Day 116 on the Appalachian Trail Miles Hiked to Date: 1197 Hiked yesterday: 10 Trail Miles, Miles left to hike: 987
First, to my friend, Marylyn (Jane's sister in law), thanks for following our story and I've added you to the mailing list now, too.
Second, thanks to Gmom (the GREAT), Great Aunt Janice and Brother Chip for coming out to meet us along the trail and bringing awesome trail magic! More about that soon!
She smiled slightly and began dressing while I pulled her snacks and made her PB&J sandwich. She moved slowly and I noticed she winced every time she bent over. I suggested that she start the day with a few ibuprofen and she agreed. The breakfast of champions??
She pulled on her boots ... which may I say are still great! She never complains about her Vasque boots. When I'm ready to shop for my next pair of hiking boots, Vasque is going to be what I look for. She pulled on her pack and hugged and kissed me goodbye. She still managed to get on the trail by 7 AM and we confirmed our 10 mile meet up spot as she walked into the woods.
She also told me that she met her husband while hiking the trail; Ironically, they left Springer Mountain about the same time but because they Zero'd on different days, etc. they didn't actually get to know each other until they got to Massachusetts. They both spent the night at a church which opens their doors to hikers. They had a few different rooms there and since it was just the two of them, they each took a separate room. Just before heading out for a bite to eat, she decided to ask him if he'd like to join her, maybe have someone to talk to over dinner. He did and they enjoyed each other so much, they hiked from that day forward until they summited Katahdin together. They married shortly thereafter and now have a beautiful 8 month old baby, Mary. Since completing the trail, she comes out to the A.T. hiking shelters near her home and cleans them up. I enjoyed her story and really admire all the volunteers who keep the trail beautiful and walkable.
While we talked, a south bounder, named "Cool Shoes", emerged from the woods, having stayed at the closest shelter. When she discovered I was Chipmunk's mom, she asked where she was. I said I figured she must have passed her but apparently, Chipmunk passed the shelter before Cool Shoes headed out on the trail. Cool Shoes was so disappointed that she didn't meet her. She said she is a school teacher in Baltimore and sees too many students unmotivated to do even the smallest of tasks. She admires what Chipmunk is doing. She told me that she section hikes every summer and she can't wait to tell her students about Chipmunk's quest. We all enjoyed each other's company until the ripe old hour of 8 AM when we all decided we'd better get our day going.
I drove into town and found wifi to post the blog. I didn't linger in town since I needed to find the meet up spot. There were no GPS coordinates or a street address in the A.T. Guide but I hoped I could find it since if I couldn't get in, Chipmunk would either have to hike to the 24 mile crossing or spend the night in a shelter. She's willing to spend shelter nights, but she'd prefer her comfy bunk and a hot meal prepared by me. I searched Google maps on my phone and found where the A.T. crossed the first road, clicked on it and got a basic street address to enter into Evil Vengeful Rosie the GPS. I clicked "GO" on both and followed the path they both agreed upon.
I was pleased when I arrived and found a "makeshift" parking space. I pulled into it and turned the truck and camper to face out so that it's easier when I leave. I did some light clean up, walked Chocolate Chip and read a bit. I heard something outside and came out to meet "Paul (with) Bunions" who has hiked 8,000 miles on the Appalachian Trail since he started over 10 years ago. He is retired now and on Social Security. He told me that he hasn't received his monthly S.S. check in 11 months because he changed his address and our government can't "verify" it.
This is not the first time I've heard something like this. When we sold our house and travelled in an RV for a year, we technically did not have a home address. We had a business address, which our car and health insurance company refused to send personal documents to a business address, saying people don't live at their business address. No ... in fact some people do. The economic crisis of the last 5 or so years has changed how and where many an American lives. I've read about people who have lost their homes and moved into their business in order to keep a dream and a paycheck. I know people who have lost their homes, can't afford rent or can't get a mortgage and who have a cheap gym membership so they can shower every day and still go to work as they re-build their lives.
At the age of 40 something, I had to use my mom's home address as my own and have it "verified" by changing my credit card mailing address to it, etc., even though I pay most all my bills online. Then, once it was verified that I was "living" there because that's where my bills were sent, the insurance companies agreed to continue covering us. Ugh! REALLY?? At this point in time, does the government and Corporate America still think we live the same lifestyle as our parents and grandparents did? It's frustrating that we are all expected to live a 9-5 life with 2 weeks' vacation a year, retirement at 65, yatta, yatta, yatta.
FYI, many a hiker also grew frustrated by similar situations when planning their hike. Considering about 2000 people a year leave home to hike the A.T. (and it's only one of many trails worldwide that take the average person away from home for months on end), you'd think Corporate America and our Government might come into the new Millennium and develop/use "digital" verifications that doesn't penalize those of us who take a different route in life.
I've ranted enough ... Paul (with) Bunions needed a ride into town to re-supply and I told him I'd gladly drop in town after Chipmunk arrived. His eyes grew big and he said, "Do you mean the little 14 year old girl that's hiking?" I said, "Well, she's 15 now and not so 'little' but yes, that Chipmunk." He smiled and said, "It's my lucky day." Even though the hikers often fall out of touch with the rest of the world while hiking, they definitely keep up with their trail news. I talked with Paul (with) Bunions for another 45 minutes before Chipmunk emerged from the trailhead.
She shook hands with my new hiker friend and grabbed a cold Dr. Pepper from the cooler. They "talked trail" for a while and soon Joe Cool emerged from the woods. She hollered, "Mama Chip!", glad to see me and my cooler. She, too, had a cold drink and then crossed the busy road and got back on the trail, planning to lay down over 20 miles before day's end. Chipmunk and Paul (with) Bunions finished their sodas, loaded their packs into the camper and climbed into the truck.
As we drove into town, we saw our first WAWA! Chipmunk and I shrieked, startling Paul (with) Bunions. When we pointed out the Wawa, he said, "I sure could use a good cup of coffee" and smiled when I turned in to the best convenience store on earth! They both used the restrooms while I made myself a cup of very good Wawa coffee. Chipmunk returned and asked if it was o.k. to order some Wawa Macaroni 'n Cheese and I said, "Of course!" It's always been one of her favorite Wawa treats. In short order, we all returned to the PWTTC with content smiles on our faces.
I drove my passenger to the Post Office in town, where he needed to pick up a mail drop and he thanked me for my kindness. As he walked away with his pack over one shoulder, I thought that if I'm able to hike when I'm 70 something, that would be a good way to spend my 70's... I might even bring a grandchild with me if I'm so lucky to have one by then! (And no, I'm not insinuating that my children ought to rush into parenthood on my behalf!)
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)