"Our greatest happiness does not depend on the condition of life
in which chance has placed us, but is always the result of a good conscience,
good health, occupation, and freedom in all just
Springs, NC. While we waited, 2 familiar faces emerged from the Northbound trail: “Turbo”and “Patrick”. They sat down to rest and we chatted about the trail. Turbo was concerned about Patrick’s
knee; he had been in pain for quite some time and was now walking rather awkwardly on it, almost dragging his leg behind him. He asked us if we, too, thought Patrick should see a doctor in town. I looked at Patrick and saw that he was looking down at the ground, looking a bit uncomfortable with the conversation.
I turned to Turbo and said, “You’re from England, right?” He nodded. I asked if he bought health insurance before coming here to hike and he said yes; that he bought Blue Cross and Blue Shield travelers’ insurance since the healthcare that is provided at no charge in his home country is not available to him here. I asked what he paid for it and he said, “It’s a lot. $90 a month.” I saw Patrick shake his head at that and I knew then that Patrick didn’t have health insurance. In fact, very few of the hikers we’ve spoken to have health insurance since most left their jobs to take on this challenge. Both Papa Chip and I started explaining to Turbo that the state of health insurance and health care in the U.S. is pretty bad right now. We told him how a family typically pays $500-1800 a month for health insurance, even if it’s subsidized by their employer and that each year there are deductibles ranging from $1-10,000; that most insurance plans aren’t useful for routine problems but more of “catastrophic care” to guard against losing your home if you become seriously ill. He seemed surprised to hear it and said he just couldn’t understand how that could be. I said, “Corporate Greed” and then shook my own head at the thought that
so few in our country profit heartily by limiting affordable care for the many. I had to change the subject for fear I might start ranting about so many of our society’s ills. I offered both of them a cold drink and an apple and they were quite grateful for the treat.
Soon, they hiked on and a few more familiar faces arrived. “Tumbleweed” stayed at the gap for quite some time and we discussed all kinds of subjects and enjoyed each other’s company. At 6pm, Chipmunk arrived, 2 hours ahead of when I had figured she’d arrive. She told us that today’s hike was much better than yesterday’s. She said she came upon a stream where “Bee’s Knees” was soaking her very sore leg. The stream was so pretty, Chipmunk said 40 minutes passed just sitting beside it. She told us that “Bees Knees”was leaving the trail soon to return to
Zephyr Hills, FL and get her ailing knee cared for by her trusted chiropractor; that she hoped to return to the trail in a month or so.
After a short rest, Chipmunk asked how far away Hot Springs was? We told her only a few miles by car and she looked at us with her pretty blue eyes and said, “Can we get pizza tonight?” Papa Chip and I exchanged glances and decided that a pizza could fit into the budget. So, we loaded her pack into the camper and drove into town. We stopped at the Spring Creek Restaurant and immediately saw some fellow hikers. A fellow from Virginia that we hadn’t seen since Tellico Gap came up to our table and told us how he’d been in town for 4 days nursing shin pain and dealing with the swelling in one leg. He asked about the others from the Tellico Gap stay and we told him how Runaway had a toothache and Beaver had a filling fall out; that Radar had stayed behind to help them get to the dentists. We also mentioned that Whisper had a stress fracture and sprained ankle; was staying with her dad until she sees another Orthopedic doctor. I noticed he raised his eyebrows a bit at the mention of Whisper. He said, “I like her. She’s cute and I like talking to her.” He also asked about Brother Bear and Nibs and I told him that we hadn’t seen them since Fontana Dam but that we thought they were becoming a couple. He said, “oh, I thought they were a couple before the trail; that they’d started the trail together.” We confirmed that we had heard directly from Brother Bear that he met Nibs on the trail and that he was hoping she was interested in him.
It is quite funny to me that without electronic communications that we all rely on in our day to day lives, the hikers have a way of exchanging information the old fashioned way: face to face at the gaps, coffee shops and restaurants in the small towns they come through along the way. (Don’t get me wrong, most of the hikers have smartphones but they are useless without a consistent signal in the remote areas they hike.) I find it all quite charming and nostalgically comforting.
left and returned with a box of it from our camper. Pushup and 22 thanked us. They found an affordable cabin and said they were going to stay in town a few days. We gave them our phone # before we left and told them to call or email us if we could be of any help. (FYI, a nasty virus is circulating on the trail and the AT Conservancy has recommended frequent hand washing and hand sanitizer. The most affected shelters have been almost empty because so many hikers are opting to stay in their tents between shelters in hopes of avoiding the nasty illness.)
As we left, I realized that this trail has taken its toll on many a hiker. We had heard that the Georgia and North Carolina portion of the trail is some of the hardest; that if you make it through to Virginia healthy, it’s rare. We are quite grateful that Chipmunk has had relatively minor issues and we cross our fingers that she stays healthy and able. She truly is hiking this at her own pace and resting when her body calls for it.
trail where she left off at Garenflo Gap the day before. We had been joking about several things this morning and she was in a
giddy mood. We love to see her laugh and we hope she has adopted for life the “it’s better to laugh than cry” attitude that has seen us through some rough times in our lives.
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, forward it to friends. If they want to receive updates via email, send their address to me and I’ll add them to the list. You can also forward a link to our website, www.ridethenation.org and let them know we try to update it daily. Chipmunk maintains a twitter account: @openlymtngoat and she can receive personal messages directly to her email: firstname.lastname@example.org. She or we (email@example.com) 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)