Day 177 on the Appalachian Trail Miles Hiked to Date: 1902 Hiked yesterday: 10 Trail Miles, Miles left to hike: 281
First, to Elizabeth B., thanks for your generous donation of Chipmunk bucks! During this trip, Chipmunk has often opted for pizza or a movie (or both) ... I'll let you know what she decides.
Second, to Amy ... Wow! A 3 year old section hiking with her family? Awesome! What a great introduction to outdoor life!
This group of seniors are a lot of fun and we have enjoyed exchanging life stories with them. In the foreground, in the yellow sweater, is Esther. She is married to the gentleman third from the left, wearing the baseball cap. I noticed that her husband repeated the same questions and that she patiently answered them again and again.
One day she asked how Chipmunk was doing and I filled her in on the latest. Neither she nor her friends go online so they exchange info the old fashioned way: in person! Novel, huh? I told her that I was impressed at how well she was handling her husband's condition and she smiled and said, "It's hard. He's 87 and it's gotten much worse this past year."
She spoke of him and to him with such kindness and patience. I know that day to day life must be hard but they are both so fortunate to have a mate that loves them unconditionally. My grandmother survived my grandfather and a few years later was diagnosed with Alzheimer's. When it reached the stage where she required extensive care, she entered a nursing home. I often thought about all the times I saw them take care of one another and how it would have been so much better if she still had my grandfather with her through the illness.
While we were at McDonald's, we received a phone call from Chipmunk. She said she actually slept pretty well, was warm enough and awoke around 6 AM. She said although it was cold, she told herself to get up and get moving. She ate a simple breakfast of a granola bar, not wanting to cook and then clean up again. She deflated her sleep pad, rolled it and stowed it in her backpack. She said she didn't roll her sleeping bag; just stuffed it into her pack. There was a good amount of dew on her tent's rainfly so she shook most of it off before folding it up along with her tent. After she packed most everything up, she did a final look around and then headed back onto the trail by 7:30 AM. Alone, again.
We got her first SPOT GPS Satellite location around 8:05 AM. We stayed at McDonald's longer than we probably should have but it gave us a steady wifi connection and access to coffee while we watched Chipmunk move down the trail towards one of the most difficult sections of the Appalachian Trail: Mahoosuc Notch and Mahoosuc Arm. We were unsure if she'd be tackling those sections on that day or the next day.
While we stared at the screen, a gentleman approached and told us that Esther (pictured above in the yellow sweater) told him about our daughter's adventure. His name is Ron and he thru hiked the AT in 2000, having started on the same day that Chipmunk started, April 1st. As we talked, he told us that after he finished his hike, he heard that a few years later, Earl Shaffer (the first to ever thru hike the AT; who did it to "walk off the war") was hiking the AT for his "golden anniversary" of his original hike. Shaffer was in his 80's during his golden anniversary hike and Ron learned that he was in the NH area that year and decided to hike a few sections of the AT and try to meet up with him. He eventually did and during a conversation with Shaffer, Ron told him that he left from Springer Mountain in Georgia on April 1st for a particular reason. Ron told him that anyone who sets out to hike one of our country's most difficult trails, for over 2,000 miles, must be, at least in part, A FOOL! So, April Fool's Day was the best day to start off on this fool hearted adventure. He said that they both laughed. Ron, I have to agree! But, I'm still so impressed by all the fools who take on this challenge!
We checked the SPOT GPS website throughout the morning and early afternoon. We could tell by her pace that she would not be tackling the Mahoosuc Notch and Arm that day. We had a few errands to run, including a stop at the local Post Office. Although we had chosen a campground mail drop address from the AT Guide and spent one night there recently, we learned that any packages we had sent there were being REJECTED! When we stopped in to inquire about packages and they told us that, we were shocked. We had informed them that we had mail drops coming when we checked in; they never mentioned their "rejection" policy. The front desk person was even a little rude about it, stating, "We aren't a post office. If you're not registered when the package arrives, it's not our problem."
Papa Chip asked if that was the same Teddy that was pictured on the cover of the book on display in the Post Office, Titled, "Trailing Teddy". Ron said it was and asked us if we'd like a copy of the book. We said, "Sure" and then Ron said he'd bring a copy to the McDonald's the next day. He said it would be $15. We told him we'd see him the next day and then Chocolate Chip and Teddy said their good byes before we got in the truck.
We texted back the usual questions: Who are you hiking with? Where are you staying tonight? Are you OK? She replied that she was staying at the Carlo Col Shelter/Campsite and that she caught up to Gilgamesh, Zagat and Books who were also staying there. In fact, after camping alone the night before and hiking alone all day, she was particularly sad. She thought she might be camping alone again and found herself crying out loud when she was about a half mile from the campsite. She said it felt good to "let it all out", figuring she was alone, with only the woodland animals to hear her. She was wrong.
Before she arrived at the campsite, Gilgamesh, Zagat and Books heard her and thought it was an injured moose or something. It scared them a bit and they were relieved when she arrived a bit red eyed, wiping tears from her cheeks when she saw them. Gilgamesh told her how relieved they were to see her and not a wild Moose or Bear. Within minutes they were all joking and laughing and Chipmunk said she felt 100% better. Never underestimate how spending time with friends can help bring you out of a funk!
We all said "I love you" and "good nights" before we hung up the phone. I was so relieved to know that she was camping with the other 3 hikers that she knew. I was also glad that she'd have company hiking through the Mahoosuck Notch and Arm the next day. So many hikers have warned me not to let her hike that section alone. Most of the hikers "spot" each other through that section. In fact, we heard that "Black Squatch" hiked it the day before, injured his shoulder badly enough that he couldn't carry his pack. He backtracked to a shelter where he planned to rest for a day and then take a non-AT trail down to a roadway and get into town.
Papa Chip and I cuddled up with the laptop and another Redbox movie ... Argo. We hadn't seen it; was just never available during prior trips to the movie rental kiosk. It was a very well made movie and a great distraction for the night. Towards the end of the movie, it hit me. Wow! Chipmunk is in Maine ... her final state on the AT. We fell asleep and I think we both slept better knowing that Chipmunk was amongst friends, out in the wild.
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)