Yesterday morning, Papa Chip and I awoke after a restless night of sleep because Chipmunk stayed at a shelter. Although we received her SPOT “ok” message, it’s still hard not having her with us at night. We secured our stuff in the camper, started up the truck and decided to try a different Wifi spot than the typical McDonald’s. Using our Wifi finder app, we found that Wendy’s offered Wifi so I called them at 9:30 and asked if they had Wifi and a place to plug in my laptop. A very nice lady said, “yes, we have both but we don’t open until 10 AM”. I said, “Great! I’m posting online updates to family and friends about my daughter’s AT Adventure and we’ll have lunch at your restaurant so we can go online”. She said, “OK”. With half an hour to kill, we headed to the local Laundromat.
It was empty and we hauled in our rolling luggage bag of dirty laundry. I loaded 2 machines with Whites and Colors and laundry detergent and then started feeding them quarters. Immediately, quarters were jamming and then returning on each machine. Ugh! Did I mention the place was empty? No attendant? So, Papa Chip joined me in the exercise in futility, until we developed a “flicking” technique that seemed to trick the machines into accepting the quarters.
While the washers swished and whirred, I read emails. Mostly SPAM and a few bill payment due notices from home; although we are not home, we still have to pay a minimal electric bill because our local utility charges more to turn off and turn back on service then they charge to leave it in a “minimal service” state. Before long, the wash was ready for the dryer and together we piled the clothes into 2 dryers. We started feeding quarters in and again, the machines just didn’t want to keep the quarters. OMG! Is this going to be one of those “nothing is going to go well” kind of days?? We looked at each other and started the “flicking”method and again it worked.
The laundry finished around 11 am and we made our way to Wendy’s. I tried their new Flatbread sandwich and a baked potato while Papa Chip had his standard Double Stack burger and a baked potato. We felt good about making a “healthier choice” in a fast food restaurant. With lunch almost done, we turned on the laptop and attempted to connect to Wifi. It wasn’t working out so Papa Chip approached the counter and asked about it.
The clerk said, “Wifi? It’s been down for a few weeks.” Papa Chip returned with the news and I felt like Eeyore for a moment … living in my “nothing is going to go well” day. Then, I got frustrated. I asked to speak to the manager and told him how we chose Wendy’s for lunch because we needed Wifi; that we had called ahead and confirmed it was available; that we could have spent our lunch dollars at the local McD’s. Don, the manager of the Erwin, TN Wendy’s apologized and said that he’d see it never happened again. Then I apologized and said “I guess I’m a little tense because my 14 year old is out on the AT and our blog is what keeps family and friends
informed.” He then told me about some of his children’s adventures and said he understood. He asked me to wait a moment and then returned with 4 coupons for free combo meals. I hadn’t expected that but it will make Chipmunk very happy to eat at her favorite fast food restaurant when she gets into the Erwin area. Thanks, Don! And Wendy’s!
When Chipmunk rolled her ankles at the start of the trail, we bought her new higher top boots. She tried on a few pairs before trying on the Vasque brand. After walking (and climbing) in the REI store, she said, “these are the
ones.” She has not had any ankle issues since then. So, Angie, we’ll see you at Trail Days and I’ll make sure Chipmunk has clean socks on! Thanks again … Chipmunk’s eyes got really big when we told her.
My day had certainly turned around … or so I thought. After taking a walk through the public park, Papa Chip and I headed to the closest campground, Nolichucky Campground in Erwin. The gruff manager told us it would be $25 for the night and that they had wifi. We paid and picked out a spot. We knew it would be a longer hiking day and that we’d probably see Chipmunk after 6pm. So, we parked and decided to take showers and do a little truck/camper maintenance before heading to the meet up at Devil Fork Gap. Papa Chip had his head under the hood when I told him I was heading to the shower house; he said he’d shower when I returned.
After fully undressing and placing my shampoo, conditioner, soap and pouf in the shower stall, I turned both shower handles on, figuring I’d adjust it after it “warmed up”. I put my hand under to check the temp and was alarmed at how hot it was. I started turning the red handle down ... down … down … but it just didn’t seem to be cooling off. Suddenly, there was no water coming out of the sad excuse of a shower head. I then fumbled with the blue handle and realized that it controlled NOTHING! There was no cold water feed! Ugh! So, I waited for a few seconds and turned the hot water back on, jumped into the shower and got wet all over before having to jump out when I felt like I was scalding. I put shampoo in my hair and stood shivering on the mat outside the shower while I lathered it. This jumping in and out routine went on for the next 15 minutes while I got all my body parts clean … and scalded! I dressed and returned to the camper where I warned Papa Chip about the showers. He was busy working on shifting the camper back over to its original mount in the truck bed because apparently the mountain roads jostle EVERYTHING.
let Chipmunk know when it was safe to cross. He rolled his eyes and said, “she’s smart enough to listen, as well as look, before crossing the roadway.” Men: they inspire the kids to be adventurous; Women: we keep them alive between adventures. It’s a good balance.
(while we had service in town), telling us that Greeneville Hiking Club had given out Trail Magic at Camp Creek Mountain. She hadn’t given us the time in that message and even though the message had a time stamp of 11:39 AM, we didn’t know whether that message was sent “in the moment” or afterwards. We debated that, trying to figure where/when she'd be on the trail. It turned 8pm and Chipmunk still had not arrived at the gap. It was getting dark as the sun set and we both fidgeted while watching the trail across the
street. Even Coco was restless. At 8:30, the trees were completely silhouetted and now the mountain across the street was a dark blob. We talked about pulling the bugout bag soon. Papa Chip assured me that she’s made really good decisions all along and that we just needed to trust her. I pointed out that she could be lying trail side with a sprained ankle … or she could have been bitten by a snake. He tried to be the calm in the situation but I could see that he was growing concerned, too.
And I have treats for you!” I wish I could say I didn’t cry.
I was so relieved that I hugged Chocolate Chip who was now hopping at the truck door window, trying to see where her mom’s voice was coming from.
Within minutes, she was at the trailhead and walking towards us. We hugged her and she immediately started telling us about her hiking day as she removed “Big Red” from her back. She told us how she and “CheetahBeav” had been hiking together on and off throughout the day. I said, “I don’t understand. I heard he’s a fast hiker and I know you like to take your time and enjoy the views.” She said, “Yeah. He is a fast hiker but he takes really long breaks. So, he’d pass me and then in a while I’d come up and see him taking a break and pass him. Later while taking my standard 5-10 minute break, he’d pass me. At one point, I came to a cliff and noticed that the trail actually required me to climb down a 5’ cliff to resume the trail. So, I put my pack on the
ledge, climbed down using some of the rock foot holds. Then I reached up and grabbed “Big Red” and pulled it down to me. Later, when CheetahBeav caught up to me, he said, ‘How in the world did you do that cliff? I’m tall but you are so short?’” She told him that she liked rock climbing and thought it was kind of fun. I thought about one of her birthdays when we were in Idaho and we all went out with a rock climbing instructor to climb a part of the Sawtooth Mountains range to celebrate. A good birthday, for all of us.
They hiked together and came across a downed tree in the path. She told us how the trunk was as high as her waist. She was tired so she took her pack off, flung it over the tree and then she just laid over the trunk and said, “Ugh. I’m gonna need a push”. When he started to approach her, she let him know that she was just joking. She brought her leg up and pulled herself over to the other side and then laughed as she watched CheetahBeav practically step over the tree with his long legs.
During the ride from the gap to the campground, she pulled a bag from her pack and handed it to me. She said that the Greenville Hiking Club made homemade Pound cake and Lemon cake; that she knew I loved cake so she asked if she could take a few pieces for her mom. They gladly obliged and also sent along a few homemade chocolate chip cookies for Papa Chip. Thanks, Chipmunk and Greeneville Hiking Club! Cake takes away all the
stress of waiting for your return … er, almost. (http://www.greenevillehikingclub.com/)
been able to located any of the camp staff, we’d have let them know.) We ate and turned in around 11pm and slept pretty well, except for the screeching sound of the train which passed by a few times in the night. In the morning, we ate and Chipmunk dressed in hiking pants and her jacket for a cooler day out on the trail. After 3
intensive days of hiking, today she plans to hike 8.5 miles and meet us at Sam’s Gap, MM 317.4 on the AT.
Check out “Chipmunk’s Pics” tab (on www.ridethenation.org) for a better look at what she sees while out on the trail. On youtube.com, her username is OpenlyMountainGoat if you want to check out any amateur video of her hike; we just started that account and will be adding more video soon.
We are trying to build support and maybe even get some sponsors to help in the expenses of Chipmunk’s quest to become the youngest solo thru hiker to complete the Appalachian Trail. We could use your help. If you enjoy reading the story of our adventure, and you’d like to send a donation, you can do so via the“donate”button at the top right side of this blog and we’ll be glad to treat Chipmunk to something special with the “trail magic” you send. Feel free to forward our website link (or email updates) to your family, friends, co-workers, etc. Chipmunk maintains a twitter account: @openlymtngoat where a common hashtag is #GoChipmunk and she can receive personal messages directly to her email: email@example.com. She or we (firstname.lastname@example.org) 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)