipmunk. I explained that I had a campsite 2 miles up the road but had to drive in by 10 pm. If she got there and didn't see me in the parking area, it would be best for her to camp with the other AT hikers we know in the grass next to the lot. I said I'd pick her up early in the morning and run her back for a shower at the campground if she wanted to do that. I apologized for not being able to get up to the Scales meet up spot. Tears dripped down on the paper as I wrote and I repositioned it so as not to smear the words. I placed the paper on my dashboard and hoped that I wouldn't have to tack it to the Forest Service Billboard.
About 8:30, I heard a voice hollering, "Mom, I'm alright! I'm almost there." Chocolate Chip jumped straight up from her lounging position, climbed over me and tried to go out the driver's side half open window. I yelled back, "WOO HOO!" in the direction of the trail, grabbed Chocolate Chip and jumped out of the truck. As soon as Chocolate Chip's feet hit the ground, she used her muscular legs to bound up the trail and greet her mom. As always, she did this funny, run-leap-run routine where she tries to guide Chipmunk back to me but she's too excited not to jump up and greet her. Chipmunk arrived and I wrapped my arms around her. She was saying, "I'm sorry about the confusion" and I was saying "I'm sorry I couldn't get up to the Scales meet up spot". Then we high fived each other that we made it work and met up today. We hollered good night to the other campers, jumped in the truck and arrived at the campground about 9 pm.
We opted to shower in the morning since she was so tired. Afterwards, I filled our water tank from the spigot at the campsite. Once she was dressed and ready to go, we all piled into the truck and I started it up. As I was just about to pull forward, I looked in my sideview mirror and noticed that we were still "plugged in".... Oops. I hopped out, pulled the plug and stored it, noting that could have been a bad mistake had I not caught it.
After Show 'n Tell, Chipmunk ate, grabbed her pack. She turned around and said, "Hey, we've hiked over 500 miles!" The other hikers realized it and one of them started singing that old 80's or 90's hit, "I would walk 500 miles ... and I would walk 500 more ..." Soon, they were all singing it and laughing. I am amazed that she has hiked over 500 miles and still smiles and laughs every day. She kissed me good bye and hit the trail. We have our meet up spot and back up meet up spot chosen and hopefully all will work out as well as yesterday's meet up did (in the end). All is well that ends well, right?
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: email@example.com. She or we (firstname.lastname@example.org) 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)