Day 197 on the Appalachian Trail Miles Hiked to Date: 2105 Hiked yesterday: 12 Trail Miles, Miles left to hike: 79
First, from now until the end of Chipmunk's hike, she asked me to post this link to her Hike For Mental Health Fundraising page: https://www.z2systems.com/np/clients/hike/campaign.jsp?campaign=13&team=145&fundraiser=1052&
She asked me to tell our readers that she (and we) have enjoyed having all of you along for this adventure. Please consider donating to HFMH if you've enjoyed being a part of her hike. She said, "It would be the best trail magic!"
Second, Thank you to all of our Twitter friends: @skylarmoonbeam, @MissGaninaMarie, @PoxAndPuss, @EAThomas, @Clint_Brannon, @nickandriani, @PoxHoliday, @SunnyDaze41, @Marine_AT_Hiker, @BPackingAT, @melissalummis, @BlueBlazeCafe, @thruhiker2013 and so many more ... who have tweeted, re-tweeted and favorited our story as it unfolded.
A special thanks to our friend, Barbara, @Humorwrkz, who has tweeted with us the longest and given us unwavering support not only on Twitter, but also in person. A very special thanks to Faye, @RyegrassMusic, a long time friend who suggested we share our story on Twitter. Faye, thanks for getting the ball rolling! We've made so many friends via social media and their words of support have also made all the difference to Chipmunk, Papa Chip and me along this adventure.
Third, I have to share this comment from Kevin, since it made me laugh out loud, in an internet cafe! Love it! ... "Way to show that stream who's boss. Next time just imagine the members of One Direction are standing on the other side of the riverbank ready to greet you in all of your nose-running glory.... then *boom!* new crossing record!"
After a good night's sleep, we all woke in the cool morning darkness to prepare for another hiking day. We finished our morning tasks and had Chipmunk out the door and at the trailhead by 6:45 AM. She needed a good early start because she was facing a 2200' ascent in her first 3 miles on the trail. After some ridge walking, she would have to tackle a 2000' descent over the slippery leaves covered trail. To finish her day, a 700' climb in the last mile.
I typed the update while Papa Chip checked upcoming weather, etc. on his phone. He noted that the weather still looked quite good even though we were in Maine in the middle of October.
Before us stood a hand made structure that "housed" a 30 year old truck camper. It had the same floorplan as the Chip Mobile! John explained that he had "lost most everything" during the Reagan years and made this temporary set-up. He soon discovered that he really enjoyed the simplicity of his new home. He has the bare essentials: a roof over his head, a wood stove to stay warm, a dry bed to sleep in, plenty of books to read and a big field to grow his own vegetables. His home is not a showcase piece but it is efficient AND COMPLETELY OFF THE GRID!
As we walked around his small home, he showed us pictures of his 4 children, one of whom he lost when she died of ovarian cancer at the young age of 43. He grew quiet when he ran his hand over her picture. He showed us a picture of his grandmother, pointing out how he had so many of the same facial features as his grandmother. We stood and talked about genetics for a bit. When he showed us a picture of his mother, he remarked that she punished him for "being a bad boy", for getting divorced. She took him out of her will. In her elder years, they became friends again but she never put him back in her will. He figured she just forgot to do it; we do forget things as we grow older.
When we came into the section of his home where an old office chair sat next to the windows he salvaged from the dump, he offered to let me sit in the old chair that was missing one arm. I sat in it and I can truly say, it was amazingly comfortable. He could hardly believe that someone would throw away such a comfortable well made chair just because an arm broke. While sitting in his chair at his desk, I saw some stick on return address labels and asked John if I could take one. He said, "Sure. Are you going to write me a letter?" I said that I would because I'd never written a "Dear John" letter. He got my joke reference and laughed a bit.
As we walked around, Papa Chip saw the recent Bangor Daily Newspaper, with Chipmunk on the front page, laying on top of a small stack of newspapers. He pointed it out to John and told him it was our daughter in the picture. John looked at it and said, "Really? I'm going to add this to my journal." It was obvious that he loved hikers and he told us that we were doing a wonderful thing for our daughter. It was so nice to hear him say those words and know that he really got what we were doing in life.
To some, John may appear to be a bit odd, living in his humble truck camper beneath his homemade roof, surrounded by walls made from salvage items. To me, I really got what he was doing. He truly lives a "leave no trace" lifestyle. He has made a home from what others have discarded. He grows and eats his own food. He likely has a very small carbon footprint, if any.
John was the first stranger who walked up to us, not knowing a thing about our adventure, who reached out to welcome us to his town; to show us firsthand the things not to miss while visiting his town. I was moved by his kindness and truly enjoyed all of our conversation. We discussed politics and religion and raising kids and a myriad of other subjects. On some topics, we shared common opinions, on others, we did not. We all talked frankly and none of us needed to discount one another's perceptions. It was, by far, one of the most pleasant days I'd spent on this trip.
It was getting time to look for the trailhead so we started up the truck, waved to John, as we left, and drove away from the quiet little town of Andover for the last time. I truly felt "lighter" after our day together with John.
After a while I went into the camper and heated water to do the dishes. I was lost in my own thoughts and shocked when I realized how quickly it was getting dark. I turned on the overhead light and asked Papa Chip, "When do you think she'll be in?" He scrunched up his face a bit and said, "Judging by her SPOT page, it's probably going to be about 7 PM."
I'm sure I looked worried because he said, "Don't worry. She's very good at this now. Plus, I've still got the bugout bag ready if I need to go in after her." I nodded and tried to stay busy. Around 6:30 PM, I started boiling water for dinner. Unfortunately, it came to a full boil before she arrived. I put the lid on the pot and turned off the burner. I sat on her bunk and began worrying something had happened. About that time, I heard something. Before I could do anything, Papa Chip had the back door open, revealing a headlamp shining in our direction from across the parking area. Chipmunk hollered, "Mom, I'm home." I hollered back, "Woo Hoo!" as Papa Chip jumped out the back door to help her with her backpack. It was just after 7:00 and pitch dark outside. I re-lit the stove and got dinner going.
When she came in, she said, "I fell on some slippery leaves, landed on a cairn and broke one of my poles. I'm sorry." I asked if anything hurt and she said, "Yeah... my butt. The pole somehow got between the rocks and me and broke." I hugged her and told her not to worry about the broken pole; that she still had a matching spare pole.
She sat down and removed her boots while Papa Chip took over cooking. I gently rubbed her legs as she scribbled notes into her journal. It was so good to have her safely back with us. After dinner, we all crawled under the covers in our bunks and I noticed that Chipmunk fell asleep before we even had the chance to say good night to one another. Papa Chip and I talked quietly in our bunk and then rolled on our sides and told each other, "I love you" before we, too, drifted off to sleep.
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)