Day 67 Pearisburg, VA Miles Hiked to Date: 650 Hiked yesterday: 20.9 Trail Miles Miles to Katahdin: 1533.9
First, a big thank you to Angie Houck and her team at Darby Communications who represent Vasque boots. They recently added Chipmunk’s story to their social media sites and immediately we received a donation for Chipmunk’s journey from Compliance Media. Thank you to Compliance Media for your generous donation; Chipmunk, Papa Chip and I truly appreciate it. I also received notification just before posting today’s blog that Carol S. also made a donation along with this message: “Hope this helps Chipmunk have a super, fantastic birthday coming up! Thank you Chipmunk for being such a wonderful inspiration! Praying for you all the way and spreading the word to others about you and your amazing journey! Carol S.” Thank you, too, Carol for your generous donation. I’m working on ideas for her birthday now. Considering she’s sweaty and dirty most every day, I may plan a salon or spa day to make her feel pampered.
Second, my apologies to my oldest daughter, the “editor”, for not properly minding my adverb usage (see comments on yesterday’s blog posting). Please bear in mind that this blog is a “zero budget” project and that although I’d like you to be my personal editor and travel along with us, I respect that you have a life in NJ and aren’t readily available. Speaking of that life … Congrats to the “editor” on scoring an EDITOR position with an up and coming Monthly News Paper (whose name I’ve forgotten … oops!). Papa Chip, Chipmunk and I are very proud of you and look forward to seeing your name in print!
Once the camper patching work was done, I put everything away and drove the truck to the parking lot out front. I checked my phone and saw that it was nearing 1:00 so I didn’t start any big projects. Shortly, the phone rang and it was Sheena. Sheena and I met on a cruise years ago and have been friends ever since. She is a really cool lady and quite honestly one of my favorite people to enjoy a cool drink with on a warm night overlooking anything from a calm ocean, to snow covered hills with deer to … a vacant graffiti’d house. Being with good friends is heartwarming wherever you are. After saying hello, I told her to go get a drink and I’d grab a cold one, too, so that we could chat and have a drink together even if she was miles away in Canada.
After reading the blog, she figured she’d lend me some moral support and we talked and laughed about everything … even the in between boring stuff that doesn’t quite rate as “blog worthy”. It was exactly what I needed. She and her husband, Phil, are coming south in late June and we are all hoping to connect somewhere. Chipmunk would love to see Phil and Sheena (who she calls her “amiga-buela”). When we ended our call, I was stunned to see we had talked for over an hour! But, I felt refreshed and ready to handle whatever else ventured into my day ahead. Thanks, Sheena!
Although it was still early, I decided to venture up to our first meet up point so that I could park and do dishes and let them dry while I waited for Chipmunk to come out of the woods. I had programmed the coordinates into good ole Evil Vengeful Rosie the GPS AND my phone’s navigation and surprisingly, they both agreed! Sweeeeet! I thought to myself, this is going to be easy peazy! Of course, I was wrong. I drove out of Pearisburg and up the paved winding road towards the Jefferson Forest area. As I approached the destination point (which the A.T. Guide said there was parking available), I didn’t see any parking or signs of the Appalachian Trail. Hmm. First, I thought maybe I mis-entered a digit or two in the coordinates. So, I re-entered them on Rosie (my cell phone lost data connection so it was useless at that point) and sure enough, it led me to the same exact spot.
I pulled off the side of the road and looked around. There was an old forest road sign and what looked to possibly be a former parking area that was overgrown with grass, broken bottles, debris, etc. I put Chocolate Chip back in the truck so that she wouldn’t get hurt and then ventured a bit further and found blue blazes on a few trees. Hmm. The Appalachian Trail is marked by white blazes; other trails by blue blazes. There were no white blazes anywhere.
As I returned to the truck, I noticed a lady outside checking her mail not far away. I jogged in her direction and as she turned to go up her drive I hollered to her, asking if she knew where the Appalachian Trail came out. She said, “Yes, it’s 2 miles further up the road. There’s a parking area near the footbridge that crosses Stony Creek. You can’t miss it.” Great! It was only 4 PM so I had plenty of time to find it, park, do dishes before the 6 PM time I promised Chipmunk I’d be there. I returned to the truck and drove up the road slowly until I saw the spot she described. I pulled into the parking area and walked up to where the footbridge came out and sure enough there were white blazes on the trees and the entry to the footbridge. I opened the back of the camper, climbed up and in and started boiling water for dishwashing (there’s no hot water heater in the camper so I do them the old fashioned way).
The water had just started to bubble when I head someone outside. It was a hiker known as “Zach Galafanakis” (because he looks just like him) and he’d just crossed the footbridge. He stopped to say hi and I asked if he’d seen Chipmunk today. He said he hadn’t but that he had left from Rice Field Shelter, 7 miles past her starting point at Cross Avenue. I told him how I had trouble finding this spot; that I was afraid I’d have to use our second meet up spot, “The Captain’s Place” further down the path. He said, “That’s not further down the path. I passed the Captain’s Place over a mile back.” Hmm. I thanked him for the info and pulled my A.T. Guide sheets. Sure enough, there were 2 places along VA 635 where the Appalachian Trail comes out to the same roadway, one before the Captain’s Place and one after.
I couldn’t find the one before and since the one after that I was parked at was not one of the backup meeting spots that Chipmunk and I had decided earlier in the day, I decided to pack down and drive to the Captain’s Place, which had a street address listed in the A.T. Guide along with this description: “Camping available about 30 yards from trail. Use zipline to cross the creek. You may camp even when the Captain is not home. Dogs will bark but are friendly and are contained by an invisible electric fence. Hiker Feed two weeks after Trail Days. If it rains, you may stay on back porch.” Ohhhh, this is the place that the hiker, Matt, told me about; where they fed over a 100 hikers all weekend long (see yesterday’s blog). Sweet! Matt said he was a great guy and the place was safe and really cool.
I entered the address into my GPS and realized that although the A.T. Guide gave the street address, it did not give the name of the small town. I tried Pearisburg but that wasn’t correct. Then, I tried “search all cities”; 5 came up. I tried the first one and it gave directions with an ETA of 4 hours away. Hmm, I tried the second town and it gave an ETA of 4 minutes away so I chose that one. I drove slowly and as I got close, I saw a few hikers in the yard and a few tents in the side yard. Bingo! I pulled the truck off to the side and got out to check with the Captain if I could drive in and park to wait. He wasn’t home but I noticed that the driveway was a little more angled than I wanted the truck to attempt. A hiker I never met came up and we introduced ourselves; he said he’d heard about Chipmunk and me and then he said there was a better driveway and guided me into it. It was less steep but a little muddy; the truck handled it fine.
Around 7:45 PM, as I sat on a tree stump, I heard Chipmunk’s voice come from the woods, “Mom, I’m alive and I’ll be down there soon.” Many of the hikers yelled back to her, “Chip-muuuunk!” She hooted back and soon was on the other side of the creek bank. One of the guys hollered directions to her and she managed to lift her pack over her head and hang it on the carabiner and hook her Leki poles onto it. Her first attempt to pull herself onto the seat didn’t work but she got squarely on with her second attempt. When the zipline slowed to a stop around the midpoint, the hikers quickly pulled the cords and she smiled as she floated over the creek to the rocky creek bank. Before the hikers could help her remove her pack, she got it down and with both poles in one hand, she came up to the yard. Several hikers said hello and one introduced himself as “Rambles”. She immediately said, “Are you the Rambles who keeps tagging stuff everywhere?” He looked sheepish as the other hikers whispered, “Busted.” He said, “I don’t know. I carved my name in a few places, maybe. Or maybe there’s another hiker named ‘Rambles’”. She said, “Dude, I don’t care if you tag in the shelters, but on a survey marker?? Really?” He said, “I’m sorry” and sauntered away. Then, she turned to me and said, “I’m hungry.” I hugged her and we walked to the camper where she dropped her pack. I emailed the editor and Papa Chip, letting them know she was safe and with me.
Mothra and Sick Amour were camped nearby and came to chat while I cooked burgers. I told them that I had a couple extra burgers that I needed to use because they wouldn’t stay cold enough once my bag of ice melted completely. They were happy to each have a hot cheeseburger; Chipmunk devoured two, sharing only a few small pieces with Chocolate Chip, who stayed only inches away from her from the time she came into the camper until she went to sleep.
The misty rain picked up overnight and by early morning, the two “trouble spots” in the camper roof started dripping. I grabbed a few bowls and placed them beneath them and went back to sleep. At 6:30 AM, both of our alarms went off and it was raining heavily then. Chipmunk started to sit up and remarked that her back was really sore. She asked if she could sleep in a while longer. I agreed. I awoke again around 9 AM to find Chipmunk reading “Life of Pi” and to the now steadily falling rain. I asked Chipmunk whether she was going to attempt to hike today and she said, “Honestly, I’d love a zero day. It’s so hard to hike in the rain and this section’s rocks were slippery yesterday in good weather. Are you mad at me?” I said, “No. I wouldn’t want to hike in this weather either. Plus, you did big miles yesterday. We’ll zero today, maybe go to the library so you can get online and touch base with friends, etc.” She smiled and then asked, “What are the chances you’ll make me pancakes?” I was happy to oblige. I pulled a pack of Sturdiwheat pancake mix and a bag of chocolate chips out. Within minutes, she was smiling as she ate her favorite breakfast. She ate 4 good sized pancakes before announcing that she was full, saving a few non-chocolate bites for her pup, who although has been trail named Chocolate Chip, can not safely eat Chocolate.
We packed down the camper and when I stepped outside I saw that most all the other tents were still up and that the majority of the hikers were either zero-ing for the day or trying to wait out the rain inside their tents. Chipmunk waited at the top of the driveway while I gingerly pulled the truck camper around to the bottom of the driveway. As we planned, she looked both ways and signaled me when it was clear to come up and onto the roadway. Fearing I might get stuck in the mud, I planned to make a good paced straight run up from the yard, through the muddy ascent and onto the paved road. I was almost to the road when I heard the rear wheels start to spin. I kept my foot steadily on the gas pedal and was fine once my front wheels got to the pavement. And then I was thankful that getting out of the driveway went better than it could have; that maybe the dark cloud, that’s been hanging over me since Papa Chip left to lead his bike tour, is finally letting me see its silver lining. Chipmunk jumped in and we drove towards Pearisburg.
Along the way, I received updates via my Twitter account (@ridethenation) that @Mastercard liked my Instagram/Twitter tweet, “Back Brakes: $250; Front Brakes: $218; Backing your kids’ adventure: Priceless!” It surprised me that someone at Mastercard got back to me inquiring more about her adventure. I wonder if anything will come of it. I’ll keep you posted.
If you’d like to send Chipmunk words of encouragement or birthday wishes (her birthday is mid-June), her email address is firstname.lastname@example.org; if you’d like to send her a birthday card, she can receive mail or packages up until June 14th addressed to: Tammy/Neva Warren, C/O Middle Creek Campground,
1164 Middle Creek Rd, Buchanan, VA 24066. Be sure to mark mail “For A.T. Hiker, ETA 6/14/13”.
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: email@example.com. She or we (firstname.lastname@example.org) 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)