Day 124 on the Appalachian Trail Miles Hiked to Date: 1301 Hiked yesterday: 14 Trail Miles, Miles left to hike: 882
To Tune's Mom, Sue, thanks! and your timing was actually perfect. While planning and budgeting, we figured that Papa Chip would be receiving payment for leading his bike tour either weekly or by the month. He actually will not get any payment until the tour is over, the transport van returned, the log books completed, etc. When the hikers talk about "trail magic", it isn't always cold sodas and food; they think of it more in a serendipitous way. They believe that if you are doing something good, the universe protects and supports you. They believe that you may not get everything you want, but you'll get what you need, when you need it, to keep on "keeping on". I can't tell you how many times they've shared stories of losing their cook stove or some other key item ... only to find a replacement waiting in the next hiker box or left behind at a shelter. When you see Tune, please give him a cold soda (or two! trust me, he likes two) and a hug from me. I miss seeing him along the trail but I'm glad to hear he's hiking so well. He's a wonderful young man and I think he's giving me a cut of the book he's writing that will supposedly include many a "family" story I've shared with him trail side.
Second, to Leo with Hike For Mental Health, I love what your organization is doing and I'd like to add a link to your website on my blog page. Feel free to send me any basic instruction you can offer ... I'm no techie but I've gotten this far so I'm sure I'll figure it out.
Third, to my friend, K Biz: I don't know all the details of your tormented fb post but I will say this: There are many times I couldn't see my way forward and just had to trust that life would get better. And it did. I learned and grew and promised myself I would not be bitter. As Chipmunk told her big sister the other day, "Sometimes when I'm hiking, I think this is the worst day. When will it end? But it does end. And I go to sleep, get up the next day and I do feel better." And so will you ... Now, pull on your boots, get off your "7" rated butt and get hiking, K Biz! "Don't make me turn this po' white trash truck camper around ... "
Chocolate Chip and I were sitting in the cab of the truck for a while after Chipmunk left. A car pulled up next to us and a hiker got out and said, "You're Chipmunk's mom, right?" I nodded and said, "and you are?" He gave me his name and told me that he read about Chipmunk's story in the Pocono Record this morning. It surprised me that the story got into the paper so quickly after yesterday's interview.
He told me he enjoyed the story and that he often hikes with his adult children thru many of the historic sites in Delaware Water Gap. We talked for quite some time and he told me all about some great hikes and views in the area. It was nice to hear that not only did he support what our family does, but that he also shares all the benefits of hiking with his own children. It was a good way to start the day.
I picked up a few extra copies for my friends at Hike for Mental Health and then Chocolate Chip and I settled into the cab to read the article. I was pleased with the coverage and proud that my daughter is strong enough to speak out about mental illness, when so many of her fellow teens feel muted by society who says things like, "What are you so sad about? These are the best years of your life!" I can't imagine how hard it is to hear those words when you're depressed. If this is how the best years of your life feel, it can't offer much hope for the future, especially when you are in the throes of depression.
Afterwards, I followed him back to the office area where he rinsed my sewer hose and re-filled my water tank. Just before I left, he brought me a few bottles of tank deodorizer/cleanser, saying that would help prevent the clogging. When I pulled out my wallet to pay him, he said, "No, you don't owe me. Just consider it my contribution to your adventure." Wow! There it was! Trail Magic just for me! Thanks, my friend and good luck in all you do. I hope we meet again some day and I can extend a kindness to you.
I headed out with a clean tank and a smile on my face. I found some wifi and posted the blog and talked online with the Editor. Her boyfriend, Dillon, was officially headed for Korea and she was officially sad. I tried to offer her support and reminded her that as hard as it is for her, he was facing a new phase of his life. He was going to have a tough few weeks in a place where he doesn't fully understand the language, he knows no one and nothing is familiar. I reminded her that many a military spouse has felt all that she is feeling PLUS they have to cope with knowing their loved one is headed into a battle zone. Nonetheless, I can feel for anyone who is separated from their loved ones, including all the parents whose children are hiking the Appalachian Trail.
I told the Editor that although this is hard, it's not the end of the world ... it's just a different reality. She and Dillon will have lots of ways to stay connected and be important in one another's lives through email, phone, texting, Skype, etc. Throughout the day, she let me know as he arrived safely for each leg of his trip. She was proud that when he arrived at his apartment and didn't know how to get his gas stove to work, she talked him through lighting it. I know they're both going to get through this phase of their lives just fine.
I drove and met Chipmunk and a few other hikers at a midday meet up spot and passed out cold sodas and treats. Joe Cool wanted a V8 drink and I gave her a chilled can. She said, "Wow! Everything tastes soooo good when you're hiking." I remember that same sentiment from my family bike ride. They were all quite grateful and smiling as they headed back into the woods.
As we waited a group of hikers, that were ahead of Chipmunk earlier in the day, passed through. They hopped into a shuttle to spend the night at a Trail Angel's house. The man had a familiar accent and I asked what part of New York he was from. He said, "Brooklyn. You're not from New York though, are you?" I told him I wasn't but that my father was from 'da Bronx and that it was nice to hear the accent.
As we talked, Chipmunk arrived and was glad to answer their questions about hiking. The young man in the red poncho and glasses is 14 years old and was surprised to hear that she started the trail at 14. When she told them she rode her bike 3800 miles when she was 12, the young man in the blue poncho said, "I ride my bike around the neighborhood a few times and that's it." I told him that if he can ride around his neighborhood, he can ride around the country. I don't think he believed me but that's how I tend to look at things. If I can ride my bike from here to there, I can just duplicate that over and over again until I get to where I want to go. We gave them a business card with our website address and we hope we inspired them to keep hiking ... and maybe bike a little more, too. The dads have both participated in longer bike rides; one having done the MS 150, a terrific fundraising bike ride for Multiple Sclerosis.
Chipmunk and I wished them a nice evening. She removed her pack and climbed into the truck. We drove into town in search of a laundromat; her hiking clothes needed to be washed and dried before they took on a whole new smell! While the machines did their thing, Chipmunk and I were fully entertained watching the Sherlock DVDs that Brother Chip gave her on the laptop. We love that show! Thanks again, Brother Chip. After laundry and dinner, we parked in our camp spot for the night and drifted off to sleep.
Chipmunk plans to meet up with some day hikers from Hike For Mental Health during her next hike day. The HFMH group are trying to get in shape for a big upcoming event: they are hiking Mount Washington, the highest peak in New England! The thought of that can be a bit intimidating but the HFMH group believes in their cause and they'll put their boots to the trail to show their commitment. Good Luck to all the HFMH hikers!
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)