Day 166 on the Appalachian Trail Miles Hiked to Date: 1811 Hiked yesterday: 9 Trail Miles, Miles left to hike: 373
I awoke with a jolt at 5 AM. I sat straight up and peered in the darkness toward Chipmunk's bunk. It was empty. I felt my stomach clench up and then the fuzziness in my brain cleared up and I remembered that she had to stay overnight at a shelter on the trail because there were no viable road crossings from which to get her.
I dropped my head back down on my pillow and took a deep breath. Then I bolted out of my bunk and ran to the bathroom (it was a mere 3 strides in the camper). Ugh! The aging bladder! Afterwards, I returned to my bunk and snuggled with Papa Chip for a while longer. I was pretty sure Chipmunk was still sleeping in the still dark morning hours. By 6:15 AM, sunlight was starting to shine through the windows and I got out of my bunk and started the coffee.
I brought Papa Chip a steaming cup up to the bunk. I was going to climb back into bed when Chocolate Chip wiggled out from beneath the covers and let us know that she had some business of her own to do. Papa Chip got up and quickly dressed; the two of them stepped out the back door. As soon as he opened the door, a cold rush of air came into the camper. I shivered and immediately worried that Chipmunk must be even colder at 1000 feet or higher in altitude from where we had camped.
When Papa Chip and Chocolate Chip returned, I was dressed and ready to roll. We went up front and decided to go to Dunkin' Donuts for a change of pace. We drove along silently and parked in their lot. As soon as we walked in, I spied a table with an outlet and pulled the laptop from my bookbag. Papa Chip got in line with a few others that were waiting. I fired up the laptop and signed into the SPOT page. It quickly displayed that Chipmunk was in the same place she had sent her "I'm OK" message from the day before. She hadn't yet left for hiking. It was just after 7 AM.
I opened another page on the computer and perused some of the "lighter" news. Papa Chip returned with coffee and bagels for both of us. I turned the laptop so that both of us could see it and returned to the SPOT page. She still hadn't moved. We ate the bagels and talked about inconsequential stuff. When it hit about 8:15 AM, I returned to the SPOT page and together we saw that there was a new "bread crumb." We both smiled and he said, "Good. She got a pretty good start." I said, "Yeah, she's not used to having to roll up and re-pack everything before hitting the trail. Not a bad start time, eh?" He nodded.
I felt a weight lifted off me and was able to focus on typing the blog update. Every now and again, I clicked on the SPOT page and saw that it was updating her location about every 10 minutes ... great! She was making pretty steady progress and we were both pleased. When we felt we'd worn out our welcome at the Dunkin' Donuts, we packed up our bookbag and headed out.
We stopped at the local grocery to pick up a few essentials before heading towards the trailhead where we planned to meet Chipmunk. We had a little time to kill so we walked around the store checking out what was on sale. I discovered that they had a BOGO on potatoes. Hmm, that's too good a deal to pass up. So, we got a total of 10 lbs of potatoes. I also picked up some bananas (on sale), some frozen Chicken Patties (on sale), some pasta & sauce (both on sale) and an onion (not on sale but sooooo good with fried potatoes!).
We put our groceries away and then checked the SPOT website on my phone. The mapping picture is not as concise but it did show that she was making progress. She told us that she'd likely arrive at the trailhead around 5-5:30 pm but it looked like she was really moving along. We decided to head up to the trailhead by 2:30 PM and just "chill out" there.
We entered the coordinates and followed Evil Vengeful Rosie's directions. It was about a 20 minute ride up the mountain and we arrived to find a very crowded trailhead parking lot; 60 cars, at least. As we rounded the end of the lot, we saw an ambulance, a white EZ UP shelter and a few NH police cars. We parked and I told Papa Chip that I was going to see what was happening. He said, "Of course you are."
I jumped out of the truck and walked towards the EZ UP. As I approached, I noticed that one of the vehicles had a sign saying, "Search & Rescue." Hmm. I approached and said, "Hi, I'm a hiker's mom and I'm concerned that maybe a hiker is hurt." One of the gentlemen turned to me and said, "Yeah. I don't have a lot of details, yet." I said, "Oh. Do you know if it's a male or a female?" He said, "It's definitely a female." My stomach clenched up and I managed to say, "Do you know if she's a day hiker or if she's a thru hiker?" At this, one of the other officers said, "We think she's a day hiker."
As I stood there, Papa Chip joined us and asked the officer if they needed any additional help. He said that he didn't think so but that if they needed "more bodies", he'd let us know. Papa then asked if he knew where the Northbound AT hikers came into the parking area from the trail (there were a few different trailhead entrances in the same lot). He explained that the AT crossed under the highway via a tunnel trail. He explained that there's an access trail, about 8/10ths of a mile long, on the other side of the parking area. Then the officer said, "If your daughter's Northbound and ending here today, it's not likely that she's the injured hiker. The injured hiker is North of here."
I felt a bit relieved and nodded. Then I asked, "Did she get hurt on the Appalachian Trail?" He said, "From what we understand, she's not on the AT. She's on a different trail; a trail I can't believe people even attempt to hike. It ought to be closed." Although I was concerned for the injured hiker, I felt better knowing that it was unlikely to be Chipmunk. I returned to the camper and did the dishes.
After a while I walked through the parking lot again, feeling antsy waiting for her. It was about 4:15 pm. As I walked past the EZ UP tent, one of the fellows asked what my daughter's name was. I instinctively said, "Chipmunk". He said, "It's not Jill, is it?" I said, "No." He said, "You're out of the woods. We have positive confirmation that her name is Jill." I thanked him and then said, "So, they're still bringing her down?" He said, "Yeah, we'll be here 'til well past dark. Rescues on that particular trail are always rough." I nodded and said, "thanks again." It was comforting to know that there was a solid Search & Rescue group in the area.
Around 4:30 pm, we received a phone call from Chipmunk and it was so good to hear her voice. She said she'd be in soon and that she was hiking with 4 other hikers we knew. We told her to let them know that if they needed a ride into town, we'd be glad to take them. She said, "Cool. See you soon." We hung up and I moved stuff around in the camper to prepare for the onslaught of soggy hikers and big packs.
Pound Puppy and Miller were the first two to emerge from the trailhead and they spotted our rig easily. They came walking up to the open back door and Pound Puppy said, "Chipmunk isn't too far behind. We all stopped at one of the huts on the way down, just to check it out." I thanked him and asked if we could get them anything. Papa Chip had started a pot of Italian Wedding soup, mixed with Quinoa, on the stove top and it would be ready soon.
At first, they both declined the offer but when I said, "Really? It's hot!" They both agreed to try some. We passed each of them a bowl and spoon and they devoured it quite quickly. Hikers ... they seldom turn down a hot meal and they always make you feel like you've served them something amazing.
As they ate, a big group of hikers emerged from the woods but I soon saw that it was a scouting troop. I sat on the cooler near the open back door of the camper and chatted with Pound Puppy and Miller, glancing toward the trailhead every few minutes. Miller must have noticed and said, "Don't worry. She's with Titus and Log. They'll watch out for her. Everybody does." I smiled and felt a lump in my throat. This hiking community has been so very kind to Chipmunk and us. A few weeks ago, I met a thru hiker I'd seen around town but hadn't talked to before. He approached the Chip Mobile and let me know that he knew all about Chipmunk and us, saying, "Yeah. I know to watch out for Chipmunk. She's everyone's little sister out here."
I wanted to jump out of the camper and run to her but again, talked myself down. I'm trying to keep in the forefront of my mind that she should see that we have every confidence in her. I stood inside the camper door and watched as she and Titus began skipping and dancing thru the parking lot. They had spied the camper and both were glad to be out of the rain and back to civilization.
The other hikers were loading packs into the bunk and she came to the back door and said, "Everyone out. I've got to change into dry clothes." The two hikers, who were standing in the camper, bounded out the back door and Chipmunk climbed up, closing the door behind her. While we stood waiting for her to finish, we chatted with Titus. We asked how the hiking went and he offered to show us some pics he had taken.
The first photo showed a rock climb that was pretty steep. There were large pieces of wood bolted to the sides of the boulders to help the hikers manage the steep ascents and descents. He showed us a picture of another hiker walking in water that was above his knees. I said, "There was a stream to ford? I didn't see that on my guide." He said, that's not a stream. That's the trail. My eyebrows went up and my head instinctively pulled back; my mind was trying to wrap itself around the idea that because of the rains, the trail was covered in water over a foot high in sections. I tried not to show my shock.
Titus showed us a few more pics and with each one, I was fascinated and just a little scared. I was also very proud that she managed to keep her head in the game and hike through such rough conditions. I said I was glad they were all down safely and hadn't gotten hurt. He said, "Oh, we all fell. Chipmunk fell twice but she always popped back up and moved on. She's really a good hiker." I nodded and thanked him.
Then Chipmunk threw the back door open and said, "I'm riding up front." With that, all 4 hikers piled into the back of the camper and we drove towards town. We stopped along the way at the motel where Titus said he had a reservation and a mail drop waiting. I opened the back door and told Titus that he was welcome to stay onboard for the trip to the McDonald's in town, where the other hikers want to go; that we'd be glad to drop him at his motel on the way back. He liked that idea and we continued on.
While we drove, Chipmunk shared a few details about her hiking ... but, not a lot. We parked and all went into the McDonald's. Chipmunk said she just wanted fries. Then, she said, "And maybe some McNuggets ... and a Dr. Pepper." I laughed and told her we'd get her the meal. I told her we'd be fixing dinner once we retuned up the mountain and she said, "I know."
Papa Chip and the other hikers returned to the tables with their trays full of sandwiches, fries and nuggets. While they ate, one of the hikers passed gas ... a bit loudly. All 5 of them laughed out loud and Chipmunk said, "What do you think that FartQuake measured on the Rectum Scale?" They all threw out numbers and then Chipmunk turned to us, smiling and said, "There was a lot of farting last night in the shelter." Pound Puppy defended himself saying, "A hiker's gotta do what he's gotta do to stay warm." The other hikers laughed and nodded agreement. It was pretty fun hanging with this motley crew.
When everyone finished, 3 out of 4 of the hikers accepted a ride from Whisper who arrived midway through the chowing down. She knew where the hostel was and offered to drop them there. She asked if we'd wait for her to return and we said we would. When she came back, she told us that Mailman was overnighting on the mountain and that she'd like to park near us for her overnight camping ... you know, "safety in numbers." We told her it wasn't a problem. She followed us from McDonald's to Titus' motel. When we dropped Titus, he said he'd taken a bunch of pictures from their hiking day and would email them to me. So, if all goes well, tomorrow's hike update should have some pictures so we can all see a little more clearly what hiking the Whites Mountains is all about.
Whisper followed us up to the trailhead and parked next to the Chip Mobile. We invited her into the camper for dinner and she said she had picked up a sandwich from Subway but would love to hang out with us. Papa Chip cooked Chicken Parmigian sandwiches and fried some potatoes. Chipmunk ate about half her dinner and apologized for not being able to eat more. Chocolate Chip looked at her and if she could talk, would have said, "Truly ... no apology necessary ... just pass that plate to me!" We finished up dinner and talked for a bit before Whisper bowed out to read in her truck before bedtime. We tidied up the kitchen and just before climbing into our bunks, I asked Chipmunk if she wanted to look at the hike sheets for the next day.
Her face turned more serious and she said, "I guess." I showed her and after scanning the pages, she said, "Really? I feel like I just got here. I'm going to have to do another overnight??" I said, "Do you want to suggest something else?" She scanned them again, shaking her head in disgust. She said, "I'm really not liking the Whites. They really suck!" After a little more discussion, we all crawled into our bunks. It was so very good to have her back in the camper ... even if for just one night.
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)