Day 154 on the Appalachian Trail Miles Hiked to Date: 1678 Hiked yesterday: 15 Trail Miles, Miles left to hike: 505
First, to Eliza ... Yep! Chipmunk has walked all the way to Vermont and still has to walk thru New Hampshire and into Maine before she summits Mt. Katahdin. What takes most two days to drive in their car, will take Chipmunk about 180-190 days to walk. But, by doing a little bit of it each day, she will hopefully get it all done in time to dress up in some crazy costume and go to a Halloween party.
Second, to Jen A-W: Mmmmm, getting stuck near Sugar & Spice might be the best nightmare ever! Sending hugs to you and yours from all of us!
Third, to Doreen and Penny and Sheena and Ellie and Laura P.: Thanks! You guys are great at sending me messages that make me smile when I most need them! How do you know??
3 Second Delay was rejoining Chipmunk to hike this 15 mile section where the Long Trail and the AT run concurrently. As Chipmunk turned to leave, I said, "What are you doing?" She said, "Uh, hiking?" I said, "What? No hugs? And what about 3 Second Delay?" She said, "I'll be back before she gets here." I was confused. Then Papa Chip explained that we had picked her up trailside the day before. Overnight, we parked in the hiker parking lot about 2/10ths of a mile from there. Although the trail followed the road and resumed across the street from the hiker parking lot, she needed to return to return to where she left off, hike to us AND THEN get on the trail for the day.
As Chipmunk headed away, 3 Second Delay Amy and her husband pulled into the parking lot. Amy got out and pointed towards Chipmunk and looked questioningly at us. Jay re-explained and before he finished, 3 Second Delay said, "Jeez, so she really is a purist, huh?" We nodded. Quite a few times, she has crossed the same road twice to resume her hike from just where she ended the day before. Most "normal" hikers don't worry about road crossing milage the next day ... Chipmunk is not "normal". But who am I to judge? This is her hike.
Once Chipmunk returned, she pulled off her jacket and stuffed it into her pack, having warmed up enough from the morning's short walk. I snapped a quick pic of the two before they headed into the muddy forest. We watched them until they disappeared into the woods and then told her husband, Wayne, that we'd see him at the day's end trailhead. We drove into town and attempted to find a good spot to blog. Unfortunately, the spot we chose turned my blogging into a kind of circus act.
We stopped at the Dunkin Donuts in town which had wifi and an outlet to plug in ...and tables and chairs. However, from the permanently mounted tables, my power cord did not reach the only outlet. So, I had to balance my laptop on my lap in a chair, kind of near a table, instead of on a tabletop. By virtue of its name: LAPTOP, you'd think that it is best suited for the task at hand. And maybe it is for a "normal" person ...but, it wasn't working out for me. When I say "in the chair", picture that my legs were slanted forward and the laptop kept sliding down them toward the floor. I didnt want it to fall so it was quite the juggling act. After a few minutes, I gave up on drinking my coffee. It was obvious that one or the other was going to end up on the floor; dropping the laptop was not a risk that was worth taking ... just for coffee. (I guarantee just reading that last line will make Papa Chip "bristle" ... he has a slight coffee addiction.)
Once the blog was posted, I addressed a few other items that needed my attention. I had been communicating with the Ben and Jerrys ice cream Company, natives of Vermont, for the past few months. It's one of Chipmunk's favorite treats. They had asked me to notify them when Chipmunk arrived in Vermont and I did, via Twitter. They replied that they'd like to do something and asked what I had in mind. I called them and got shuffled around to a few different departments. I suggested to their marketing team the idea of doing some trail magic for all the Vermont hikers and they ruled that out saying that their promotion vans were booked.
I also suggested that it would be great to do a joint charity event ...maybe create a "Chipmunk Chunk" flavor and donate a portion of the sales to Hike for Mental Health. They said that was impossible because new flavors take a year to develop, which I understand. So, I said we'd be open to any ideas their sales and marketing team came up with, knowing that's more their specialty than mine. They took my number and said someone would call me.
A few hours later, a person in their marketing department called and asked what our home address was; that they decided they'd like to send Chipmunk a coupon for a free pint. Although it was a kind offer, I was disappointed. I explained to the caller that we were traveling and that it was difficult to receive mail. She didn't seem to get it that Chipmunk was hiking. I thanked her for her time and hung up. Oh well, "nothing ventured, nothing gained". Except a coupon, maybe.
After I climbed in the truck, I received texts from Chipmunk, indicating where they were. We checked our AT Guide and made a few more pit stops before we headed to the trailhead.
We walked across the very well made bridge and enjoyed the views on both sides. Chocolate Chip was a little apprehensive when the footbridge shook in response to our crossing but soon got the hang of it.
Two years later, the damage is still quite obvious. In some towns, there are houses which were washed away, turned over, now abandoned, whose owners are still awaiting FEMA funding. Some destroyed businesses never reopened because they didn't have flood insurance. Prior to the storm, their area was not classified a flood zone. Some businesses have recovered and some homes have been repaired but there is a ghostly feel in some once inhabited areas wiped out by the forces of nature. It might never return to normal again but life will move forward.
We said good night to Wayne and Amy and drove to a few sporting goods stores until we found a suitable pair of replacement hiking poles to hold Chipmunk over until we can talk to Leki about her situation. We drove back to the trailhead and settled in for sleep just as it started to storm outside. Chipmunk's boots hadn't fully dried out from the last rain so luckily she has backup boots (Thank you, Vasque!!)
I admire that his family and friends worked together to memorialize him in a way that would make it safer for all future hikers to cross the gorge. After losing a loved one, I don't think life ever goes back to normal. Forever after, life is gauged and remembered by before they were with you and life after they were gone. Although I know the trail has its risks, I also know that accidents such as those I've read about are not the norm on the trail; they are rare. But, I still worry every day and I'm still relieved to see Chipmunk emerge from the trail each day. I recall my mother saying to me when I was pregnant with my first child, "Enjoy sleep now. Once you have children, you never have the luxury of sleep again." At the time, I thought she meant that I'd be wakened by babies that don't sleep through the night or a sick child in the night. And maybe she did. As a mother of 2 adult children and 1 adventurous teenager, I find I have more sleepless nights now than I ever did. Luckily, I have a few long afternoons where I can catch a cat nap.
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)