Day 186 on the Appalachian Trail Miles Hiked to Date: 1997 Hiked yesterday: 15 Trail Miles, Miles left to hike: 186
When we stopped where they were planning to stay, we pulled up to a staircase so that the kids could all reach a spot to sign the Chip Mobile. After they signed and we all took pics of one another, we got hugs and high fives before we headed into town to post the blog and re-fuel before heading into the 100 mile wilderness.
We drove to the gas station and as Papa Chip pumped the diesel, both of our phones started dinging and whistling. Yep, we were in civilization.
By the time she sent this message, she had arrived at her intended camp spot for the evening and said she was "okay." Papa Chip and I were wide eyed and desperately wanted to talk to her.
As if the "powers that be" heard our thoughts, Papa Chip's phone rang and it was Chipmunk. He put her on speakerphone so we could both hear her. We told her we got her message and she said she was really sorry about her glasses. We assured her that it was fine. We told her we'd bring her usually "off trail" contact lenses and also her prescription sunglasses.
We asked about the bump on her head and she said that the swelling had gone down and it wasn't bothering her. She said that she tried to keep up with Talker and the other hikers when she started out this morning, but that without her glasses she was definitely hiking slower.
It was hard to think about her being out there without her glasses but she assured us she'd call and text whenever she could and that she would still be able to meet us at the intended meet up spot. She said, "I'll send you a text about another little camp incident; nothing to worry about though. Everything was fine in the end." We told her we loved her and we all hung up.
I turned to Papa Chip who said the words I always try to believe: "She'll be fine." With that, we drove to a cafe to post the blog and watch her progress via the SPOT tracking page.
While we were there, the hiking family (we had given a ride to) arrived. We talked more and then were interrupted by a phone call from Chipmunk. She was checking in with us and letting us know that she'd be later than expected because of the slowed hiking. We had her on speakerphone so that both Papa Chip and I could hear her.
While she talked, she mentioned that her ankle was a little sore when she stepped a certain way (on slanted rock) and the mom from the hiking family pointed out to us that there was a side trail that Chipmunk could take from where she was to a roadway in the 100 Mile Wilderness. It was a bit of an awkward moment while "Houdini" encouraged us to tell her to take that trail to a spot that we didn't really have directions to. Chipmunk reiterated that her ankle wasn't that bad and that she'd like to end her day early but was unsure about this side trail.
At that moment, I broke into the conversation between Chipmunk and Houdini (via speakerphone) and said, "We really need to stick to the plan. If your ankle gets worse or it gets dark before you can meet up with us at the planned spot, go to the fall back plan and camp where we had pre-decided before you ever got on the trail the day before." Chipmunk hesitated and then agreed. I'm sure it was a bit overwhelming, in the moment, to have 3 adults telling her what to do. In the end, I apologized to Houdini saying, "We really need to stick to our plan. Your information was helpful but in the end, we have to do what's right for Chipmunk and our family." She nodded, agreed, and apologized. I assured her it wasn't an issue.
With that, we left the internet cafe and drove towards our late day meet up. We programmed both phones' Google maps to the GPS coordinates that were listed in the AT Guide. We also programmed Evil Vengeful Rosie the GPS and luckily, all 3 pretty much agreed which way to go, at least at the beginning. We headed out of town and the pavement quickly ended with a good 40 minutes' drive still ahead of us. Since all three GPS devices agreed about how to get to the first 100 Mile Wilderness entrance gate, we went that way.
We both noticed a "new sound" emanating from the truck. At first, it sounded like the thud of a flat tire. I thought to myself: "flat tire ... hassle, but not a roadblock; have good spare." Papa Chip pulled over, checked the truck out, returned, and said, "I don't know where that noise is coming from. The tires are good, the brakes look ok and the suspension ... well, it's not any worse." We decided to drive on.
The new sound cropped up again and again and then faded away. Soon, we arrived at the first "pay gate" into the 100 Mile Wilderness. We pulled over and checked in at the building as the signs indicated. We were greeted by a couple who welcomed us and asked if we were residents of Maine. We told them we were not. The lady was very nice and pulled some paperwork from the desk and started explaining that it would be $12 per person to drive past here. She also explained that we needed to return our copies of the paperwork when we exited, even if it wasn't via her gate. She explained that the fee only covered the section from her gate to the next gate. Luckily, we were meeting Chipmunk before another gate fee was due.
When I explained that we were following our daughter as she hiked the AT, she was quite interested in our story. She asked a bunch of questions and we were glad to answer them. I am truly the proud mama when it comes to my kids. As we were about to pay the $24, she said, "I think I might have a coupon here for 1/2 off the second rider which would bring your total to $18." I smiled and thanked her and told her that every little bit helps our budget; that I really appreciated her kindness. She smiled back and wished us well.
We followed the directions that she and her husband gave us from the gate to where the AT crosses the road. Their directions were great and we easily found where the AT crossed the road we were on. Since she wasn't at the road crossing, we drove the 4/10ths of a mile to the trailhead parking area. We got there at about 5 PM and she wasn't there either so we looped back to wait for her at the crossing area.
We sat in the truck and discussed a plan. If she didn't arrive by "near dark" or 6:30 pm (whichever came first), we'd move ahead with our standard plan. Considering she was likely slowed by not having her glasses and that there was no guarantee there'd be other hikers with her to guide her, we felt that it was important to move ahead with the plan earlier than usual. At 6:30, Papa Chip pulled his headlamp and the "bug out" bag w/water and snacks. He kissed me good bye and again, I whispered in his ear as I hugged him, "Bring my baby back." He said, "I will." Although I believed him, I still worried.
Again, I pushed myself to stay busy while he headed up the trail in search of her. I went into the camper, taking Chocolate Chip with me for company, and started doing dishes. I heated water on the stove top, sorted the dishes into piles, and found myself looking out the side window of the camper every time I heard a noise. It grew darker and I pushed myself to focus on my task at hand. When the dishes were done, I pulled the ingredients for dinner: a family size box of Macaroni n Cheese and a bowl of cooked ground beef I had in the cooler.
Just as I pulled the pasta pot from the cabinet, I heard a noise. I peered out the camper window and saw a few white lights coming down the mountain. My heart beat faster as I jumped out the back door of the camper. I yelled, "Jay, is that you? Is she ok?" I heard Chipmunk yell back, "We're fine." Then I heard a male voice that was not Papa Chip's yell, "Hi, Mama Chip!"
When dinner was ready, I insisted that we'd all fit inside. Odie, Neema, and Chipmunk sat on Chipmunk's bunk; I sat on the bench near Chocolate Chip's pass thru window and Papa Chip sat on the cooler near the back door after he spooned out big bowls of steaming mac n cheese for each of us. We ate and talked and soon learned that Odie decided to stick with Chipmunk for the day's hike once he found out she lost her glasses. Neema had planned to camp earlier in the day but also stayed with Chipmunk to make sure she'd make it to us OK.
After dinner, we passed Oreo cookies around and laughed and talked until about 8:45 PM. We told Neema and Odie that we planned to park at the trailhead parking lot and that there was a decent camping spot and privies up there. They liked the sound of it, so we loaded their packs into the camper and Papa Chip drove us up to the parking area. When we unloaded their packs, I gave each of them a hug and thanked them for looking out for Chipmunk. They both told us it was no big deal and thanked us for dinner. They said they planned to sleep in until around 9 AM the next day and we told them we'd be quiet since Chipmunk would likely get back on the trail around 7 AM, now that she'd have her contact lenses to wear in place of her glasses.
We all said good night and then Papa Chip and I joined Chipmunk in the camper. Before I crawled into my bunk, I gave Chipmunk an extra long hug and told her how much I loved her. She apologized again for her glasses and I told her that maybe "glasses issues" are just a part of our adventures. She laughed and said, "Yeah, right?" You see, her glasses broke in half during our family's bicycling adventure in 2011. We all said our "I love you's" and "good nights" before flipping our overhead light switches off. Within seconds, we were in complete darkness. I cuddled with Papa Chip, thankful to have us all back together safely again.
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)