Second, my apologies to all of our readers who receive the blog update via email. I typically write and post the blog and then send a group email of the same to over 200 followers. While we were ill, it felt overwhelming to do even the smallest tasks. I am so sorry that I didn’t forward the blogs. Today’s email will have the blogs for Monday thru today. Thank you for your patience.
After having hiked in a blowing rain on Tuesday, Chipmunk arrived with most of her gear soaked, even her rain gear. We had peeled it off and threw it all in the cab since we didn’t have a place to dry everything out while parked overnight at the gap. On Wednesday morning, she got up to cloudy skies and we realized it was
probably going to rain again. She put on clean dry hiking clothes and took her backup “throwaway” poncho (that was $10 at a local outfitter) with her. She looked happy and energetic when she left and was more concerned about us then herself. We assured her we were fine and that as older people, it takes us a little longer to recover from a virus.
meet up with us near Unaka Springs Road and River RD (AT MM 341.5). After taking care of laundry in town and posting the blog, we brought a couple hikers and one very cute boxer,“Pryer”, back in the camper with us so they could re-start their hikes at Unaka Springs Road.
Once we parked, I could see that Papa Chip was still quite tired
so I told him to keep Chocolate Chip in the cab area while I worked on the camper. For those of you who know me well, you can attest that housekeeping is low on my list of priorities. But, the camper needed to be sanitized! I opened all the windows and bleached everything I possibly could until I thought I would pass out. I also “Febreezed” all the curtains and cushions, wiped down all the cabinets, walls and even the ceiling. I was done with this virus and didn’t want to risk any of our hiker friends catching it during the
rides we often give to and from towns. When I was finished, I washed my hands and put on good smelling hand lotion and headed to the cab to rest.
I read my book for a short time before noticing hikers approaching and I stepped out to greet them and ask my usually question: “Have you seen Chipmunk on the trail today?” The first hiker I saw was CheetahBeav and I immediately told him to stay back about 10 feet because we were recovering from the virus and asked if he had gotten it. He said he had not; that he felt fine. In fact, he felt so good that he hiked a 23 mile day yesterday. Wow! He said he hadn’t seen Chipmunk today but that he started closer to where we were and further from
where Chipmunk started so their paths wouldn’t have crossed. I thanked him and he hiked on with“Boone”.
to be some hikers we knew pretty well: KBusy, Cheesesteak, Dutch and a few others. They were laughing and having a good time as they crossed the bridge at Unaka Springs. They hadn’t seen Chipmunk either but let me know they had also recently gotten on the trail a short distance back after spending a night at the Holiday Inn. We exchanged stories, keeping a safe distance back, and then they hiked on. Within minutes, I saw a hiker coming with a red pack. I optimistically hopped out and knew almost immediately it wasn’t Chipmunk. It was an red Osprey pack with a red rain cover but I didn’t recognize the woman. She was a day hiker and I greeted her asking if she’d seen a younger girl with blonde braids hiking today. She said she had; that she passed her about an hour back. She said the girl was sitting on a rock, eating a snack and smiled and said, “Hi”. I thanked her and explained that the girl was my daughter. She said, “day hiker?” I said, “No, thru hiker.” Her eyebrows went up and she said, “How old is she?” I said, “fourteen.” I braced myself for what I thought was going to be a lesson on good parenting (I get those every now and again because of our decision to do this and some of our previous adventures). She said, “Wow! That’s amazing. How in the world are you coping with it?” I said we were doing ok; that the trail is a wonderful community that truly takes care of one another. She agreed and said she thought it was one of the safest places. She said she wished she had the opportunity to do such an amazing thing when she was young. I smiled and was thankful for a kindred spirit.
Around 4 pm, Chipmunk arrived and was in good spirits. She came into the camper, peeled off boots and socks and enjoyed a snack. She told us she felt good enough to hike another 1.8 miles to another meet up spot near Nolichuckey Gorge Campground. While she ate, we chatted about her hiking strategy and the fact that her average miles per day naturally dropped when she was sick. PLUS, we have a few family days next week that will keep her off the trail: Papa Chip needs a ride to Williamsburg, VA to start his Adventure Cycling cross country tour. On Thursday, May 16th, we’ll take Chipmunk off the trail and drive to Damascus, VA to see a few product reps at
the Trail Days Festival in the morning and then onto Williamsburg where we plan to meet up with Chipmunk’s big sister, a.k.a. “the editor” (or possibly Sister Chip??). We’ll spend the night there and bid Papa Chip farewell before heading back to Damascus for the Friday to Sunday Damascus Trail Days Annual Hiker Festival. Basically, she’ll have four ZERO days in a row then, too. Although they are necessary and Chipmunk truly deserves some good down time, they will bring her average down and further threaten her goal to make it to Katahdin, Maine by the first week of October.
We talked about it and talked about it and finally came up with this plan for today’s hike: she’d leave from Nolichuckey Gorge Campground trail (AT mm 343.3) a little earlier than usual. She’ll hike about 10 miles to Beauty Spot Gap (yes, a real trail name) where we’ll meet her. We’ll then all assess her condition, the time, etc. and decide together if we think she has another 8.4 miles in her to hike to Iron Mountain Gap, for a total of 18.8 miles of hiking today. FYI, if ever she could use your encouragement, it will be today. Although she keeps her phone off most of the day, she turns it on and texts a time/location message to us. At that point, she can receive emails (firstname.lastname@example.org), texts (on her personal phone line) and sometimes tweets @openlymtngoat on Twitter. We’ll also pass on any blog comments you leave us here when we see her at Beauty Spot Gap.
Once again, thanks for your patience and your support!