Day 167 on the Appalachian Trail Miles Hiked to Date: 1821 Hiked yesterday: 10 Trail Miles, 1 access mile, Miles left to hike: 362
First to Robert P., thanks for the generous donation! We really appreciate it. And yes, Miller and Pound Puppy's beards are noteworthy; we want Miller to enter his in the next beard contest. Of course, Uke might give him a run for the money!
Second, to all Ukesters, if you haven't heard: Uke's cell phone recently bit the dust. But, he's a resourceful man and will likely resolve the issue soon. I should be seeing him soon and I when we meet up, I make my laptop available to him so he can at least do his banking, check his Facebook ... or as Uke says, "my Bookface". Love that guy! (And of course, Doreen, he can use my phone to make calls when we have reception, which is getting less and less often!)
Although I was concerned that she was now going to leave on a 3 day hike with 2 overnight stays in a row away from us, I was a bit more used to it. I may be a little less worrisome now that she had one overnight away from us "under her belt." When her pack was fully ready to go, we took a family moment for a nice long hug before she pulled Big Red onto her back. Since it was drizzling rain already, Chipmunk put on both her Frogg Toggs rain jacket and rain pants. She pulled on her orange hat, picked up her poles and paused for a quick picture by the access trail sign. Before she left, we re-confirmed the meet up spot and reminded her to send out her SPOT messages. It was about 6:45 AM when she left and there were no other hikers at the trailhead. I silently wished that she would quickly find other thru hikers she knows on the trail; that she'd have hiking partners.
She left for the day and we found wifi so we could track her progress. For the next few hours, we watched her tracking as she climbed up and over Mount Lafayette in the on again/off again rain. Early afternoon, we stopped receiving SPOT messages for a few hours and then it resumed. The SPOT literature warned that this could happen in situations of heavy cloud cover and a dense canopy. I focused on other work until the SPOT messages transmitted again. By 6 PM, we received her "I'm OK" message, letting us know that she had made it to the intended shelter. We also received a text message from Chipmunk earlier in the day (but it arrived later in the evening) letting us know that she met up with 2 thru hikers, Glowbug and Tinman, and that they would be staying in the same shelter with her.
By the way, here in New Hampshire, the Appalachian Trail is different from what we have experienced in many of the states south of here. First of all, the Appalachian Trail is not well marked AT ALL. Thru hikers must use their trail guides and maps through the White Mountains because most of the trailhead signs DO NOT denote Appalachian Trail. Luckily, Chipmunk has a pretty good "feel" for the trail. Secondly, there are no "free" stays. The three sided shelters have caretakers and require an $8 payment for an overnight stay, in which hikers sleep in their own sleeping bags on the floor. There are also "Huts" along the way that are staffed and can house up to 90 day hikers and thru hikers for overnight stays. The huts cost $92 and up per night. That fee includes a hot dinner, a bunk and a hot breakfast. Luckily, the AMC (Appalachian Mountain Club) offers thru hikers "work for stay" opportunities. Typically, the hiker helps either prepare and serve dinner/breakfast or does dishes, sweeps, etc. In exchange, the hiker/worker can eat after the meals are done and they can eat as much of the leftovers as they like. They must sleep in their own sleeping bags on the floor or on a bench in the enclosed structure. Most of the hikers try to secure work for stay because staying at the huts not only takes a sizable bite out of their budgets ... but also because, the huts offer the only true escape from the elements when the temperatures drop overnight.
You may have noticed that Chipmunk's average daily miles has dropped off in the past week. From all we've read on other thru hikers' Facebook pages and from what we've heard from hikers who have completed this section ... most hikers are averaging 8-10 miles per day in the White Mountains. Even the hikers who were doing as many as 20-25 miles per day in Massachusetts and earlier states, they've dropped off to much lower numbers. The lower number of miles per day does not bode well for summiting Katahdin before Baxter State Park's official close date of October 15th (or the first snow/severe weather, whichever comes first). We've been consulting with former thru hikers, fellow hikers and one another as we prepare contingency plans. We will revisit a pared down plan by the end of September and let you know what we plan to do so that Chipmunk can continue her quest.
As was written in yesterday's blog, Chipmunk spent her last shelter night together with 4 trail "big brothers": Pound Puppy, Miller, Titus and Log. At the start of the next day, Pound Puppy and Miller paired up and hiked ahead of the other three. Titus and Log decided to hike together with Chipmunk most of the day following the shelter stay. By the end of the day, one of the five would declare it was their last day on the trail. Yes, the weather and the conditions was enough to make all 5 want to be done with this.
With that ... I offer you the following series of pictures from Chipmunk's hike the day before. Fellow thru hiker, Titus, took most all of these pics and was kind enough to share them with us. (Chipmunk seldom takes photos; she reserves almost every bit of her cell phone battery for emergencies.)
All that said, we have heard hikers declare it "the end" before and then while waiting for travel home arrangements to come together, have a change of heart. In fact, Hail Satan and Mama Goose both called it quits and then returned to the trail. Mama Goose recently summited and Hail Satan is still hiking North, last I heard. Here's hoping that Log finds his way back, if not this year, when the time is right. Until then, he has every reason to be proud of all that he's accomplished.
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)