Day 120 on the Appalachian Trail Miles Hiked to Date: 1256 Hiked yesterday: 14 Trail Miles, Miles left to hike: 927
I pulled some of the Reese's Peanut Butter Cakes that Aunt Carol Trail Magic'd us while she pulled on her boots. I filled her water bladder and followed her to the trailhead for a picture, a hug and a kiss. We re-confirmed our meet up spots and then she walked down the long wide path into the woods.
I left and headed towards town, Wifi and coffee. Once the blog was posted, I returned phone calls, emails and caught up with the Editor. Then I drove and parked the PWTTC at the trailhead. I had a few maintenance issues to take care of so I parked in the shade and pulled the tool bag.
First, I used a flathead screw driver to pry a screw back at the bottom of the back door that sometimes "catches" on the door frame and makes the door ridiculously hard to open. (I can only imagine what my fellow shoppers must think of me when I'm pulling on the door and cursing as my cart with groceries starts to roll away!)
(Papa Chip, pay attention to this part) Well, I pried it open and discovered that the head of the screw popped off and the "screwy" part fell inside the door body. Hmm. I wonder if that's a problem. I'm thinking that screw probably had a reason for being there but nothing bad seems to have happened since it was severed. I'll keep you posted.
Next, I used the Gorilla Tape to re-secure the screen into the window at Chipmunk's bunk. Chocolate Chip gets excited when she hears and sees people from the camper window when I go into stores, etc. She paws at it until the screen comes out of its track, allowing her to hang a paw out the jalousie style windows ... as if to shake hands with the passersby.
When the check came, I pulled out my wallet and Gilgamesh announced that the hikers had already decided to buy my lunch. I tried to object but he insisted. It was a sweet (and super yummy) gesture.
We headed out to the parking lot where Hail Satan and Joe Cool asked if they could get a few quick items at the stores in the strip mall. I told them no problem and the rest of us headed back to the truck camper.
We were in a giddy mood so after Joe Cool climbed in, we drove towards the store where Hail Satan went. He walked out the front and towards the truck. Each time he was close to climbing in, I drove a little further on. I did this about 4 times while everyone laughed. I know it was totally juvenile ... and totally fun! The last time I did something "juvenile" and blogged about it, a reader declared that she was done with reading my blog. I know I can't be what everyone wants me to be; so, I'm just me, with all my flaws, and apparently a 12 year old on the inside that occasionally sneaks out.
Later, Joe Cool pulled me aside and told me that Snacks and Gilgamesh quietly were "spotting" Chipmunk, especially around the cliff areas. She assured me that Chipmunk is a really good hiker and didn't need help or even spotting but that the hikers all look out for one another, especially her. I couldn't help but get teary eyed. I know I've said this before, but I truly believe Chipmunk is in one of the best communities. Again and again, they impress me with their thoughtfulness, kindness, strength and wisdom. If they are our future, I have no worries.
While I waited for Chipmunk to come into the end of day meet up spot, I received a text message from Darren of Paramount Fit Foods, letting me know he thought he was close to where we were. We talked and I gave him a nearby restaurant to meet me. In short order, he arrived and gave me a big hug. He also gave me 2 gift cards, telling me that the $50 one was for fuel in the truck and that the $25 one was from "Mayor" and was specifically to support Chipmunk's PIZZA habit! I laughed and said, "We'll see about that." Then he pointed out that Mayor made him write "PIZZA" write on the card! Very funny! and very kind. Thank you both for the trail magic that keeps Chipmunk on track!
Our Paramount Fit Foods friend, Darren, suggested that we all go to dinner and the hikers' gave a unanimous, "Yeah!" We all piled into the PWTTC and headed to the local family restaurant where we had left Darren's rental car. Chipmunk wasn't feeling very good and once everyone piled out, she asked if she could have a few minutes. I assured her that was fine.
My big stinky group of heroes invaded the restaurant and they offered us a big table in the back so that we could all sit together ... and, um, ... out of sniff distance of their front room patrons. Good decision! It allowed us to be our loud, laughing selves without worrying about disturbing the other folks.
Chipmunk came in about 5 minutes later dressed in her pj pants, her Blue Blaze Cafe t-shirt and my big Trilogy Park BMX volunteer Fleece pullover. She looked pale and tired and said she just wanted some cheese fries to eat. It suddenly hit me that she was a "girl" and that the girl hikers have one extra thing to deal with on the trail that the guy hikers don't. She put on a good face and felt a bit better after everyone started talking and laughing. They also broke into a song that many of them sing on the trail, each piecing in the lyrics they knew. It felt good to be part of this amazing group.
We ate well, had dessert and laughed until our belly muscles ached (see pics from blog titled "Ever Picture Tells a Story). When the restaurant was ready to close, the hikers and I got hugs and high fives from Darren. Thanks to Darren and the whole crew at Paramount Fit Foods, including Valerie (Mayor) who we really miss! Since we've met, I've seen firsthand their commitment to hikers and cyclists, too. It goes beyond providing us with healthy and yummy jerky and granola. Chipmunk and many a hiker has received messages of support that make a difference in a hiker's day. They've opened their home to all of us, fed us, and given us the stuff that makes our lives easier and better. My family and I consider your kindness and support to be a big part of Chipmunk's success to date. Thanks for remembering us in your travels, too!
Before closing today, I'd like to share something with you that happened back in Waynesboro, VA. When Chipmunk and I parked near some hikers in the free camping area, I noticed a trail angel I had heard about and I approached to introduce myself. I said, "Hi, I'm Chipmunk's Mom ..." Before I could say any more, he said, "You know, she's not the youngest hiker on the A.T." I said, "Yeah, I know, there's been plenty younger who have hiked with parents. They're amazing. Chipmunk is the youngest SOLO hiker." He said, "Pfft. Solo?? You mean 'Assisted', don't you?" He obviously had an opinion that I wasn't going to (or need to) change. I said, "well ..." as I turned to walk away. He followed me and said, "Really? How can you call her a SOLO hiker? You pick her up at trailheads, she sleeps in a camper, she doesn't even cook her own food." Again, I decided to bite my lip and I said, "Excuse me. I need to return a phone call." I went into the camper and shook my head.
The irony of a man who takes money (sometimes as much as $50-60) to give hikers rides to town, to outfitters, restaurants, etc. ... kind of like "assisting them" ... to be discounting what my daughter is doing ... well, it was ludicrous. Because I'm out here day in and day out from mile one forward, I know that most every hiker is "assisted" in one way or another. I don't believe I've met one hiker who hasn't hitch hiked into town, received drop packages of re-supply, stayed at a hostel or hotel, or accepted the help of strangers ... my kid included! It is that assistance that makes putting their boots down on the trail day in and day out, possible. It is what makes this life changing experience that shapes the lives of our future leaders, worth every effort.
Hiking the Appalachian Trail (or accomplishing most any epic adventure) is only possible because of the assistance of kind people who embrace what the hikers are doing, often without profiting from it. We all do things to help one another because it is what makes us human; it is what makes life better. So, yes ... my child is "Assisted" and I thank each and every one of you who support my child's (and so many other hikers') quest with your kindness, and especially your words of support. Thanks for joining us on this journey.
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)