Day 180 on the Appalachian Trail Miles Hiked to Date: 1927 Hiked yesterday: 10 Trail Miles, Miles left to hike: 256
First, to Travis Z (KCCO) and Larry P., thanks for your comments ... and "Great Minds think alike!"
Second, to Cathy, thanks for joining us on our journey, too! Beeline looked good last I saw him but honestly, they've all been hiking what most consider the very toughest part of the AT. If they are still on trail after the Whites, they are considered the toughest of the tough.
She sat up and took her bowl of warm morning goodness, peppered with chocolate chips. Papa Chip got up from our bunk, dressed and took Chocolate Chip out for a walk. I made Chipmunk her standard peanut butter and jelly sandwich, pulled snacks for her and some fresh batteries for her SPOT device.
Once her water bladder was re-filled, she pulled Big Red onto her back, put her gloves on, hugged us good bye and stopped for a quick pic.
We ran up to the roadway, saw this cool large "AT" and hollered to Chipmunk to return for a pic. She reluctantly returned and agreed to let me take a few pics. We hugged and kissed her good bye again and she headed back onto the trail.
Papa Chip and I headed into the nearest town for free wifi ... which was about a 30 minute ride. Everything they say about Maine is true: it's big, beautiful and very spread out. There are large gaps between towns where I think the Moose outnumber the residents.
We met Chipmunk at the trailhead and were also met by the same crew of hikers who had hiked into Grafton Notch with her the prior day: Beeline, Pound Puppy and Miller. Soon, we were also joined by Uke. I'd like to say it was a party ... but it wasn't. They were all quite tired and now, Uke has a cold that made him feel a bit run down. 'Tis the season for colds and we've heard of a few hikers getting a dose of the winter germs.
We gave Uke and a few other hikers some root beers and Chipmunk arrived soon after asking for a Dr. Pepper. We didn't linger at the trailhead since we had all three agreed to discuss a very serious subject at the end of the day's hike. It was officially the end of September and we had agreed as a family to re-assess Chipmunk's hike plan by the end of September.
We said good bye to the other hikers and drove a short distance to a quiet place to park. We pulled out our AT Guide and did the math with Chipmunk as to how many miles she'd need to average per day to summit Katahdin by October 15th (the date Baxter State Park closes camping near Katahdin and the date which most hikers try to summit by).
Math is not Chipmunk's favorite subject and when she saw the results (which weren't a total surprise), she was even less pleased with Mountain Math. We let her digest the numbers; she frowned a bit and then said, "OK, Plan B." We opened the AT Guide and showed her a few different ideas:
1) Drive to the 100 mile wilderness and hike to Katahdin, summiting by October 15th; return and complete the 140=/- remaining miles
2) Drive within 10-20 miles of Katahdin, summit and then hike South to the spot where she left the trail
3) Stay the course and hope for good weather; hope she summits before having to deal with snow and ice on Katahdin
She studied the pages and noted that she's really tired and although she'd like to take a ZERO and think about it, she thought she should make the decision now. She said she had been thinking about a plan during her 2 nights camping alone and that although she prefers the idea of continuing North, she doesn't want to risk not summiting in time. True to Chipmunk's personality, of course she proposed something different. She suggested we drive about
100 miles ahead, cross the Kennebec River Ferry by Canoe and hike the 150+ miles through the 100 mile wilderness, summit Katahdin and then return South and hike the remaining 100+/- miles that she'd leapfrog over. She said she didn't want to risk not getting to ride in the canoe because that's an official part of the AT that shuts down after October 15th. (According to the AT Guide, if the weather conditions get bad enough, they offer a shuttle along roadways instead of the canoe across the river.)
Hmm. We kind of liked the sound of that plan. So, with that, we set the GPS for a road crossing prior to the Kennebec River location and started driving. I was relieved that we finally had a plan. There have been many who have offered their advice and many who have "poo poo'd" any talk of jumping ahead (known as "Leap Frogging") or "Flip Flopping" (jumping ahead to Katahdin and hiking South).
In the end, we did what we've always done. We chose to do what was right for us; for our family. We don't expect everyone to embrace our choices but we also wouldn't dream of telling anyone how to live their lives. For now, it feels like the right decision. We were all quite relaxed as we drove the 2 hours north through the beautiful state of Maine. When we were pretty close and it was dark, we stopped in a town about 20 miles South and found a camp spot. We ate dinner and laughed easily when we shared stories with each other about the things we missed out on while we were apart from one another. Around 9 pm, we crawled into our bunks, said "good night" and "I love you" to one another before Chocolate Chip kicked off the night's snoring competition.
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)