Day 53, Beartree Recreation Area, VA Miles Hiked To Date: 481 Hiked Today: 14 Miles to Katahdin: 1703.2
First, I’ve added a Date/Day/Location/Miles Hiked and Miles to Katahdin section at the top of this blog and intend to update that daily as a quick reference to Chipmunk’s progress. At this point, she’s almost ¼ of the way to Katahdin from her start point at Springer Mountain in Georgia on April 1st.
Second, there appears to be a city wide competition in Damascus, VA to be named “TOP CHIPSTER”, the most devoted fan of Chipmunk. I have news for Spicy Jesus, Mayor and Jen at the Blue Blaze … You better hope that Ellie from NJ doesn’t get wind of this; she’s been a “Chipster” since Chipmunk was 4! (and is probably responsible for all of this! She helped that crazy kid start her BMX career by duct taping a loaner helmet on her head at 4 years old when we were “just there to watch”.) FYI, you are all TOP CHIPSTERS in my book! I love you all and you’ve all made this not just possible for her, but manageable and very special for us. Thank you, Thank you!
Yesterday morning, Chipmunk and I awoke on the air mattress and couch at Mayor’s house after the mechanic in Damascus had to keep the pwt truck/camper for another day because the wrong part arrived the first day. Mayor set me up with a fying pan, spatula and chocolate chips so that Chipmunk could have her beloved Sturdiwheat Pancakes for breakfast. I made her 3 and then 2 for Mayor. Mayor loved them! She read the ingredients label and was impressed, too. DUH! Chipmunk knows good stuff when she finds it! Chipmunk requested a few more pancakes and I gladly obliged; she’s burning about 6,000 calories a day and needs to keep her energy up.
goodies! I LOVE YOU, MAYOR! You have a big heart and an amazing brain …your election is going to be a landslide!
After Chipmunk dressed for hiking, Mayor handed over the keys to her car so I could drive Chipmunk back into town to resume her hike. I dropped her at the Blue Blaze Café, kissed her good bye and then drove to the mechanic’s garage to check on ye old po’ white trash truck camper. They said that the correct parts should be in around 10 am and they
expected the repair to be done before they closed at 5. SWEET! I’ve imposed on the
Mayor too much already and it’s time to move on North. I drove back to Mayor’s house to find Mayor doing my laundry. I really felt the need to do something helpful for her so I offered to enter contact info into her computer for all the people who filled out prize
entry forms at the recent Trail Days Festival. She set me up on her laptop and I typed
while Chocolate Chip re-organized her couch and pillows into a proper resting spot for a French Bulldog!
We ran out together to do some errands and Mayor insisted on picking up a gift for Chipmunk. She had seen a new “cooling” cloth during a recent trip to Lowe’s Home Improvement store and thought it would come in handy on hot hiking days. SWEET! Chipmunk’s going to love that! Er, before I say that, allow me to be upfront with you. I
THINK she’ll love it. That kid definitely has a mind of her own and is politely but strongly
honest about what she likes and what she doesn’t like. Although I’m proud of her for her honesty, as a mom, I want my children to be polite, gracious, etc. To date, I’ve had a few funny incidents with honesty, mostly by the Editor. When I won an award in the first year of my special event business, the editor went thru the receiving line with me at the banquet. When someone remarked how pretty she looked, she replied, “Thanks. I dressed myself and (while lifting her dress) I’m not wearing any underwear!” I almost died on the spot! The (then 5 year old) Editor also didn’t like a fellow I started to date after my divorce from her
father. He came to pick me up and she attempted to “interview”him; when he ignored her, she punched him squarely in the only spot she could reach. He doubled over and kind of crumbled to his knees. Hmm. No wonder that didn’t work out. (Good thing! I might not
have met Papa Chip!)
kindness …she’s a true TRAIL ANGEL! Maybe even Queen Trail Angel …or Mayor Trail Angel … but, mostly just one of the finest people I’ve ever met. If you’re ever in Damascus, stop in the Blue Blaze Café and ask for Valerie. If you are lucky enough to meet her, you’ll know what I mean.
I drove away in the direction of the meet up spot that Chipmunk and I had planned for around a 7pm pickup. Luckily, it was all paved roads until the last mile and a half, which
became a narrow gravel road that had a few small gulches from the recent rains but was much more manageable than the McQueens Gap Road. I parked the truck in a parking area beneath an old train trestle. Chocolate Chip and I got out to look around and see where the Appalachian Trail came from so we knew where to look for her. I walked for quite some
way up a wide gravel path and didn’t see any white blazes anywhere. I wondered if Vengeful Evil Rosie had again taken me to the wrong place; her directions seemed to be the same as the Google Maps Navigation I ran on my phone. I smelled camp fire smoke and spotted a backpack. I called to the hiker and asked if he was an thru hiking the AT. He gave the sarcastic response most of them do (a response of come to love, fyi), “No, ma’m. I’m not through hiking. I still have over 1500 miles to go to Katahdin.” I laughed and then told him I had trouble finding the Appalachian trail today. He told me that I was on the Virginia Creeper Trail which runs closely with the AT but that the AT was higher up the mountain. He had come down onto the Creeper Trail because a footbridge he was supposed to cross was “washed out”. Then, he pointed up a steep hillside and said that I could probably get up there by holding onto roots and branches and pulling myself up. Hmm.
I thanked him and headed back towards the truck camper. When I passed beneath the
train trestle, I realized that the AT Guide referenced a parking area near the Luther Hassinger Memorial Bridge. Hmm, I’ll bet that’s the “bridge”. I went into the truck camper and got some card stock, a sharpie marker and a pack of dental floss. I left Chocolate Chip in the truck, locked it and put my sneakers on instead of my slip on sandals. I headed back to
the trestle and noticed a quite worn path on either side of the concrete abutments. I
put my keys into my hoodie pouch pocket and started climbing the steep path up to the top. I had to use tree roots and exposed rocks to pull myself up. After about 40 feet of upwards climbing (and grunting), I was up to the bridge level. I looked around and found a commemorative plaque that read: “Luther Hassinger Memorial Bridge”. COOL! I was at the right place! I looked for a white blaze, didn’t see any so I crossed the bridge and found a double white blaze indicating to hikers to turn off the end of the bridge and onto the Appalachian Trail. I pulled out the card stock and wrote: “Chipmunk, cross the bridge. At end, go down steep muddy path to trail below. Make a left to go to truck.” I tore off a
piece of dental floss, looped it thru the holes I punctured in the card stock with my keys and strung it around the end of the bridge handrail. I walked back across the bridge and did the same at the other end, not really knowing which direction she’d be coming from on the bridge.
I started back down the muddy path slowly, holding branches and roots as I had done on the way up. But then my foot slipped in the mud and I slid about half the way down on my rump. I was instantly soaked through on the hind side and got a few scrapes on my hands. Then, I thought … how in the world is Chipmunk going to come down this? WITH A 30 POUND PACK ON HER BACK??? I assured myself that her 49 year old overweight mom managed and I haul an extra 80-100 pounds around EVERY DAY! I walked back to the truck in the driving rain and was glad to snuggle with Chocolate Chip while we waited. Around 8 pm, I heard her voice and saw her coming towards the truck. I was sooooo happy! I really needed to have a successful meet up after the fiasco that was McQueens Gap. Chocolate Chip and I jumped out of the truck and ran to her. We helped her take her pack off and put it into the camper. I asked how her day was and she said, “Great! It was rainy but apparently, I missed the hail storm that kept a bunch of hikers hovering in one of the shelters along the way. Also, a footbridge was washed out and there were some hikers on the side
of the river. They were contemplating what to do when one of them took off his boots and crossed the rapid water in bare feet. He was yelling how cold it was and the hikers on the bank said they were all going to go back and get onto the Virginia Creeper Trail instead. I stayed because I’m not hiking the Creeper Trail. I’m hiking the AT. I did exactly what dad told me to do. I took off my boots and socks, tied my boots securely to my backpack and then I put on my hiking sandals. I rolled up my pants and adjusted my pack snugly and then I started crossing the river.”
I truly believe this adventure will pave the way to a better sense of herself in this world more than any textbook ever could. As I thought about that, she said, “Crossing the river in my hiking sandals was the only time all day that my feet got wet. My new Vasque boots work really well. A bunch of other hikers were talking about “trench foot” or something; saying their boots aren’t keeping their feet dry.” Then, as if feet were a natural segue to food, she said, “I’m starving. Any chance we can get some cheeseburgers?” I told her she was in luck. I hadn’t gotten the blog posted earlier in the day and I had planned on
going into the neighboring town of Chilhowie, VA. So, we drove there and relaxed in the warm, dry McDonald’s. Afterwards, I noticed there was a tractor trailer parking area in the
adjacent lot. It looked pretty secure so I decided that would be our “camp” spot for the night. I backed the truck camper into a lane (assuring the pwt vehicle that he would be one of those big trucks if he ever grew up!) We climbed into bed and Chipmunk was asleep by 10:30pm. I was wound up and decided to have fun with Twitter and Instagram until after midnight. I was surprised to see how many Chipsters were online so late at night and battling it out with blog comments! Too funny!
This morning, I drove Chipmunk back to the trail where she left off and we planned for her to do a 9 mile hike. Yes, yes, I know … she needs to get more miles in. However, I had two
viable meet up spots off the trail: one at 9 miles and one at 23 miles. I just didn’t think 23 miles was doable, especially based on the terrain and the driving rain that continued from
yesterday. She laughingly said, “you know I now have a 2 pack a day habit, right?” I looked at her with my face scrunched and said, “HUH?” She said, “I ate two of the Wild Hunt Packs we got from Paramount Fit Foods yesterday. I love those!” This from my picky eater who swore off beef jerky even though we thought it would be a natural hiking choice. Hmm, going to need to get more of those Ostrich/Mango and Buffalo/Strawberry packs (www.paramountfitfoods.com) than I thought. I hugged and kissed her good bye, probably holding onto her a little longer than normal. I really miss her when she’s gone for the day and I get a little lonely with only Chocolate Chip to hang with … and she only speaks French so we have a little language barrier there. Oh, well … C’est La Vie!
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: 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)