Day 77/78 Appalachian Trail, VA Miles Hiked to Date: 736 Hiked yesterday: 0 Trail Miles Miles to Katahdin: 1477
In the past few weeks, I've noticed fewer hikers on the trail. I know that some have left the trail due to injury. Some have left because they've run out of the money to complete their adventure. And some have left the trail because they simply can not cope with the mental challenge of this undertaking. I feel for them all. In hearing all that they conquer in a typical day, it amazes me that any of them still get up every morning and set out on the Appalachian Trail.
Chipmunk is not immune to the mental and emotional pain that comes with hiking this trail. She is currently in the Virginia corridor, often called the Green Mile because the canopy is so dense at times that it feels like a tunnel. Although she sees and hikes side by side with friends on and off, she still has a lot of time where she is alone with her thoughts. She has said before that it is like a form of sensory deprivation.
Although she emerges from the dense woods for occasional spectacular views, most of her days are filled with rocky, muddy paths past the same kinds of trees. She doesn't complain about it but she has noted that the routine-ness of it often makes her look inward rather than outward. Like many her age, the teen years are a time of feeling self-conscious. Although, her dad and I tell her how beautiful she is, she doesn't often feel or believe that about herself. Even though she knows that photos in advertising are often airbrushed and that media images project an unrealistic perfection, she feels an inward pressure to be prettier, thinner, etc. It's almost unbelievable that with all we know about what's healthy and normal, we, as a society continue to reward beauty, the one thing that is not an accomplishment, but mostly a genetic lottery.
There are strong men and women, challenging their bodies physically and their minds to improve themselves and the world. Most of us know the challenges of living through the day to day "crap" that finds its way to our door. And sometimes, that's enough to make us want to retreat. It amazes me that magazines, t.v. shows, movies, etc. continue to target young men and women with such a narrow focus on the thin and beautiful instead of a wider view of ALL. I know I've seen progress in the past few years but it seems minimal in the vast amount of images and messages that are out there.
So, for Chipmunk and all the hikers who are coping with their own struggles, I offer you the wisdom of the years in these quotes:
“The most beautiful people I've known are those who have known trials, have known struggles, have known loss, and have found their way out of the depths.”
― Elisabeth Kübler-Ross
"I believe in being strong when everything seems to be going wrong. I believe that happy girls are the prettiest girls. I believe that tomorrow is another day and I believe in miracles."
“If you feel lost, disappointed, hesitant, or weak, return to yourself, to who you are, here and now and when you get there, you will discover yourself, like a lotus flower in full bloom, even in a muddy pond, beautiful and strong.”
― Masaru Emoto, The Secret Life of Water
In the face of recent adversity, the words of our friends, family and some amazing strangers are the words that changed my outlook; changed my mood. Thank you again for your patience, kindness, support and love as Chipmunk tackles her toughest challenge.
If you enjoy reading the story of Chipmunk's quest, 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 and Papa Chip and I tweet (@ridethenation) 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. 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 of today’s blog post.
Thanks again for all your support,
Mama Chip, Papa Chip, Chipmunk and her dog, Chocolate Chip
(Tammy, Jay, Neva and Coco)