Day 176 on the Appalachian Trail Miles Hiked to Date: 1892 Hiked yesterday: 7 Trail Miles, Miles left to hike: 291
First, To Andrea and Kevin, thanks for following Chipmunk's story! and thanks for the website about healthy, inexpensive foods, www.budgetbytes.com. Very Cool!
Second to Kevin ... YOU'RE RIGHT! Chipmunk NEEDS that bike! She already makes those same sounds when she rides her regular bike, especially downhill!
After a restful night of sleep in the hotel room, we all awoke early ... unable to sleep in after 6 months of waking early. We watched the morning news shows while we slowly packed up our stuff. Chocolate Chip looked reluctant to leave the hotel room but obediently came to the door when Chipmunk told her, "Let's go."
We piled our bags into the camper and suddenly a gust of wind came and whipped the door wide open, slamming it against the back of the camper. Papa Chip grabbed the door and said, "Uh oh." I looked at him and said, "What?" He showed me the keys which he picked up off the ground. I still didn't understand what the "Uh oh" was about. Then he closed the camper door and showed me that the key had broken off in the lock of the camper door. Uh OH! He checked to be sure that we could still lock it from the inside and then said, "Hmm. Good thing we don't own very many things of value. From here forward, Chipmunk's pack AND Chocolate Chip has to get locked in the cab if we are in town. Luckily, it's cool enough weather now that Chocolate Chip won't overheat up front; we'll just have to leave her a blanket on the seat to snuggle in when we grocery shop, etc.
So, to date, the po' white trash truck camper 1) has a dent in the bumper where a stop sign buckled it (after a town strangely posted their stop signs in the median, rather than to the driver's right!), 2) the rooftop air conditioner was sheered off, 3) the heat and a/c still work but the blower doesn't so it warms and cools ... kinda, 4) the passenger side power door lock and door handle occasionally don't open from the inside so I just sit there until Papa Chip goes around, unlocks it with the key and lets me out (Ugh!), 5) the right front side of the camper is patched where a dead tree punctured it during a "lack 'o brakes" incident atop McQueen's Gap 6) the sway bar mounts are broken and the suspension is worn out so it makes a loud clunky noise when it goes around corners, 7) the U-Joints are worn out so it makes a different loud clunky noise when the tranny shifts, and 8) it still leaks over my bunk and the center aisle during heavy rain ... ahh life on the road ... ain't it grand? But, enough about that.
Chipmunk read the entire magazine article and noted that the article referred to her as the "youngest hiker on the AT". She said that she hopes readers understand that she's the youngest "solo" hiker on the AT. As we mentioned before, Buddy Backpacker is 5 years old and the youngest hiker we know of on the Appalachian Trail. There have also been children from 6 years old and up hiking sections and the entire AT with their parents this year and in prior years.
After Doug and Diane got back on the road, Papa Chip and I did the same. We drove into town, connected to Wifi and posted the blog. We also picked up some groceries and eventually made a simple dinner of soup and whole grain bread. After dinner, we decided to get a movie from the Redbox kiosk, in hopes that it would pass the evening hours.
We received Chipmunk's OK message via her SPOT device and it took a little edge off of my worry. We were surprised by a phone call from Chipmunk around 8 at night. We were thrilled that we all had reception and we immediately asked her if she was OK. With a shaky voice, she said, "Yeah." Then we asked who was camping with her, figuring she'd say that Uke and Siren were there. Through tears, she said, "No one. I'm alone." I felt my chest tighten and a lump in my throat form.
I fought back tears, steadied my voice and assured her she would be ok. She said, "I know", but I don't think she fully believed it. She said she chose not to build a fire but instead crawled into her tent and snuggled into her sleeping bag. She said she planned to read her book until she fell asleep. We wanted to talk longer but reminded her that she needed to save her battery in case of an emergency. We all said, "I love you" and "good night" before we hung up the phone.
I laid my head on Papa Chip's chest and let the tears roll down my face. He wrapped his arm around me and said, "She'll be alright. And now we know that she has a cell signal if she needs to call for help." I nodded but I still worried. It was a long night. I dozed a few times but found myself checking our phones often to see if we missed any calls.
It was the first time in her life that she was alone and totally self reliant for a whole night, out in the wild. She didn't call all night long. In the morning light, I thought to myself that I don't know if I could have camped alone in the mountains at the age of 15.
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)