Day 203 on the Appalachian Trail Miles Hiked to Date: 2167 Hiked yesterday: 16 Trail Miles, Miles left to hike: 17
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!"
Thanks to Peanut for your generous donation to Chipmunk's Hike for Mental Health fundraising page! You have been so supportive of this adventure and Chipmunk was not surprised to hear that you also supported her charity of choice. We are looking forward to seeing you and Jen and all the rest of the Chainwheel Drive folks when we get back to Florida!
Second, thank you to Brandon M. "HotSpot" for your generous donation of Chipmunk Bucks. Chipmunk, Papa Chip and I enjoyed getting to know you over the last few months and we all love your adventure plans! Keep on Hiking!
Third, to Kevin, although your suggestion sounds like it would get the job done quickly ... the mom in me says, maybe it would be better to break the remaining miles into two days. All that said, good luck on your 100 mile trail race! Sounds exciting! Chipmunk has expressed an interest in trail running ... we'll see.
Fourth, to Donna J., thanks for joining us on this adventure and for your support. Yes, the Big K (as Chipmunk calls it) is one tough mountain. To any aspiring thru hikers, I highly recommend a Northbound hike ... according to Chipmunk, she drew on everything she learned in the last 6.5 months when she climbed Katahdin.
Fifth, to Heather, although Chipmunk enjoyed having Chocolate Chip along for a short section of the trail, there are a bunch of reasons why they didn't partner more often: 1) Chipmunk had enough to handle while hiking without being responsible for Chocolate Chip, 2) Chocolate Chip is healthy but her breed occasionally develops breathing issues in hot weather, 3) Some of the terrain would require Chipmunk to carry Chocolate Chip over, under, through, etc. ... putting both of them unnecessarily at risk and 4) ... I wanted Chocolate Chip with me. She's an excellent companion and stress reliever for a hiker mom, not to mention as a companion to all of the hikers who came into trailheads looking for a little unconditional love.
Sixth, to Rob and Beverly, thanks for your interest in Chipmunk's journey. Her hike will actually end in Caratunk, where she leapfrogged ahead to in order to summit Katahdin before the Oct. 15th closing. When we asked Chipmunk (a month ago) how she'd like her final day to end, she simply replied, "Just the 3 of us. Like it started." We have turned down media requests to be there and requests from friends and fans. We expect it to be an emotional time and a special family moment. I promise a few pics, though.
We all shared a laugh as he made all kinds of uncomfortable noises during the slow climb out of Marion and up to the trailhead. Before pulling into the parking area, we discussed a plan that included one of us pushing the seat forward (Schnitzel, I think), the other two popping our doors open upon arrival and Wicked Miner bolting from the truck to the closest spot to relieve himself. I have so many fun memories from this adventure!
Once the water was warm enough for Chipmunk's morning "goat"meal, I woke her and she did her morning stretches on her bunk. When she sat up, I handed her a vitamin and her bowl. I handed Papa Chip his cup of coffee, while he was still up in his bunk and I started making 2 Peanut Butter and Jelly sandwiches for Chipmunk's 17 mile hike day that she had planned. Her day would start with a 3000' climb over the first 6 miles as she takes on the Bigelow Mountains. Even with a 6 AM start in the dark, we'd be lucky to see her before 6 PM that evening, in the dark.
We both hugged and kissed her good bye, snapped a quick pic and watched her disappear into the pitch darkness, only her headlamp giving the occasional glimpse into where she was. When we could see her no more, we walked back to the camper, slid off our shoes, climbed up and snuggled in our bunk together until the sun came up and the local diner opened at 7 AM.
We drove to the Looney Moose diner for the last time during this hike adventure. We walked in and saw some of the same faces and we, too, felt a bit like "regulars" when the waitress said, "Plug in and let's see where she's at." She brought us coffee and I pulled up Chipmunk's SPOT tracking page online. While we waited for our breakfasts, Papa Chip and I discussed whether Chipmunk ought to attempt two longer days back to back to finish her hike and we both agreed that we think she can handle it, especially since the terrain for the last 17 miles is quite mild compared to the mountains she's been climbing. Chipmunk said that was her hiking plan and we're all on board for it.
After breakfast, we lingered at the restaurant and did our online work. I returned some emails and also texted with our older daughter, Editor. She's getting excited at the prospect of her kid sister's hike ending so that we can all celebrate together in South Jersey where she, my son and my mom all live. It's been a while since we've been all together and I'm looking forward to it.
My phone dinged a few more times before we wrapped up and left. One message was from our friends at Vasque Footwear. They sent a confirmation email for a very special treat for Chipmunk and us. They are treating us to a stay at the Mount Washington Hotel and Resort in New Hampshire! (http://www.omnihotels.com/FindAHotel/BrettonWoodsMountWashington.aspx?cid=sd_psg_g-mtwash&gclid=COqPhaWFr7oCFcae4AodKCoAyQ) We can hardly wait! A hotel room is a real treat after traveling in the truck camper ... THIS hotel looks AMAZING!! Thank you, Thank you, Vasque! (and Angie H. who made it all happen!)
After filling the truck tank with diesel fuel, we headed towards the meet up spot, knowing that it might be a while before Chipmunk arrived. There were a few logging roads along the way and Papa Chip is "taking it easy" on the truck in hopes of it "holding out" to a feasible place for the repair work it needs.
We drove over mostly paved roads under cloudy skies. It started raining on and off and my heart sank. I had hoped we'd get lucky and the rain would hold off until she finished her hiking day. Now that the temperatures have dropped a bit, I worry about her getting wet; I worry about Hypothermia. Papa Chip assured me that not only is she plenty warm enough but that she has a change of dry clothes, should she need it. Although I know all of that ... I still worry. I remember telling my own mom not to worry so much when I went out on adventures. Now I know that it's not something you choose to do, especially once you have children.
We turned onto a relatively well maintained dirt road and soon after, had to pull off the road. A really big logging truck was coming towards us and needed all the space it could get. The driver did the "thank you" wave as he passed and Papa Chip did the "no problem" wave back. We proceeded down the road until we found the very well marked trailhead with a beautiful parking area.
Papa Chip parked the truck, angling it up on the driver's side to make our bunk area a bit more level for sleeping. Chocolate Chip and I hopped out and we all went for a walk to see exactly where the trail crossed the road. As we were walking, another big logging truck rumbled by. At least the vehicles that Chipmunk will have to watch out for when crossing, are loud. I can't tell you how many times the Appalachian Trail crossed a paved roadway on a blind curve. Hikers had to rely less on visual verification and more on what they heard.
We found the trail crossing area and could see that Chipmunk would have a short road walk before she resumed the trail the next day. We returned to the truck camper and took care of some chores. I worked on cleaning up the camper part, Papa Chip checked the truck's fluids, etc. It's all just busy stuff to pass the time until Chipmunk comes off the trail.
Around 5:30 pm, it grew dark enough outside that I had to turn on a camper light. I asked Papa Chip if he knew where his headlamp was; and if the bug out bag was ready. He said, "Yes. I don't think we'll need it, but yes, it's good to go." We didn't have reception at the trailhead so we couldn't follow Chipmunk's progress on her SPOT tracking page. Based on the earlier tracking, she should be in by 6 PM.
Her cheeks were rosy and when I hugged her, her cheek was cold against mine. I told her to come into the camper and warm up. She said she was plenty warm; that she shed her blue puffy jacket by mid-morning and put on her rain jacket a few times. Mostly, she hiked with just her fleece top over her short sleeve wicking top.
She joined us in the camper after Papa Chip stashed her backpack in the cab area. She unlaced her boots and told us that she was glad to be home. She asked what was for dinner and Papa Chip told her Spaghetti in a blush sauce. She said, "OK, I'm not super hungry because I ate a snack about a half mile before the trailhead." Papa Chip started a pot of water on the stove top and then sat on the cooler facing Chipmunk and me; we were seated on her bunk.
Once her boots were off, she asked if we could all watch another episode of Third Rock From the Sun. We put the DVD into the laptop and we all had a few laughs while dinner cooked. We watched another episode after dinner and then by 8:30, we shut down the computer and climbed into bunks. It was dark and quiet ... the last of the logging trucks rumbled down the road around 7 pm. Initially, Chipmunk wanted to get up at 5 AM for the next day's hike but then asked if she could sleep until 5:30 AM. We all agreed and set our alarms accordingly. With that, we said our "I love you's" and "good night's" and turned off the camper light. I have to admit, I had butterflies in my stomach as I lied there in the dark thinking just what the next day might hold ... the end of an amazing 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)