Day 70 near Blacksburg, VA Miles Hiked to Date: 681 Hiked yesterday: 17 Trail Miles Miles to Katahdin: 1502.8
First, hmmm… no blog comments about the Southbound hiker story blog at www.chakenbake.blogspot.com? Interesting. It’s one of the most charming couple of minutes I’ve spent reading a hiker’s blog. If you haven’t checked it out yet, I highly recommend it and I guarantee you’ll like it. The writer is a Northbound hiker on the Appalachian Trail named “Shake ‘n Bake” and is one of the kindest guys out there. To his mom and dad, you did a good job!
Second, to Pastor Tom of Oklahoma whom we met in Marion … thank you for your kind voicemail message and your prayers. It was a pleasure meeting you and we hope to see you again along life’s byways.
Yesterday morning, Chipmunk left in the rain from Rocky Gap and I told her I’d try to meet her at a road crossing in about 6 miles. I was concerned that the rain was getting the better of her. I drove down the mountain and began unraveling today’s puzzle. The A.T. Guide did not give GPS coordinates for any meet up spots today. The first one where I figured she’d reach about noon time was described as: “A.T. mm 670.0 Footbridge, Sinking Creek, VA 42, Newport, VA (8.0E). I searched Evil Vengeful Rosie the GPS for a city named “Sinking Creek” and she did not recognize it. When I neared the bottom of VA 601, I saw a sign for Route 42 and headed west away from the Newport, VA post office. I checked the odometer and noted what number to watch for in 8 miles. As I neared the 8 mile mark, I saw nothing indicating the A.T. I passed a church called, “Level Green” and noted that it was a funny name for a church and then drove slowly on. After a few miles, I figured I must have passed it and pulled over when I saw a local person walking his dog. He told me that you can barely notice it because the sign is no longer there but it’s ¼ mile before the church. Aha!
I turned the truck towards Blacksburg and headed to the local McDonald’s to post the blog. I bought a $1 Iced Tea, which comes in a HUGE cup and settled into a booth near an outlet where I could plug in both the computer and my phone to charge. When I finished, I did my new routine. Because refills are free, I dumped the remaining watered down tea and diminished ice cubes. I filled the cup with nothing but ice and after asking if it was o.k., I also filled my Hydro Flask water bottle with ice. I returned to the camper and refreshed the melted ice I keep in a sealed bowl in the dorm style electric only refrigerator. It’s just enough to keep it cool for a day. So, for a $1, I get tea, internet, charging and ice for the fridge … now, that’s good for the old budget!
While I was online, I started looking at Google Maps and a couple hiking websites to narrow down the location of the evening meet up spot: “VA 621, Craig Creek Road”. I found that 621 intersected 460 which leads into Blacksburg. On the hiking websites, I found mention of a section of A.T. that crossed Route 621 about 15 miles North of 460 on 621. Bingo! I’ve got the location.
I headed up 460 and as I approached 621, there was a sign saying “Route 621 not recommended for Tractor Trailers or GPS Routing” … WHAT DOES THAT MEAN?? I turned up the road, figuring if it got too bad, I’d turn around and head to our back up meet up spot which was Route 620 at Trout Creek, listed as a gravel road. I drove the paved Route 621 watching for it to turn to dirt or crazy hairpin turns but it never did. There was a small section that turned to “oil and gravel” instead of paved and I figured that it would remain that way but it turned back to a paved road wide enough for 2 vehicles! What a TREAT!
I slowed and watched for signs of the A.T. from the 14 mile mark up to 16 miles from 460, but saw nothing. Hmm. I started to doubt myself … maybe I mixed up the info on the hikers’ website. I resolved to stop at the next house, which were few and far between or stop the next vehicle. I slowed to a stop and waved my arm out the window at an oncoming pickup truck. He stopped and I asked him if he knew where the Appalachian Trail was. He told me to drive another ½ mile and watch for the parking area on the left. I thanked him and was thrilled to see a beautiful clearing with space for at least 6 cars.
I started cooking the quinoa in chicken brother rather than water, because I heard that makes it taste less bitter. I mixed up the peanut butter, zesty Italian dressing and soy sauce in a bowl and added one can of chunk chicken to it. I dumped that all into a deep frying pan and heated it up. By 7 PM, dinner was ready but there was no sign of Chipmunk. I turned off the burners and settled back into reading. I was restless so I put the book down and swept out the camper floor. Since it’s only 2’x7’, that task only lasted about 5 minutes. Hmm. I started doing dishes. Not many to do, so by 7:15 PM, I tried to occupy my mind and distract myself from worry by straightening up the pantry closet and the cabinets over the stove and sink. I was deep into sorting and re-organizing when just before 8 PM, I heard her yell, “Mom, I’m here!” There is no feeling as good as when I hear her voice at the end of the day. My shoulders relax, I can breathe easier and I’m renewed with energy.
I re-heated dinner and by the time she put her pack in the truck cab and sat on her bunk, I handed her a hot plate of what appeared to be prison casserole: a mound of steaming shades of brown! It didn’t look good but it smelled pretty good. I apologized for the lack of “presentation”. She didn’t seem to notice as she loaded forkfuls into her mouth and told me about her day. She said there were only a few tough climbs; mostly ridge walking. She was glad to be out of the forest for about 30% of the day. She walked alongside pastures and farms, mostly on a narrow path bordered by high grass. (FYI, nightly tic removals are standard now.)
I was so busy listening to her that I didn’t take my first bite until she was about ½ way thru her plate. UGH! It was lousy! Yes, it tasted peanut buttery but the chicken tasted like a tin can! I apologized to Chipmunk who said, “It’s not bad. It doesn’t taste much like the Peanut Butter Chicken you make at home but it’s edible.” It’s nice to see that she’s not as picky as she used to be but I was disappointed to serve her such a crappy meal after 17 miles of hiking. We both gave Chocolate Chip more than we usually did.
We were in our bunks and out by 9:30 PM. I was awakened by something unusual around 11:30 PM. I don’t sleep well in the camper because I’m usually awakened by sounds and let my imagination get the best of me. This time, I was awakened by a smell. It smelled horrible! It was pitch dark so I found my headlamp and looked around the camper and out the windows, trying to see what could be causing the smell. Chocolate Chip watched me and when I looked at her and whispered, “That smell isn’t coming from you, is it?”, she instantly looked guilty. Now, as a French Bulldog owner, I’m well aware of the legendary gas Frenchies expel daily. This stench was way off the Richter scale! Apparently, we should never share Peanut Butter Chicken with her again, especially in the postage stamp sized po' white trash Truck Camper!!
It felt a lot like when I met up with her big sister, the editor, in Barcelona for a weeklong celebration of her college graduation. For the first time, my daughter took the helm in a foreign country. The editor spoke perfect Spanish as she got directions to subways, buses, restaurants, stores and museums. She, too, had grown up in her life's adventure of college in Hawaii and studying abroad in Argentina and England. I am so very proud of both my daughters and my son, "Brother Chip", who also graduated college last year and now teaches life skills to Autistic students through art. Papa Chip and I are so very fortunate to have 3 healthy, wonderful and truly fun children.
I don’t want to sink any further into loneliness here so I’ll change the subject! Yes, Papa Chip’s been gone for 3 weeks and since he left, I’ve hit a tree, had to replace the back brakes and later replace the front brakes. It occurs to me that I’m averaging one calamity a week! If that doesn’t change, it’s going to be a loooooong summer!
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 right (not 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)