the town of Hot Springs, NC, which has the distinction of being named 2012 Best Small Mountain Town by Blue Ridge Outdoors Magazine. After spending a few days in the town, we agree! The town is geared towards accommodating AT hikers with affordable
restaurants that serve up “Hungry Hiker” platters, coffee shops with free wifi, an outdoors outfitter, hostels and more. There are hot tubs filled from the local hot springs for soaking in, there are a few locally owned taverns with decks overlooking French Broad river that runs through the town. Furthermore, the trail itself comes through the center of town and instead of the standard “white blazes” that identify the trail, there are trail insignias emblazoned into the concrete sidewalk. It is by far, the best town we’ve spent
time in while waiting for Chipmunk’s arrival.
When Chipmunk heard that, the two of them worked together with a
calculator to determine how many miles she’d need to average per day to make it from Hot Springs, NC to Katahdin, Maine in early October: 13 miles per day. OUCH! That does not leave much wiggle room for down days due to injury, fatigue, etc. Sunny pointed out that once Chipmunk got her “hiking feet”, it was not unlikely or impossible to hike 20-25 miles per day in the flatter stretches. Chipmunk took it all in but didn’t look
In fact, we often joke that we are “Frisbeeterians: we believe that when you die, your soul goes up, up, up … and then gets stuck on the roof.”
At Hikers Ridge Ministries, we met Queen Diva who welcomes each
and every hiker with free snacks, drinks and free use of their
computer/internet. There was a hiker box with items left behind by hikers looking to lighten their load and available to other hikers who may need the stuff. There was a large bookshelf with books that hikers could take to fill the evening hours and take their minds off the hike they just did. A large flat screen television had a slideshow of hikers’ pics and we recognized a few who had outhiked Chipmunk. We sat on comfortable couches and discussed all kinds of hiking stuff. Queen Diva told us she’d be at the upcoming Damascus Trail Days festival and we’ll definitely be looking for her.
As I left, a song from my childhood days of going to South Vineland United Methodist Church started playing in my head: “ … and they’ll know we are Christians, by our love, by our love”. We had expected our visit to be more of a sermon but it was truly just about kindness, the kind that hikers a long way from home doing one of the toughest tasks they may ever do, really need.
Chipmunk, and she waved back. Before long, it was 3pm and time to put her boots back on. She put her knee wrap on and pulled “Big Red” onto her back. Again, she looked so small to me and yet her eyes seem to radiate a wisdom beyond her years that I hadn’t seen until this trip. She kissed us good bye and told us she’d see us Tanyard Gap, just under 6 trail miles away. We waited as she walked back to the main street in town and followed the AT markers away from civilization. Once we saw her cross over the guard rail and step onto the dirt path into the woods, we started up the PWT cruiser and headed for the gap.
She came into Tanyard Gap around 7 pm and there were tears coming down her face. Of course, I rifled off the standard Mom questions: “Are you hurt? Did something happen? Did someone try to mess with you??” She shook her head no and said, “my feet just really hurt.” Papa Chip took her pack and put it in the cab; Chocolate Chip jumped up and all around her as she climbed into the back of the camper. Together, we took her boots off and got her a water bottle with Arnold Palmer Tea/Lemonade mix in it. I had already started dinner and was letting our “camper chicken pot pie” cook on the stove top while I started rubbing her feet. We asked if she knew what might be the problem. She said, “I don’t know. Maybe I just walked too much.” Hmm. She might be onto something there: she has walked 275+ miles in the last month.
We didn’t have cell signals or internet access so we ate dinner and were all in bed by 8:30 pm. I think we were all asleep shortly later and we all woke up when again, Chipmunk, was hiking in her sleep. This time she said loudly, “Wait .. Wait. Wait! Wait!” I guess she was trying to catch up with other hikers or something. I feel bad that she hikes all day and then hikes in her dreams, as well. Sunny from ArtiSun had mentioned that she often dreamt about hiking during her thru hike and for many months afterwards.
guaranteed her a really nice foot rub before she hikes on … cross your fingers that we can get the truck into there.
On a side note, Papa Chip and I apparently broke some Twitter
rules while trying to build up Chipmunk’s @openlymtngoat account. It was “shut down” by Twitter and we are trying to sort the problem out. Until then she and we will be tweeting from my old bike ride account: @ridethenation. (Sorry) If anyone has any wisdom on restoring the account, feel free to share it via a direct message to us (email@example.com); thanks in advance!
FYI, we’ve started a page of Chipmunk’s pics on the www.ridethenation.org website; click on the “Chipmunk’s Pics” tab; we'll be updating pics as soon as Chipmunk can transfer them from her phone to us. We also uploaded one of her videos to her youtube.com page; her username is OpenlyMountainGoat if you want to check it out. We’ll be adding more.
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, you can send a donation 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. You can also forward a website link to your family, friends, co-workers, etc, (www.ridethenation.org) and let them know we try to update it daily. Chipmunk maintains a twitter account: @openlymtngoat and she can receive personal messages directly to her email: firstname.lastname@example.org. She or we (email@example.com) 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)