Day 68 Pearisburg, VA Miles Hiked to Date: 650 Hiked yesterday: 0 Trail Miles Miles to Katahdin: 1533.9
Once again, thank you to Vasque and Darby Communications for working together to help promote Chipmunk's hike. In addition to the donations I mentioned in yesterday's blog, we have received wonderful messages of support and it has made all the difference. Papa Chip visited the Vasque.com site and loved seeing Chipmunk's story right on their home page. Chipmunk loved it too and said to tell Vasque and Angie and everyone at Darby Communications, "Welcome to the International Scurryhood of Chipsters!" (FYI, according to Chipmunk, a "scurry" is a group of Chipmunks.)
We also went to the local library where I posted the blog, returned emails, checked on bills and banking while Chipmunk re-connected with friends online. Like most teenagers, she has both local friends and online friends. She writes fan fiction and likes reading the reviews that other readers leave for her work. With headphones on, she listened to her favorite music, a treat she does not have on the trail. Although many hikers have mp3 players and headphones, we decided during the planning stages of this adventure that Chipmunk would need her ears open and alert as she hikes. That decision has served her well. Long before she saw the rattle snake on the edge of the trail, she heard it. She took good evasive measures and the two did not have to tango. (For those of you who know Chipmunk's Grammy, please don't mention that to her; she's deathly afraid of snakes ... and oddly, deer.)
When the sun started setting, I called Chocolate Chip over to tell her it was time to go. She stopped and just stared at me; I think she was disappointed. She dutifully waited for Chipmunk to put her leash back on and then walked by her mom's side back to the truck. About a minute after she was on the front seat, she started snoring, in true French Bulldog fashion.
I made camper style chicken parmesan for dinner: whole wheat spaghetti, topped with the remaining chicken nuggets for lunch. It's one of Chipmunk's favorite meals and honestly wasn't bad. After dinner, we climbed into our bunks for some reading before lights out and discussed what the next day's hiking plan would be. We both agreed that she needed to hike, even if it was still raining. The weather report on my phone called for overcast skies with spotty showers mid to late afternoon, so we hoped we'd awake to a non-rainy morning, at least.
The phone rang and it was Papa Chip calling to see how things were going. We brought him up to speed on Chipmunk's adventure and he filled us in on his adventure. He told us both that we were doing really well and was proud of us. I miss him terribly but it felt good to hear how happy he was riding his bike, sometimes over 70 miles in a day. We all noted that it was only about 2 months until his tour ends in Oregon and we are all reunited. We all said good night and then Papa Chip and I texted afterwards about Chipmunk's birthday celebration ideas. He is sad to be missing it but he said it sounds like it will be fun.
By 10:00, Chipmunk had fallen asleep with Chocolate Chip at her side. I found myself awake until at least 2 AM and really wishing Papa Chip was there to snuggle with while I waited for sleep to come. I thought about the first time I realized just how hard "waiting" is. About a week before my 10th birthday, my then 15 year old brother ran away from home. He and my dad had a tumultuous relationship and I guess he just needed some time on his own. For the first couple days, my parents fought, cried, met with the police and waited for the phone to ring. I remember my mom staring at that phone, picking it up occasionally to make sure it still worked and then quickly replacing the receiver. Every time it rang, she jumped. We all knew to end the call quickly if it wasn't my brother. These were the days before call waiting, call forwarding, caller ID and even cell phones.
After a few days, my mom's employer called and said that if she didn't return to work soon, she'd lose her job. As hard as it was, she dressed and went to work every day. As my birthday grew closer, I reminded her that we had mailed the invitations for my birthday party that weekend and I needed to know what to do. She told me that she wanted to keep things as normal as possible for all of us while Mike was away. So, she bought me a new pale blue dress with a buttercup yellow collar and she cleaned the house and ordered my cake. On the morning of the party, she got a call from the detective working on the case and said that they had gotten no leads in the past 5 days. My mom thanked him, hung up and cried as she hung up the decorations for my party. I hugged her and she held me a long time, telling me how much she loved me.
Around 1 PM that afternoon, some of my girlfriends from school arrived. A quiet girl, Barbie Wilson, who was always kind to me and sat with me at lunch each day, was one of the first to arrive. Her mom walked her to the door and when she saw my mom's swollen red eyes, she reached out her hand to her shoulder and said, "Honey, what's wrong?" My mom explained through muffled words and tears about not knowing where her son was and how she was scared that something had happened to him. As they talked on the couch in the den, I let other guests in the front door and led them to the living room.
Barbie's mom offered to stay and help with the party and my mom accepted. Before we served the cake, Barbie's mom asked all the girls to hold hands while we prayed for my brother's safe return. In hindsight, I'm sure it was one of the more surreal birthday party experiences any of them may ever have had. But, it brought comfort to my mom. After the party, Barbie and her mom were the last to leave. Barbie's mom offered to come over and wait with my mom for news from the police department. Mrs. Wilson came often and I believe it helped my mom through what surely was one of the worst times of her life. About 2 weeks later, on Mother's Day, the phone rang as we came home from church. My mom pushed past my sisters and me and grabbed the phone. It was my brother and he said, "Happy Mother's Day. I'm OK" and as my mom shook and cried, the line went dead.
Believing real life was like the police shows on TV, my dad called the phone company and the police department asking them to trace the call. In short order, we learned that wasn't how it worked. Detective Curley called my parents the next day and said he had a lead and to stand by for further updates. My mom didn't go to work and never strayed more than 10 feet from the kitchen phone. That afternoon he called and said that my brother was in custody in Virginia; that he'd gone to a Methodist church near Richmond and signed the guest register, complete with his hometown. A couple of parishioners noticed he was dirty and looking hungry and invited him to their home for a shower and lunch. The minister of the church had an inkling and started calling the ministers of the Methodist Churches in our hometown until he reached ours. Long story short, they had to arrest him in order to keep him in custody until my parents could accompany Detective Curley in the 5 hour ride to pick him up.
He had been gone for almost a month and I remember my mom telling my dad that he'd better not yell at my brother or he'd never see her again. He nodded and they drove my sisters and me to our minister's house to spend the night before they left for Virginia. They returned the next afternoon with my brother and slowly we became a family again.
I'll never forget how the simple gesture of Barbie's mom "waiting" with my mom made all the difference. It didn't change the circumstances, it just made it all more bearable. As I got older, I waited with my girlfriends as they waited for test results; I waited with my sister when she was in a long and horrible back labor. As my own mother aged, I drove her to doctors' offices and waited with her as she had cataract surgery, blood tests, colonoscopies, etc. When my husband and I married, I became friends with his Grandma (who I call Gmom) and over time, her eyes became diseased and she had terrible procedures where they stuck needles directly in her eyes to deliver medicine designed to prolong what sight she had left. I tried to make myself available to accompany her not just because she no longer drove, but because it might bring comfort (and distraction) as she waited. We built quite a friendship over the years and she was the only one of my in-laws who came to my hospital bed after my hysterectomy and walked the corridors with me and my I.V.
Since Papa Chip left on his bike tour, I've had no one to wait with me for each of Chipmunk's hiking days to end and for her daily return from the woods. I'd like to say that I don't worry about her, but I do. She has shown really good judgement and has managed her hike well through some of the toughest circumstances. Although I know that she can't often take Zero days if she wants to reach her goal, it sure felt nice to hang out with her all day and have her safely with me. It was nice not to have to wait and worry.
It was cold and wet when we arrived and Chipmunk put on her favorite hat and her hiking gloves. There were several tents in the Captains' yard but all the hikers were inside them so I accompanied her down the muddy hill to the zipline. She secured her pack and poles and easily drifted to the center point. Once it stopped, I pulled the line until she was across to the other side. She got off, pulled her pack on, grabbed her poles and blew my kiss. She has a 14 mile hiking day ahead and I reminded her to be careful; that the rocks were going to be slippery. She nodded and rolled her eyes a bit, hollering back, "I got this."
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)