Day 165 on the Appalachian Trail Miles Hiked to Date: 1802 Hiked yesterday: 8 Trail Miles, Miles left to hike: 381
First, to all of our readers who shared their thoughts about the very provocative letter to Womens Adventure magazine and their fantastic "Nailed it!" response: Thank you for sharing with me and our readers your stories via the comments. If you haven't had the chance to read the comments on yesterday's blog posting, scan down this page until you reach yesteday's posting. Click on "comments" (near the title of the posting) and the comments should pop up at the end of the posting.)
As I continue to grow up, I've learned to REMEMBER TO THINK FOR MYSELF, not to go into "Auto Pilot" and think and say all the things my parents' generation did.
During this adventure, Chipmunk has called her Grammy and during each and every phone call, my mom asked, "With all this hiking, have you lost any weight?" I cringed the first few times and have repeatedly told my 80 year old mother, "If she loses any weight, it means that we're not doing our job correctly. She's burning upwards of 5,000 calories a day and she's still growing. We don't want her to lose any weight, nor does she need to lose any weight."
It's difficult to remain respectful with my mom in that conversation because not only is it offensive to me when anyone says something like that to my child, but it also conjures up really lousy feelings from my own childhood. In those moments, I want to scream at my own mother, "Look how well all those weight loss comments paid off! I'm two hundred thirty pounds!" But ... I know that it's not right for me to try to change her, especially at her age.
I remind Chipmunk that Grammy "is of a different era" and that she may never see the pain she causes by those comments. I try to remind her that Grammy is not perfect. I point out that although she occasionally says dumb stuff, she is the first person who stepped up to help me when my first marriage ended and I needed a place for Brother Chip, Editor and me to live. She is the one who most believed in my capabilities and told me "hire yourself", the phrase that launched a business that supported our family for 15 years. She's also the first person who stepped up to help us when our business failed. She is usually very affectionate and supportive of my siblings and me; loving us no matter what. She's just not perfect. None of us are.
All that said, I did tell Chipmunk that she and her generation have the opportunity to right so many of the wrongs in the world. Sometimes it takes decades for society to "come around" to accepting people who are different from themselves. It takes a long time to change the vocabulary that so many of us have grown up with, as well. I truly believe we are fortunate to live in a time when acceptance and tolerance of one another not only has a voice, it also has the power of the internet, bringing a global discussion to the table. I truly believe that the solution to many of the world's problems is education ... and not just the kind you find between four walls.
"Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness, and many of our people need it sorely on these accounts. Broad, wholesome, charitable views of men and things cannot be acquired by vegetating in one little corner of the earth all one's lifetime."
- Mark Twain
Second, to Bob P & friends, I'm glad you had the chance to meet Chipmunk during your hiking day. I received your comment via the blog and deleted since it gave a specific location. We don't post her specific location for her own safety and our sanity and we hope you will not share it either. Please don't be offended ... it truly is for safety's sake only.
Then, I gave her the bad news: the weather forecast called for rain on and off throughout the day. She grimaced. She quietly ate her breakfast while I made coffee for Papa Chip and me. Soon, Chocolate Chip was awake and went through her morning stretches before making her way to the camper door. Papa Chip followed her and the two stepped outside.
Chipmunk looked pretty beaten down and I asked what she was thinking. She said, "Unless there's lightning, I have to go hike." I told her, "You don't have to do anything. This is your hike, your choices." She said, "I know. I'm just not looking forward to hiking in the rain, getting everything wet and having to hike in wet clothes tomorrow." I said, "Maybe, It'll clear up." (FYI, this section of the trail has no road access so Chipmunk will have to overnight in a shelter and then hike to the next road crossing the following day.)
She finished dressing and brushing her teeth while I made 2 peanut butter and jelly sandwiches and packed twice as many snacks as usual. Meanwhile, Papa Chip returned Chocolate Chip to the camper and then proceeded to fill Chipmunk's water supply. He double checked her cook pot, stove and fuel. When it was all in order, he packed it in her backpack. I passed him the spare pair of socks in a plastic baggie and he packed that, too. Then, I pulled extra batteries for her SPOT GPS device and her headlamp; I put them in a plastic baggie and Papa Chip added them to her pack.
Once we thought we had all of her essentials packed for overnighting on the trail, we stood together outside and had a nice long hug all together. A tear rolled down Chipmunk's face and she said, "I'm gonna miss you guys." I told her we'd miss her, too; reminded her to send out her SPOT messages, letting us know when she stopped hiking for the day. She nodded. Papa Chip reminded her to be careful, take her time, etc. and again, she nodded. We reconfirmed our meet up location at the next possible road crossing and then we had another hug and kiss before she entered the trailhead. It was about 6:45 am and raining when she walked into the woods. I leaned in towards Papa Chip and he wrapped his arms around me, saying, "She'll be alright." I nodded, as tears rolled down my face.
I physically shook off the worry that was setting in only moments after she left us. I forced myself to follow through on my plan to stay busy; to not let my imagination run away with itself. I climbed into the camper and secured everything and then we both climbed into the cab of the truck and drove towards town.
Whenever I got "stalled", I switched to the tracking page. Before I knew it, it was after 12 noon. I managed to finish most all of my online work and then started checking out online news. The more I read of the world's troubles, the more "down" I felt. I decided that news was not what I should be checking out. I switched back to the tracking page.
I hit the "refresh" button and saw that we hadn't received a "bread crumb" in some time. Hmm. I showed Papa Chip and he said, "Maybe she's sitting still eating lunch." Hmm. Maybe. I decided to go on Facebook and catch up on other hikers' postings, trying to stick with my plan to keep my mind occupied.
Mama Goose, Chipmunk and I spent some time together back in Virginia. It seems like ages ago ... the weather was hot and the mountains were a lot smaller. In looking at the picture, I tried to imagine seeing Chipmunk on that same peak. Then, I stopped myself. Call it superstition or whatever you like. I just want to continue this adventure the same way we started it: one day at a time. Again, if Chipmunk ends this hike tomorrow, she will still have accomplished far more than many of us ever fathomed she would have so many months ago. Congrats to Mama Goose and the other hikers! Well done!
I turned my focus back to the tracking page and fully expected to hit the refresh button and see an updated location. I refreshed and the screen remain unchanged. I looked at the time and it was now close to 2 PM. My stomach clenched up and I tapped Papa Chip's arm nervously. He looked up and I pointed at the screen. He turned the computer towards himself, hit refresh and then said, "Hmm." He closed the webpage, reopened it and re-signed in our username and password. The page loaded and the last blinking "footprint" on the screen was now over 2 hours old.
He looked at me and said, "Well, it could be a few things. It could be the dense cloud cover. It could be her batteries need changing." I said, "Could it be that she's hurt?" He said, "That's a slim possibility. If she's hurt, she knows to press the 911 button which automatically alerts us, too." I waited a moment before saying, "If she can." He said, "I'm sure she's OK. According to her pace on the tracking, she should arrive at the shelter by 4 PM. She knows to send out the 'I'm OK' message as soon as she arrives. When she goes to do that, she'll likely discover that her batteries need changing. She'll change them and we'll get the message." I stared at him with the "worried mom" look. He said, "It's OK. She's a very good hiker. She just hasn't realized her batteries need changing."
I took a deep breath and chose to get busy again. I returned some emails and then checked the SPOT page: no change. I checked my bank balance, my electric bill, etc. and then checked the SPOT page: no change. I went to an entertainment website to check out some upcoming movies, and then checked the SPOT page: no change.
I went to the ladies room and when I returned Papa Chip had the computer facing him. He looked up and smiled and said, "She just changed her batteries. Look." I stared at the page and it was clear that she had arrived at the shelter. Then both of our phones dinged and the "I'm OK" message arrived. I let out a long sigh and sunk down into the booth. I was so relieved. I smiled and said to Papa Chip, "I'm sorry; I was just worried." He smiled and said, "I know. She's OK. She's a really good hiker. We'll see her tomorrow." I nodded.
I'd like to say I didn't worry any more but I did. I worried that she'd been rained on so much that she wouldn't dry out, would get really cold overnight in the 3 sided shelter and maybe get hypothermia. I had to talk myself down and remind myself that she is well prepared; that she has consistently made good decisions.
I told Papa Chip that I needed something distracting and relaxing to burn up the remaining hours of the day until it was time for bed. He said, "Let's check out the movies." We headed to the local theater and found that "The Family" was playing, starring one of my all time favorite actors, Robert DeNiro. YESSSS! Perfect! The next showing started in 10 minutes. We bought tickets and popcorn and took our seats. It was a terrific distraction and a pretty good movie. I went into it knowing it was a Scorcese movie, so the violence didn't bother me as it might some people.
Afterwards, we fixed an easy dinner of leftovers and "better cook that before it goes bad" food. I had a nice date with my husband and he made it easier to "stay in the moment". We joined another RVer in a nearby lot and called it a night around the regular time, not wanting to get out of the groove of "early to bed, early to rise." It was a warmer than usual night but we still "cuddled". Just before falling asleep, I whispered, "Good Night, Neva" and Papa Chip squeezed his arm a little tighter around my waist.
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)