Day 66 Pearisburg, VA Miles Hiked to Date: 619.4 Hiked yesterday: 10 Trail Miles + 2 Town Miles Miles to Katahdin: 1554.8
First, I must mention the wonderful river front campground we stayed at the night before: EgglestonSpringsCampground.com in Pembroke, VA. It was a beautiful grassy campground where all the spots overlooked a serene river with big shade trees. The owner, James Brown, and his wife were both quite kind to all of us and I wouldn’t hesitate to stay there again. If you come to the Pearisburg, VA area, please check it out … it was one of the most peaceful places I’ve camped.
Second, this blog is purposely longer than prior blogs so if you need a cup o’ joe, get it before you scroll much further. (Ellie, this one’s for you … tee hee.)
Although I am on what some might consider the adventure of a lifetime, the last few days have been pretty stressful. On a daily basis, I try to figure out and balance a good hiking/eating/rest plan for Chipmunk so that she can hopefully make it to Katahdin by early October and reach her goal of becoming the youngest solo thru hiker ever on the Appalachian Trail. In addition to that, I never forget that I am Mom to both my 22 year old daughter, “the editor” and to my 24 year old son, “brother Chip” (a.k.a. “Captain Oblivious) PLUS a worried wife to Papa Chip who is co-leading a bicycle tour across the country AND daughter/best friend to my mom in New Jersey. I know that I am needed and that is comforting on most days. However, on Monday, I received a few phone calls that left me stressed and feeling helpless.
My daughter sent me a few text messages and later we talked about her new rental, which is a room in a private home in Mays Landing, NJ. After her recent move there, she discovered that not only is one of her roommates a steady drug user but also that his nightly “stay over” girlfriend helps herself to my daughter’s cosmetics and toiletries without permission or gratitude. We talked about roommate issues before and she’s learning to cope with it. But the latest issue is a bit stranger. She woke at 3 AM to shouting and arguing in the other room. As she listened, she realized that it was her new landlord and her husband. Hmm, who do you complain to when it’s the landlord causing the problem. After weighing her options, she realized that she needs to start apartment hunting again and with working two jobs, that’s not going to be easy.
About an hour later, I received an email from my brother suggesting that my mom might like to hear from me. I try to call her every few days whenever I have a cell signal but I hadn’t spoken to her in almost a week. I called her and could tell right away from her shaky voice that something had happened. Eventually she started crying and through her tears explained that she had a car accident the day before. Luckily, she didn’t need to go to the hospital, nor did the other driver even though my 80 year old mom’s car was broadsided on the driver’s side at an intersection and had to be towed away. As we talked, she debated whether she ought to give up driving for good, even though she is a very good driver. I reminded her that all of us, from every age group, have accidents; that she just needs a little time to re-group and regain her confidence. She cried on and off throughout our hour long phone call and I truly wished I could have been there to comfort her as she has me at so many times in my life. She has been the most wonderful mother and friend to me and has never judged me or wavered in her support of me (or my siblings) our whole lives. I felt helpless.
I called my husband and was fortunate enough to catch him while he was off his bike. Before I had the chance to tell him about my mom’s accident, he asked about the brakes on the truck and started suggesting the best way to handle getting the job done right and keeping the truck maintained while he is away. I guess my plate was feeling fuller than usual and I suddenly found myself crying and feeling weak. I was so glad that Chipmunk was already out on the trail and did not have to witness her mom, her sole parental support, feeling overwhelmed. Not surprisingly, Papa Chip found the words to both comfort me and make me laugh. He also called my mom and when I spoke to her again yesterday, she said he told her she was a “strong woman” and made her feel “invincible”.
While I waited there, a few hikers came in and did what all of us are experts at now: finding an electrical outlet to re-charge phones, computers, etc. I introduced myself to these hikers whom I hadn’t yet met. I asked if they had come from the Cross Ave. gap (the designated meet up spot) where the A.T. met the roadway and they said they had; that it was only 1-2 miles up the road. Chipmunk and I couldn’t discern from our maps how far the gap was from town but we did see that Cross Ave. ran behind the Dairy Queen so she took the phone numbers of local shuttle services in case it was more than a few miles from town along a busy roadway. Once I got the news that it was a decent walking distance away and along a quiet road, I texted Chipmunk and suggested that she walk into town and she texted back that she would. After I sat down at a table and plugged in to re-charge, one of the hikers approached and asked which hiker I was waiting for; I told her Chipmunk. She smiled and said, “I haven’t met her yet. What time do you expect her? I’ve heard so much about her.“ I told her I wasn’t sure when she’d be in since she truly takes the time to enjoy as much of the trail and the views as she can. She nodded, smiled and returned to the table with 2 other hikers saying, “That’s Chipmunk’s mom; she’s coming into here some time today.”
Hearing her enthusiasm about my daughter’s hike improved my outlook on the day. No, none of the last few days’ problems went away; they just felt more manageable. I quickly got back in touch with why I was doing what I am doing. I texted my older daughter and found out that she’s working on an interim living arrangement while she searches for a new home. She sounded confident and strong and capable. It shouldn’t have been so hard to believe that she would find her way forward from this without my being on hand to help; this is my child who tackled college at 16 just as my business I ran since she was 2 years old collapsed; the child who found scholarships and loans so she could immerse herself in the Spanish language when she studied abroad in Argentina; this is the child who took on the final semester of her English degree at Oxford and also somehow managed to explore Wales, England, Scotland, Ireland and Amsterdam on a shoestring budget. She will find her way through this latest ordeal and she will be fine.
I received an email earlier in the day from our friends at Vasque Boots who wanted to know where they could send Chipmunk a little something special for her upcoming 15th Birthday. I looked ahead in the hiking guide and found where I guesstimate we will be in 8-9 days. I was excited to hear that Chipmunk will have a box of surprises to open on her birthday and although I don’t have much of a budget for a big celebration, I believe that the people who have been moved by her courage and strength will help to make her feel special on her day. If you’d like to send her words of encouragement or birthday wishes, her email address is firstname.lastname@example.org; if you’d like to send her a birthday card, she can receive mail or packages up until June 14th addressed to: Tammy/Neva Warren,
C/O Middle Creek Campground, 1164 Middle Creek Rd, Buchanan, VA 24066. Please write on the outside: "A.T. Hiker, ETA 6/14/13".
As I’ve mentioned before, Chipmunk has been experiencing fatigue and I’ve tried to help her lighten her hike schedule so as to prevent injury. After surviving the rugged rocky terrain of Georgia, the steep and unforgiving climbs of Tennessee and North Carolina, many hikers are getting knee and ankle injuries here in Virginia. Sadly, one of the finest people I’ve gotten to know along the A.T., Doc Holiday, has severe ankle pain that has forced him off the trail. Rest and pain relievers has not given him any relief and when I saw him yesterday at Woods Hole Hostel, he had the look I’ve come to know all too well in the last month. His eyes were sad and although he put on a good face for me, I could see the defeat he was feeling inwardly in his decision to end his hike, 1550 miles from Katahdin. We talked, we hugged and wished each other well. As I turned to leave, I couldn’t hold back the tear that nudged its way out of the corner of my eye. Although I was sad for Doc Holiday, I struggled too, with the thought that I might some day look into Chipmunk’s eyes and see the same. Although I hope that day doesn’t come, I more hope that I am who she needs me to be if it should come.
Yesterday morning, as Chipmunk left from Sugar Run Gap, we met a lady who was dropping her husband off to section hike the portion from Sugar Run Gap into Pearisburg … same as Chipmunk. I received a comment from her telling me that she is an experienced trekker and was surprised to see Chipmunk carrying a 30 lb. backpack and asked why, especially since I meet her almost nightly. I appreciate your thoughts and many a person has asked the same so I’ll share with you a few of the reasons she carries a full pack rather than taking the daypack or slackpacking option. Because Chipmunk is a solo hiker, she needs to be self-reliant. Although she knows many on the trail and often hikes a few miles here and there with them, she hikes at her own pace and often hikes alone. Her pack contains only the essentials she needs to survive 2-3 days on her own. If she was injured and unable to hike and meet me, she’d need her tent, sleeping bag, food, first aid kit, head lamp, cookware, etc. to sustain herself until rescuers or I was able to help her. Although I don’t like to consider any of this, there is also the chance that something could happen to me (i.e. car accident, mishap, etc.) that could leave me unable to meet her or send help to her. She’d need her pack to safely get her through the night until she could phone her dad, older sister or brother and make a plan to safely get off the trail. All of that aside, Chipmunk carries “Big Red”, her Osprey Ariel 55 backpack because that’s what she prefers. She does not discount any option other hikers take but it is her personal goal to complete her hike with a full pack throughout. She, my husband and I worked hard to find affordable lightweight options that would make her hike possible under the best and worst of circumstances. Surprisingly, as far as full packs go, 30 lbs is amongst the lighter “non slackpacking” backpacks on the trail; many hikers carry 40 lbs and more, especially when there are long gaps between small towns for re-supplying their food. I appreciate your concern and hope you find inspiration and joy in our daughter's adventure.
Enter Laurie Hugus, a local woman who heads up the Giles Christian Missionary project that is currently organizing local donations for disaster relief in Oklahoma. She gave Ender her change, he smiled, thanked her and ducked into the Dairy Queen for some “town food”.
FYI, 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 some “Trail Magic” to Chipmunk, click on the “Donate”button at the upper left of today’s blog post. Feel free to forward our website link (or email updates) to your family, friends, co-workers, etc, (www.ridethenation.org). 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)
PS- Brother Chip, Editor, Papa Chip ... Chipmunk and I miss you all and can't wait to text, call and/or see you soon! Love you! (... and "the Mama Rules!")