Day 112 Appalachian Trail, Pennsylvania Miles Hiked to Date: 1140 Hiked yesterday: 1/2 Trail Miles, Miles to Katahdin: 1043
First, to Hara ... We'd love to see you and your family when we come through South Jersey after Chipmunk finishes the trail. I don't know exactly when that will be but I'll keep you posted. FYI, I tried twice to email you and it bounced back. I verified I had the right address so I guess it was during a low signal reception day or something. Nonetheless, I'll be in touch before we come through town.
Second, to the Editor: Thanks! We had a blast and enjoyed meeting Dillon. (more about that later)
Third, to Little Bird: Sorry for the delay in getting you to the trailhead. I occasionally transpose numbers (hence, the early end to my bank teller position when I was 19) ... Just glad we realized it before we made it too far.
After driving Little Bird to a trailhead outside of town (a little too far outside of town and then looping back after correcting Evil Vengeful Rosie the GPS), Chipmunk and I enjoyed a leisurely breakfast with Jane and Marylyn.
Jane pulled out an envelope and handed it to Chipmunk who opened it and said, "Whoa!" It held a beautiful card full of words of wisdom and encouragement and some Chipmunk Bucks. Thank you, Jane! It will come in handy as we move forward and Chipmunk is already planning how to spend it on her next zero day.
I told Jane that she shouldn't have given us that much but she said she really wanted to. We talked about how we met on the cruise and I found myself getting emotional. I asked if she knew why Sheena had taken that cruise and she said she didn't. I told her that Sheena had gotten a very serious diagnosis and at that point had outlived her Dr.'s predicted expectancy for her life by a year; that Sheena didn't know how much time she had so they took the cruise. I also told Jane that only a year before the cruise, our business of 15 years had fully collapsed. In the midst of losing practically everything, I was depressed and had trouble finding a reason to move forward. Papa Chip said, "Book a cruise." I looked at him as if he had lost his mind. Here we were without a real income, using up money we had targeted for retirement, living in our unfinished house ... HOW IN THE WORLD CAN HE SAY, "BOOK A CRUISE"??? I fought his idea for days until he said, "I know you. If you book a cruise, you'll have something to look forward to. And you'll find a way to pay for it because nothing stops you from traveling."
Once I booked the cruise and had to make the payments on it, I got up every day and found a way to make money, even when we couldn't get traditional jobs. We bought stuff we really knew a lot about at yard sales and on Craigs List. Papa Chip bought bikes, fixed them up and then I listed them on Craigs List, typically at 3-4 times what we paid for them. We also bought sports gear, name brand clothes, collectables, etc., re-selling them to pay the bills and pay a little more on the cruise each time. It was a brilliant idea and it gave me something to look forward to.
Before getting on the cruise, I feared it would be our "last big hurrah" before sinking into a life of poverty. I still hadn't found my way out of letting my business success define who I was. Without it, I felt defeated. On that cruise, I met fabulous people and made some very good friends. If it hadn't been for the unexpected horrible end to my business, I would not have had those experiences. It was the silver lining in the gray cloud that hung over us.
She, too, has had her struggles in life and shared how some very special people came into her life while she was at a low point and traveling. She's a cool lady and her excitement about Chipmunk's quest made Chipmunk smile.
Before you think I'm fully crazy ... let me explain. I adapted the "J-Lo" approach and found that as long as I picture myself looking like her, I'm full of self-confidence when I walk into any room (inlcuding the bedroom!) and I have a good time with most everyone I meet (FYI, my husband is the only one I meet in the bedroom, just in case that was misconstrued). Try it ... you'll be surprised at how well it works. (Penny, I know you'll be the first to do it! Miss you, Pentertainment!)
I jumped in the truck with Chocolate Chip and checked my maps, entered the day's meet up points and then noticed that my phone was blinking. I had a few emails and text messages so I sat in the truck answering those and then pointed it down the road and started heading out of town. As I drove down Market Street, I looked to the left and something caught my eye. It was a hiker bending over a backpack on one of the side streets. Wait a minute! That wasn't any hiker ... that was my hiker, I think. I drove up to the next street and looped around until I found the street she was on.
When I pulled up, she looked at me with tears running down her face. I got out and said, "What's wrong?" and she said, "My damn Camelbak spout broke and I lost almost all my water." (Yes, every now and again, Chipmunk gets made enough to drop a curse word.) I pulled her pack into the shade to see if I could fix it. The bite valve had gotten torn a bit about 5 days ago when we tried to remove it and clean it. We put it back on and secured it with Gorilla Tape and it worked fine. We figured we'd find a replacement part when we got near a Sports Authority or Dick's Sporting Goods. (In fact, we made a pit stop at a Dick's store when we went to the movies because Talker, too, needed a new bite valve. They were sold out, of course.)
I checked the camper and found 2 smaller Camelbak bladders that we had and found that neither of them had their bite valves either. Ugh. I told her that we should go find a new Camelbak or the replacement parts and see if we can get her back on the trail for a shortened hike for the afternoon. We drove into Harrisburg and found a Bass Pro Shop, which was listed as a Camelbak distributor. It was a huge "Outdoor Center" and the air conditioning came out the front door to greet us. Aaaahhh.
Within minutes, Chipmunk found the bite valve and shut off valve she needed so that her 3 liter Camelbak would hold the water. Before I headed to the register, she said, "Talker needs one, too." She ran back and grabbed the bite valve she was sure he needed and we rang up. As we walked back toward the exit, she saw that the Outdoor Center connected to a mall. She asked, "Can I please go into the mall for a little bit? I haven't been in a mall in forever." I agreed and we walked around for a short time before she said, "Instead of squeezing in a short hiking day, can I just do 18 miles tomorrow?" Seeing as she wouldn't even get back on the trail until 2 pm or after, I agreed. I told her that the unplanned Zero day meant that she'd have to hike quite a few days in a row before she could feasibly warrant taking another Zero. She said she understood.
When we reached the Food Court area, she noticed there was a movie theater. She asked to check what was playing and then said she'd like to see a movie on her Zero day. We saw "Turbo", the animated movie about a racing snail. Even as I re-read that last sentence, I'd never believe that would be a "hit movie". She liked it and I ended up snoozing a bit in the very comfy movie chairs. I don't sleep well at night now that Papa Chip isn't with us so I catch up during the day every now and again. We also watched "Despicable Me 2" which I stayed awake for and found quite enjoyable. Chipmunk loves Steve Carell and so do I.
Our day wound down and we drove back towards Duncannon so that Chipmunk would be close to where she left off earlier in the day. We found our camp spot and parked. Chipmunk and I talked in our bunks before reading and falling asleep. It was a warm night but not as staggeringly hot as it has been. Again, Chocolate Chip found her way to the small window above my head and settled in for a night of snoring. Before dozing off, I vowed to myself that Duncannon was not going to be what some hikers call a "Vortex" town: every time you start to get out of it, you get sucked back in. In the past, many a hiker has gotten stalled in Damascus, VA and Hot Springs, NC. As much as I like the town and the friendly Doyle Hotel, even though it's a bit of a "dive" (does anyone use that word any more?) ... I vowed that we'd leave Duncannon for good in the morning and not return until after Chipmunk's hike ends.
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)