The stats for today's hike update will appear at the bottom of this posting.
First, thanks to EDITOR! She is helping to keep the hike update blog published whenever we are not within range to do so.
Second, to Laura P: ... Can't you get that BMX race moved to the TEDx Event weekend?? Pull a "Laura"! LOL! Just Kidding. Thanks for all your support; we all miss you and appreciate the support you've given Chipmunk and our family. (FYI, we do plan to post a blog update after Chipmunk gives her TEDx speech in November.)
Once we all knew the plan, we shifted into high gear. Chipmunk had eaten, brushed her teeth, pulled on her boots and pack and was ready to go by 6:35 AM. We hugged and kissed her good bye and wished her luck, reminding her which signals to send us when to let us know if she was going for the full 26 miles or stopping short at a shelter or campsite. She nodded, yelled, "Love you," and hit the trail. It was damp outside and although it wasn't raining, the sky was cloudy. I hoped the sky would clear up and give her beautiful weather as she hiked.
Papa Chip, Chocolate Chip, and I climbed into the cab of the truck and headed back towards the 2 checkpoints we'd have to pass through before being able to leave Katahdin and drive all the way into Millinocket, Maine in search of Wifi.
We approached the unmanned Henderson Checkpoint and again I climbed out and dialed the number at the call box. After answering a few questions, the gate went up and we proceeded. In transit, Papa Chip and I debated how much we'd be charged to leave the 100 Mile Wilderness after we stayed inside 2 nights in a row. After about 20 minutes, we arrived at the Jo Mary Rd. checkpoint and we decided that I should go in with the paperwork.
When I went into the office, I presented my paperwork to the lady at the desk and she looked it over. She said, that will be $44.00. I'm sure I looked a bit confused because I expected her to say $24.00 at the most, knowing we'd already paid $12. When I asked about the charges, she explained that the additional $20 was for camping. I said, "But, we didn't stay in any campground; we just parked in a clearing near the AT." Then I explained a little about our daughter's story. She listened, looked at the paperwork, then tucked it in the drawer and said, "OK, you're all set. I think they call that Trail Magic, right?" I smiled, nodded my head, and said, "Thank you very, very much! You are a Trail Angel!" With that, I ran out the door and hopped up in the truck. When I told Papa Chip what transpired, he said, "Really? Awesome!"
We drove out of Jo Mary Road and followed Route 11 North into Millinocket. Shortly after entering town, we saw "Uncle Buck," a former thru hiker who now shuttles hikers to and from the trail in his car. We all waved to one another and we proceeded to the McDonald's where I got online and checked Chipmunk's progress via her SPOT tracking page. Wow! So far, so good! It looked like she was moving faster than usual.
While online, I drank my coffee and paid a few bills from home. Then, we packed up the computer and headed to a free dump station in town that Paul (one of the checkpoint clerks) told us about. Sure enough, at the Chamber of Commerce in Millinocket, there was a dump station. We didn't find a fresh water fill but it solved half of our truck camper issues for the moment.
From there, we drove to the local Hannaford supermarket and picked up a few essentials, including a block of ice for the cooler. (The blocks do a good job, last longer, and cost the same!) Next, we stopped at the local laundromat and when I realized that the fellow inside was the owner, I asked him if, by chance, he'd allow us to connect to his outside spigot and fill our water tank. He said that was fine and confirmed that it was indeed potable (drinkable) water. I thanked him and thought to myself, Trail Magic abounds today!
While the clothes washed and dried, Papa Chip filled the water tank and I started heating water for doing dishes. It was a good day to get all of our chores done since we expected Chipmunk's hike to take a bit longer. We also made a side trip to the Baxter State Park office to inquire about summiting weather, parking fees, etc. We confirmed that the weather looked good for the next 3 days but were warned that like any mountain weather, it can change. We learned that there was a $14.00 per day fee to enter and stay in Baxter State Park and that the entry gate does not open until 6 AM. With all the info, Papa Chip and I started formulating a plan.
It was late afternoon when we returned to the library and checked Chipmunk's SPOT GPS Satellite tracking page. It wasn't updating as well as it usually does and we still didn't know if Chipmunk was going to try to complete the 26 mile day. I looked over the data and said to Papa Chip, "I really think she's going to go for it." He said, "I don't know. I think she's going to hold up at that last shelter, 3 1/2 miles back from the road." Hmmm.
When it got close to 6 PM, we packed up the laptop and our stuff since the library was closing. Unfortunately, we only had "pockets" of cell reception around Millinocket and we still had not received word from Chipmunk as to whether she was staying at a shelter or coming to the road crossing. We decided to rely on the "AT Grapevine."
We drove out of Millinocket, towards Baxter State Park and the edge of the 100 Mile Wilderness. Luckily, there were no gate fees! We found a campground very close to the AT road crossing where Chipmunk might be arriving. We stopped there and I walked in and inquired about camping. Although we had dumped our tanks and refilled our water supply ... we were all due for showers. The clerk explained that the sites were primitive ... no water, electric, or sewer hookups ... but that the shower houses had nice hot showers. Of course, they're coin operated showers but he said that you get a nice 6 minutes for every 50 cents you deposit. I had a few dollars in quarters left after the laundromat so I didn't request any additional quarters.
I paid the $25 to camp and Papa Chip picked a site that put the front driver's side up a little higher than the rest of the vehicle. Parking that way helps offset the way Papa Chip's and my bunk slopes slightly forward and towards the driver's side. It was starting to get dark out so we didn't linger. Papa Chip marked the spot so it would be easy to find when we returned in the dark. Then, we drove out of the campground and 3/10ths of a mile down the road to the trailhead.
We parked the truck off the road, took our headlamps with us, and walked into the trail. We had run into Wiz on our way to the trailhead and he told us there were a bunch of hikers just a short distance up the trail. We walked in and saw a bunch of familiar faces, all gathered around a good sized camp fire. After our initial greetings, I asked if anyone had seen Chipmunk hiking that day. Most everyone there said that they had not. One fellow said that he had gotten on the trail about 10 miles after where Chipmunk started, saw her briefly and that she looked fine but that he couldn't imagine she was going to hike all the way to Abol Bridge today. We talked for a little while longer and then Papa Chip and I decided to return to the camper and refine our plan.
Since Papa Chip had gotten my cold, I suggested that he relax and I'd make a pot of soup (canned soup, mind you, nothing from scratch ... I only started cooking two years ago at the age of 47 ... long story that we'll revisit once I start the healthy weightloss adventure blog). While it heated on the stove top, we tossed around ideas. Knowing that the hikers would likely be up well past 10 pm at night, I suggested that we stay at the trailhead until at least 9 PM and ask the hikers to let her know, if she passed them, that we were just 3/10ths of a mile down the road at the campground; that the camper door would be unlocked. Moments after saying this, my inner self reminded me that there was no way I was going to sleep without knowing where she was.
Papa Chip suggested that we drive out towards Millinocket and watch our cell phones for a sliver of service. Chipmunk's "I'm OK/staying at the shelter" message or her "I've decided to hike on/meet me at the next road crossing message" should have been sent out by the time we had service. Hmm. I liked that plan except for one thing. What if Chipmunk DID hike the 26 miles, arrived exhausted, moments after we drove away AND THEN had to wait in the dark, 20-40 minutes for our return, not fully knowing when we'd return? I offered this compromise: Papa Chip should take both cell phones with him and drive out, looking for reception (FYI, although we both have AT&T, on the same plan, and stand side by side ... sometimes one of us won't have reception) while I stay at the camp fire with the other hikers. He liked that idea.
With that, we both ate bowls of Progresso Split Pea Soup, mopping the bowls clean with some thick crusty bread from the grocery bakery. As soon as we were done, I put on my headlamp, grabbed a beer from our cooler, kissed Papa Chip good bye and headed into the woods. He headed to the cab, taking Chocolate Chip with him for company. He drove off and I carefully made my way back to the now roaring campfire.
I arrived and a few hikers said, "Hey, Mama Chip" and one asked if I'd like Stir Fry. Whaaaatttt? Yep! Apparently, someone picked up a wok, some veggies, rice and sesame seeds and cooked up a giant pan of Stir Fry! I thanked them for the offer but told them I had already eaten. I found a place to sit on the ground just outside the circle around the fire. I didn't want to intrude and I also thought to myself, "after hiking a long day, through mud, would I like it if someone who hadn't hiked nudged me out of the way to get warm by the fire?" So, I was a little chilly as I sat on the cold ground but I soon forgot about it as I joined the hikers in funny conversations about the trail.
The time seemed to pass quickly and I was quite well-distracted until one of the hikers said, "Hey, here comes someone." My heart leapt and I looked in the direction of the small white light headed towards us. I blinked several times and started to get up when someone said, "It's some guy." I then realized that it was Papa Chip. He was back. I was eager to know what he found out, but I stayed put on the ground and he made his way quietly to me. He squatted down next to me and said in a low voice, "She's hiking into here." Before I could respond, the hiker closest to me said, "Chipmunk is hiking all the way to here? Tonight?" Papa Chip confirmed it and a debate ensued.
A few hikers were "gung ho" saying, "Yeah!" about the idea and then a few other hikers said, "IS SHE NUTS?" Then a hiker said, "Don't worry. She's good. She's really a good hiker." Another hiker said, "Yeah but even a good hiker can fall and get hurt, especially in the dark." Another hiker said, "Easy. That's her mom right there. Don't worry, Mama Chip, she's going to be fine." I sat on the ground quietly and tried to focus on the campfire. Papa Chip leaned into me and said quietly, "If she's not here by 9:00, I'll go up the trail and look for her." I nodded.
I sat there, glancing back at the trail area every now and again as the time ticked on very slowly. My stomach was in a knot but outwardly I tried not to show it. All of a sudden, Papa Chip said, "Shhh," the hikers fell quiet, and we all heard, "Helllloooo?"
IT WAS CHIPMUNK! OH MY GOD! It was just before 9 PM and she was there! She had truly hiked the longest day that she ever has ... TWENTY SIX MILES! I jumped to my feet, almost falling on a hiker in the process. Within seconds, she was at our side at the campfire.
Several of the hikers yelled, "Way to go!" and "Wow!" and "Good job!" and I hoped they didn't notice that I had welled up with tears. I quickly hugged her and she said, "Man, I'm tired. And hungry." We told the hikers good night and then Papa Chip, Chipmunk, and I all walked back down the short trail to the road. Chipmunk gave Papa Chip her pack and poles and climbed into the camper; I followed. He drove us back to the campground, while I helped Chipmunk untie her boots and pull them off. She pulled off her hiking clothes and let them drop to the floor. She sighed when she pulled on her fleece pajamas.
Day 190 on the Appalachian Trail Miles Hiked to Date: 2067 Hiked yesterday: 26 Trail Miles, Miles left to hike: 116
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)