Day 72 Daleville/Troutville, VA Miles Hiked to Date: 702 Hiked yesterday: 6 Trail Miles Miles to Katahdin: 1481.5
First, Hello to all of our new readers … and welcome to the ongoing story of Chipmunk’s Quest to become the youngest solo thru hiker on the Appalachian Trail.
Second, Thank you again to Vasque Boots for giving Chipmunk 2 new pairs of boots during the May 18/19th Trail Days Festival in Damascus, VA! With the torrential rains, she had to switch boots daily and let the other pairs dry out, if mostly via the defroster on the truck’s dashboard. She loves her Breeze 2.0 GTX!
Yesterday morning, Chipmunk left Four Pines Hostel much later than she typically does for a hiking day. She had a 6 mile hike ahead, which is substantially lower than her typical hiking day. When she and I studied the A.T. Guide for the remaining miles into Troutville and Daleville (two neighboring towns in Virginia whose lines often blur), we discovered that there were only two viable locations where I could meet her: either in 6 miles at VA 311 or 26 miles at Route 220. She chose to break it up into two days’ hike and enjoyed the opportunity to sleep in later than usual.
The sun was shining and she decided to walk the 3/10 of a mile from Four Pines Hostel to the trailhead where she left off in the pouring rain the night before. The hostel owner’s son, Josh, joked that he might want to hike with her but when she told him she was heading out, he got onto his 4 wheeler and spun circles in the muddy field instead. I waved good bye to her and returned to the hostel to chat with the remaining hikers. Little did I know that Josh changed his mind and caught up to Chipmunk, deciding that a hike with her might trump spinning a few more “donuts” in the mud.
I figured it would be a short hiking day and then Chipmunk and I would head into the neighboring town for posting the blog, giving her an opportunity to get online and connect with friends, too. Josh’s dad came in and said that he had just gotten a text from his son, indicating that he was indeed hiking with Chipmunk. I wondered if Chipmunk was keen on the idea but since I wouldn’t see her for a few hours, I’d have to wait to hear how it went.
I dried out some of Chipmunk’s hiking socks on the hood of the truck and put her boots there, too. My attempt to dry anything out was quickly squashed by a fast moving rainstorm that barreled down on Catawba. Hikers and I dashed to retrieve items and bring them inside, all of us getting soaked in short order. We settled into the couches, chairs and makeshift beds around the large center coffee table and listened to some amazing 70’s music including Steve Miller Band, Billy Joel, some funk and ironically, “It’s Gonna be a Bright, Bright, Bright Sun-shiney Day”.
I thought about Chipmunk and Josh out in the forest in the driving rain and hoped that they were somehow managing. When 2:30pm rolled around, I left in the rain to wait at the VA 311 crossing of the Appalachian Trail. As often is the case, the trail crossed a semi-busy road at the blind spot of the curve. As soon as I pulled in, I saw Josh jumping in the puddles and Chipmunk standing under the eve of the Forest Announcements board. They both dashed to the truck and I jumped out to unlock the camper door so Chipmunk could drop her wet pack there. All three of us were soaking wet by the time we took our seats in the truck. Ugh.
As we drove back to Four Pines Hostel, Josh told me funny stories about things that didn’t happen on the trail, trying to worry me while Chipmunk rolled her eyes in the rear view mirror. I sensed that maybe she wasn’t as enamored with Josh as he was with her. We pulled into the driveway and Chipmunk grabbed her shower bag and dry clothes and ducked into the bathroom. She also took Chocolate Chip into the shower, with hostel owner Joe’s permission, because the little stinker managed to roll in something foul smelling. Both returned looking and smelling a lot better!
We drove into town and stopped at a coffeehouse that Joe had recommended and while I posted the blog, Chipmunk looked at fan fiction, facebook, etc. As I typed, a hiker named “Vita” approached and said that he was friends with “Bearclaw”, a hiker I know and really like, and that he wanted to let us know that the local firehouse has free showers and laundry for the hikers. I thanked him for the heads up and then he said that Chipmunk was welcome to camp with a bunch of the hikers in the Pavilion down the road. I thanked him for that, too, but said that she would most likely stay in the camper with me; that we’d probably park it at a Walmart if we stayed in town for the night. He said that the Walmart was a good distance out of town and that the park had a well lit parking area near the Pavilion. I'm impressed by how often the hikers get the "lay of the land" quickly in the small towns they stay in for only a day or two.
When I finished posting the blog, Chipmunk and I packed up and we headed out the front door. Bearclaw and Vita were sitting outside with Hump and they asked if I was heading to that park. I told them I wasn’t sure where it was. They said they could use a ride back to there and that they’d be glad to show me; also the firehouse with the free showers and laundry are close by. I smiled and said, “Sure, come on.” Hump rode “shotgun” and the other two hikers loaded up in the camper. It was about a 4 mile drive and when we arrived, there were several hikers sitting at the picnic tables near the playground. Chipmunk took Chocolate Chip for a walk on the leash while I returned a call to my older daughter, the editor.
I was missing Papa Chip who always seems to have a cell signal when we don’t OR we have a cell signal and he doesn’t. We’ve been staying in touch mostly via email when we each have Wifi. As much as I’d have liked to tell him personally about the TV news story that featured Chipmunk, I just had to send him a link. (FYI, Chipmunk was interviewed by WDBJ7 TV news and the online written version of the interview is available for viewing at http://www.wdbj7.com/news/wdbj7-14yearold-attempts-record-on-the-appalachian-trail-20130610,0,2317664.story if you’d like to check it out.)
In fact, as a society, hikers are some of the most hospitable and kind people I know. They are genuine in their desire to help one another without concern for the “return” on their gestures. When my older children were young, my husband’s wealthy aunt often said, “Your kids would love our beach house! You should bring them for a day or two; our house is right on the beach with a big deck.” She’d say this to me most every time I saw her at baby showers, weddings, etc. And I’d always say, “I’m sure they would. Let me know a time that’s good and I’ll bring them down.” She never once called me to tell me the address or a good time to visit. My older kids are out of college now and I still have no idea where Papa Chip’s aunt’s beach house is. I’ve come to realize that people can “sound” hospitable without ever following through with the generosity that the truly hospitable exude.
My mother has been a kind and generous woman her entire life. She has stood by me (and every one of my siblings) through life’s challenges, tragedies and mishaps. Ten years ago at the age of 70, she became suddenly ill with a few different medical issues. After a fall and a bump to her head, she started sounding different and not making sense. I was scared. Although my event business was at it’s most hectic time of year (between Halloween and Christmas), I knew that she could not live alone until she got back to her old self.
I met with my sisters to discuss how to help manage my mom’s medical needs and learned that they had both pre-decided she should go into a nursing home. I was devastated to even think of that! I didn’t think my mom would be happy in a nursing home. I had called the meeting to hopefully work together with my sisters on a plan to “watch” my mom while we sorted out what she needed. I returned home after the meeting and told Papa Chip all that had transpired. He listened and said, “Then, she’ll come live with us.”
I looked at him and said, “Are you sure?” I knew it would mean re-arranging kids’ bedrooms so that my mom could be near our bedroom. I knew that we’d have to delegate more of the business duties to my assistant and maybe hire additional staff so that I could be close to my mom throughout the day. When I looked at Papa Chip’s eyes, I knew his suggestion was not empty words. It was tre hospitality, the genuine hospitality that comes from compassion and love.
The next day, we built a bedroom for my son downstairs and moved my mom’s bedroom furniture and one of her living room couch’s into my son’s former large bedroom. We moved my mom and her favorite things into our home and made sure she was never left alone. Had this been one of those Mastercard commercials of old, it would have sounded like this: Building materials for extra room: $500, Promoting assistant to business manager: $20,000, Moving mom’s furniture: $200, Realizing you married a good man: Priceless.
After getting a fresh set of eyes to examine my mom’s medical records, my mom got new medications, surgery and my mom gradually got back to normal. After 5 months, she felt strong enough to move back into her own home, where she has lived independently for the last 10 years. She still needs help every now and again and my brother and two sisters help out, especially since my move out of NJ to Hawaii and then Florida.
I’m glad that the hospitality my mother raised all of us with, was familiar and real to my husband. I will never forget the kindness and love he showed as we worked together to help my mom. I find that same warmth and willingness from not only most of the hikers, but also from the churches, firehouses, hostels and towns that we all pass through in pursuit of Katahdin. It’s comforting and reassuring.
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)