Day 117 on the Appalachian Trail Miles Hiked to Date: 1211 Hiked yesterday: 15 Trail Miles, Miles left to hike: 972
First, to all our friends in Jersey and Pennsylvania that we haven't gotten to meet up with, please accept our apologies. Since our extended families are mostly from Jersey, we've been enjoying some wonderful family visits and have decided to allot more time for meeting up with friends on our way back from Maine.
Second, to Heather (whose mom is a hiker), thanks for being a trail angel! Hikers' lives depend on trail angels who give them rides into town to re-supply, who comfort them when they are overwhelmed by all the trail hands them, who get them to medical care when needed. It not only "takes a village to raise a child"; it takes a community including trail angels, hostels, restaurants, clinics and more to get a hiker successfully on, thru and off the Appalachian Trail.
After a pretty good night's sleep, Chipmunk was on the trail by 7AM. She had a 15 mile day ahead of her with no meet up spots until the end of the day. She ate, dressed and kissed & hugged me good bye. I reminded her to text me updates since we had family coming to visit in the evening. She agreed, waved good bye and disappeared into the woods.
After she hung up, I told her I knew Snacks and asked who else needed a ride. She said, "Hail Satan" needed a ride. I looked at her and said, "Now that's an interesting trail name." She said, "Yeah, I don't know him real well but he seems O.K." By the time we pulled up to the store, 3 more hikers got word that the "Chip Mobile" was local and asked to also ride with us. I parked and hopped out to open the back door and said, "Hi, Beaver!" to a hiker I hadn't seen since Damascus. The other hikers looked at me like I was nuts and Beaver said, "Uh, I don't use that trail name any more. Now, I'm Hail Satan." I said, "Oh", thinking to myself that hikers usually have a reason for changing their trail names and I wondered what Beaver's was. One hiker changed his because he got a bad reputation amongst the women on the trail; another changed his when he learned that the forest rangers were looking for him because he had carved/written his trail name on so much government property. Hmmm... I was curious but I didn't ask why Beaver is now Hail Satan.
I dropped them all at the Walmart, picked up some essentials and then offered to drop them some place along my way back into town. They all opted to ride along and get out close to the trailhead. It was great to see Gilgamesh (in the dark blue shirt and head bandana); he's a sweetheart and I'm rooting for him to make it all the way to Maine. He hikes with Rebar poles that weigh 8 lbs. a piece! He's hoping to have some nice "guns" (arm muscles) to show off once he summits!
I had some time to kill before our guests for the evening arrived so I cleaned up the camper. My son, "Brother Chip" agreed to bring Chipmunk's Great Grandmom "Gmom" and their Great Aunt Janice up to see us. Gmom is legally blind and hasn't driven in a few years; Aunt Janice is visiting from Norway and welcomed the opportunity to reconnect with us during her stay in South Jersey.
Of course, in real life, Owls do eat Chipmunks and other small woodland animals. In fact, they eat them whole and they later "ralph up" owl pellets which are a combination of bones, fur and feathers that appear on the forest floor in a neat little ball. They are often collected and dissected in science education programs.
Luckily, Brown Owl (Aunt Janice) didn't ralph up even one pellet during our visit! (Nor did she gobble up Chipmunk!!)
Brother Chip brought Chipmunk a few awesome gifts, too: A Batman comis and Sherlock Holmes (the T.V. Show) on DVD. Thanks, Brother Chip! We're both going to enjoy that at the end of the hiking day!
Just about the time the camper signing and goodie transfer was done, I got a call from Chipmunk letting me know she was close to the trailhead. Brother Chip and Brown Owl hopped into his car, Gmom hauled herself up into the PWTTC (Po White Trash Truck Camper) and we drove to the trailhead to wait for her arrival.
Although the A.T. Guide gave an intersection in the town, I saw white blazes along one of the roads that led to a trailhead so I turned and parked one block from the intersection. Brother Chip parked next to me and said that Brown Owl and he were going to walk into the woods and see if they could surprise her. Gmom and I waved bye to them and went on talking. Gmom coughed and asked if I'd get her water bottle from the back seat of Brother Chip's car. His windows were down but the doors were locked so I reached in to unlock the back door and was met with a blaring car alarm. Auuuugggghhh!
I tried re-locking the door but it didn't work. I hoped that Brother Chip wasn't too far into the forest to hear it ... I'm sure he wasn't because I think Papa Chip might have heard it out in Idaho (with his bicycle tour)! Brother Chip came running from the woods and reset the alarm as I apologized and got Gmom's water. He laughed and jogged back towards the woods, saying he hopes he can catch up to Aunt Janice (Brown Owl) since she was skipping and running into the woods.
No sooner did they leave than I noticed a hiker at the intersection ahead. It was Chipmunk and she spotted the PWTTC and waved her poles as she headed towards us. Uh-Oh! At that moment, I realized I had inadvertently sent Brother Chip and Brown Owl on a "wild goose chase". I sent them North on the trail where Chipmunk would be hiking the following day. Oops! I called Brother Chip's phone and got voice mail. Chipmunk dropped her pack and said, "I'll go get them." As she left, my phone rang and it was Brother Chip. I told him to head back; that Chipmunk was here. Luckily, the three of them emerged from the woods smiling and laughing together.
We piled back into vehicles and headed to the only Chinese Buffet in town, Chipmunk's pick! It offered a good sized selection and we all made several trips to the many warming stations. At the table, Gmom and I talked at one end while Brother Chip, Chipmunk and Brown Owl talked and laughed at the other end. Brother Chip and Brown Owl discovered that they have a lot more in common than they ever knew. Apparently, they play the same uncommon board games and well, are ... "super nerds"! Lol! They're both brilliant and have a similar sense of humor. Over the years, Brother Chip has seen Brown Owl only every few years, usually at a Christmas gathering at Gmom's. It was nice to see them connecting as adults.
Brother Chip said something that cracked me up and when he commented on my "chicken laugh", one of the kitchen staff nearby started laughing and pointing at me, nodding his head. I guess "chicken laugh" translates in any language; I'm just glad the fellow had a good laugh! Laughing is definitely a terrific way to start, end and live every day!
Thanks again, Brother Chip, Gmom and Brown Owl for making the long trip to see us and spoiling us with Trail Magic! You guys are terrific! I really wish Papa Chip and the Editor could have joined us, too. I love you all!
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)