First to Pat M., thank you for the generous donation. Chipmunk appreciates the trail magic and we all appreciate your support. We are glad you have joined us for this journey.
Second to Rosie S. (Not Evil Vengeful Rosie the GPS but cheeky, British Accented Rosie), Ahhh, sisterly love! Ain't it the best??
Papa Chip and I were already awake when our phone alarms went off at 5 AM on the planned summit morning. I made 2 cups of coffee and we took our vitamins, ate a quick breakfast and we were ready to hike the back side of Katahdin by 5:35 AM. After moving the Chip Mobile from the Roaring Brook camping area to the day parking area, we walked the short distance to the Ranger station. We signed in, noting the time (5:40 AM) and our trail route plan for the day: Chimney Pond Trail to Saddle Trail to the summit of Katahdin.
Papa Chip and I both packed a good amount of snacks, including PB&J sandwiches, trail mix and Paramount Fit Foods Wild Hunt packs with jerky, nuts and fruit. We each had 2 liters of water in our day packs, along with phones, a camera, a jacket and gloves. Within 10 minutes of hiking in the pre-dawn darkness, our bodies warmed up and we felt that we were hiking at a good pace.
Although we had a plan and a "fall back" plan in place for the day, the one thing we didn't have was cell reception of any kind. We had no way to track where Chipmunk was on the trail or exactly what time she started out from her campground. If for any reason, she had an injury or illness and was unable to summit, she was to report that to the closest Ranger and ask that her status be transmitted to us via the Chimney Pond Ranger Station and via the Ranger(s) on patrol at the summit. If anything prevented both Papa Chip and me from summiting, we'd do the same. If she reached the summit and we weren't there by 2 PM, she was to descend via the Saddle trail to the Chimney Pond Trail, reporting in at the Ranger Stations along the way.
We continued hiking and noted that we were averaging about one mile per hour when we saw a mile marker sign along the trail. FYI, when I say trail ... please don't envision a dirt path. It was more of a rock scramble, punctuated by the occasional wooden bridge and brook crossing.
We hiked onward, noting that there were no switchbacks, just a steady incline over a trail that was far rockier than I had envisioned. Around 8:30 AM, we reached the Chimney Pond Ranger Station, Campground area. We both took advantage of the privy there and then headed to the Ranger Station to sign in. We were invited in to discuss our hike plan with the Ranger there. Mark showed us the trail on the map and we told him that we planned to meet an AT hiker at the summit. He asked if we had water, snacks, headlamps, etc. and we said we did. He told us that the beautiful clear skies were supposed to last most of the day and that we ought to have incredible views at the summit. We thanked him and headed back out on the trail.
We could climb upright over about 50% of this part of the trail; the balance of it required hand over hand climbing. Again, I didn't quite expect so much rock climbing but I didn't mind it; it was all just part of the trip to the top to witness this special moment in our daughter's hike.
When he passed me, I noticed that he seemed to scale the rocks much easier than I could. I told him that if he'd like to go ahead of me, I'd catch up to him. He declined saying, "Stick to the plan." I nodded. We'd stay together until we thought we were within 1 hour of the summit. If it was 12 noon or after, he'd hike ahead, meet Chipmunk at the summit and start taking some pics. I'd likely arrive a short time later. It was only 10:30 AM and we had what we guesstimated to be about a mile and a half more of climbing before we'd summit.
When we reached the "Rock Slide", I literally slowed to a crawl. The Rock Slide was approximately 3-4/10ths of a mile of very steep boulders, interspersed with smaller, loose stones. My poles were useless and I had to pull myself up and over granite boulders, some that were smooth and others that scraped the palms of my hands and my forearms. Again, this didn't bother me so much. It was all so that I could see Chipmunk's summit.
When we finally climbed out of the rock slide, I was exhausted. We sat on a rock together and drank water and ate snacks. As soon as I felt my muscles cooling down, I told Papa Chip I wanted to get moving. He asked if I had rested enough and I said I had, believing that I wouldn't feel rested until this hike was done. We continued to hike upward and I noticed that if I looked much beyond the 10-15 feet of rocky trail in front of me, that I'd get a little dizzy. Odd, I thought. Hmm. Maybe, it's the altitude? No worries. I'll just focus on the 10-15 feet of rocky trail in front of me instead of taking in the amazing views that were unfolding all around me.
I asked Papa Chip what time it was and he said it was 11:30 AM. I asked him how much further to the summit did he think it was and he said, "Maybe a mile." I said, "You better go. I'll catch up." He said, "I'll stay with you a little longer. She's probably not going to summit until at least 1 PM." I argued for a minute or two but then agreed. I actually wasn't looking forward to separating. We agreed to watch for the next trail milage sign and then re-assess the plan.
In the meantime, a Park Ranger came up the trail. She stopped alongside us, introduced herself as Jennifer and asked how we were doing. We told her we were fine and that we were hoping to see our daughter, Chipmunk, summit. She asked if we were drinking water, eating snacks, etc. and we said we were. She said she was on her way to the summit and that she'd keep an eye out for her and let her know we were on our way. We thanked her and she scaled the rocks above us like a mountain goat and quickly disappeared from my line of sight.
We continued to climb and climb and climb and climb. We did reach a section where we could walk a little more upright but it was tricky, at best. The noon sun was now beating down on my back and my face had a crusty coating of salt from sweating. My mouth was growing dry a little more often and I worried that maybe I was drinking too much of my water supply, knowing I had to hike back down.
I suddenly remembered that Papa Chip was supposed to head to the summit by a certain time but I couldn't remember what time that was we had planned. I sat on a rock and asked him if he thought he should shoot up ahead of me and get to the summit. He looked at his watch and said, "Yeah, it's 12:30 now. Are you okay?" I assured him I was and he kissed me. Just before he left, he confirmed I had plenty of water and snacks and kissed me again. He was quickly gone from my line of sight. I put my water bottle back in my pack and resumed the trail.
When I heard hikers behind me, I moved aside and let them pass. It felt like I climbed for a really long time before I saw another hiker. When I did, I asked him to please tell my husband and Chipmunk that I was still heading upward. He said he would. I resumed hiking and was so relieved when I finally saw a trail sign indicating that the summit was a half mile away. I stared at the sign for a long time, trying to determine how far away that was; how long it would take me to get there. A hiker came up next to me and asked if I was okay. I told him I was and asked if he was going to the summit. He said he was and I asked him to also tell Papa Chip that I was a half mile from the summit and still heading up. He said he would and again asked me if I was okay before he left. I assured him I was, just a little tired. I watched him walked past me and up to my left. I sat on the rock a while longer, not knowing that at the same time, Chipmunk was also just about a half mile from the summit ... on the other side of the mountain.
Papa Chip arrived at the summit at approximately one o'clock. He looked around and Chipmunk was not there. He saw a few other hikers at the summit and word spread quickly that Chipmunk was likely arriving soon. In fact, a few Canadian boys were aware of Chipmunk's quest via a Canadian blogger's hiking website and decided to linger longer than planned, in hopes of meeting her.
The Baxter State Park Ranger, Jennifer, later told us that she noticed that Papa Chip was on the summit but that Chipmunk wasn't. She told us that when she passed us earlier in the day that she had an odd feeling something was going to happen with our family on the mountain that day. For that reason, she decided to descend the Appalachian Trail from the summit and check on Chipmunk. She intercepted her less than a mile from the summit and introduced herself. Jennifer asked her a few questions and felt assured that Chipmunk was doing well. She learned that Chipmunk got a later start in the morning since she had to hike about a mile roundtrip (that she didn't expect) in order to leave her tent, sleeping bag and sleep pad at the Ranger Station. (FYI, AT hikers are asked to leave their camping gear at the Ranger Station since camping on the summit is forbidden and there are no feasible camp spots between the Ranger Station and the summit.)
Jennifer returned to the summit and saw Papa Chip chatting with a few other hikers. Most were interested in hearing Chipmunk's story and couldn't believe a 15 year old girl was hiking Mount Katahdin alone ... let alone the whole Appalachian Trail. Jennifer said she noted that Chipmunk was safely on her way to the summit, Papa Chip was also on the summit and that Mama Chip was not. She decided to descend via the Saddle Trail and check on me.
He waited for quite a while and then headed towards the Appalachian Trail and saw Chipmunk on the horizon. When she got closer, he shot some video footage and still shots of her ascent and arrival at the Katahdin sign. She had her "Big Red" pack on and a big smile on her face. As she approached, she was greeted by a small applauding crowd of hikers who had waited for her to summit. She looked as if she was a bit surprised at the applauding strangers.
She walked around the back of the iconic Katahdin sign, climbed up the rocks behind it and threw her arms in the air in a victorious pose. When she climbed down, Papa Chip wrapped his arms around her and she hugged him, both of them smiling in the beautiful sunshine. Although her hike wasn't completely over, it was truly an amazing accomplishment climbing Mount Katahdin, and reaching the Appalachian Trail's Northern terminus.
Although Papa Chip took a bunch of pictures and we are eager to share them with all of our readers, supporters, friends & family ... we will not publish them on this site until Chipmunk completes the 101 miles of Appalachian Trail she has left to hike. I know this may be a disappointment and I hope you forgive me, but I truly believe the wait will be worth it.
Day 193 on the Appalachian Trail Miles Hiked to Date: 2083 Hiked yesterday: 5 Trail Miles + 5.5 non AT trail Miles, Miles left to hike: 101
As Chipmunk was summiting, I was hiking onward. I got up from the rock next to the half mile to the summit sign and headed off in the direction of more blue blazes. I hiked for a long time and was growing increasingly tired. After hiking for what felt like an hour or more, I saw a sign ahead. I approached it and read: "Summit ... 1/2 mile." I stared at the sign for a long time, trying to comprehend how I could still be a 1/2 mile from the summit.
Although I didn't know what was wrong ... I knew something was wrong. I sat there staring at the sign, trying to sort what had transpired and what to do next. As I sat on the rock next to the sign, a woman hiked up next to me and asked if I was okay. I said that I was. Being an I.C.U. nurse, she could tell that I wasn't.
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)