<![CDATA[Ride the Nation! - 14/15 yro Chipmunk's Solo Appalachian Trail Thru Hike Quest]]>Thu, 15 Aug 2013 17:39:21 -0500Weebly<![CDATA[Over the (Hudson) River and through the woods ...]]>Thu, 15 Aug 2013 16:29:43 GMThttp://www.ridethenation.org/3/post/2013/08/over-the-hudson-river-and-through-the-woods.htmlChipmunk's Solo AT Thru Hike Update
Day 133 on the Appalachian Trail  Miles Hiked to Date:  1400  Hiked yesterday: 15 Trail Miles, Miles left to hike:  784



First, to Nancy K., who contributed to Chipmunk's sponsor page  
https://www.z2systems.com/np/clients/hike/campaign.jsp?campaign=13&team=145&fundraiser=1052&
on the www.hikeformentalhealth.org website ... Thank you so much!  All of us "Chips" believe that the stigma of mental health issues needs to be alleviated.  (If you are unable to access the link above, please let me know via a comment on this blog.  

Second, to Michelle Z., I'm sorry that we did not get a chance to meet up while we were in PA, as well.  We had so many family members (from our old hometown area of South Jersey) and old BMX friends who wanted to see her that we found ourselves visiting almost nightly.  We are currently ironing out schedules and I will get back to you soon.  Thanks for your patience.  

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Chipmunk returned to where she left the trail the day before after a pretty early morning rising.  She was looking to do a bigger miles day after 2 shorter days in a row.  The weather appeared good and we kissed and hugged her goodbye, confirming our midday meet up spot.  We reminded her to call us after she safely crossed the Palisades Parkway ... one of the busiest 4 lane roads (2 lanes divided by a median) she'd have to cross on her hike.  She nodded and headed off, shouting back, "Love you!"  We watched until we couldn't catch even a glimpse of her pack any longer and then returned to the truck. 

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As we drove towards town, Chocolate Chip took up a different spot in the truck than she usually did.  Instead of lying on the seat next to me, when I was the driver, she climbed up on the top of the bench seat and balanced herself, resting her head on Papa Chip's shoulder.  I guess Chipmunk and I weren't the only ones who missed him.  We drove into town and stopped at a Dunkin' Donuts for coffee and Wifi and I got the blog posted.  We also stopped and picked up a few groceries and ice for the cooler.  We knew we had plenty of time to find our midday meet up spot but instead of lingering in town, we drove out and up the mountain, crossing the Bear Mountain Bridge over the Hudson.  We drove over mostly paved roads but then had to utilize gravel and dirt roads to get to the small parking area trailside of the meet up spot. 


We decided to sort through all the things Papa Chip brought back from his trip and we attempted to better organize the truck and camper.  I'd say we got about 75% of it done when Chipmunk called.  She confirmed that she safely crossed Palisades Parkway and wanted to let us know that her jaw was aching; that maybe she had a toothache.  Ugh!  So many of the hikers have had dental issues on the trail and it's always a bad situation trying to find a good dentist who will respond quickly when you are traveling.  We decided to change the meet up spot to an earlier spot on her hiking day and texted her the info.  She confirmed and we put the last of our stuff away in the camper and turned the truck back down the mountain.  We re-crossed the bridge and found a parking space at the Bear Mountain Recreation Area.  

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We only waited a short time before Chipmunk showed up.  She dropped her pack and poles and climbed into the truck camper.  She laid down on her bunk and Papa Chip put on a headlamp and we checked her teeth.  We didn't see any evidence of a cavity but her gums were a little swollen and red.  We though it could possibly be her wisdom teeth starting to come in or maybe the cold she and I have had (for practically a month now) had irritated her sinuses.  We decided to try cold & sinus meds first.  If that brought relief, it likely meant that it wasn't a dental issue.  To be on the safe side, I contacted some dentists in the next 10-30 trail miles and found only one willing to provide same day service ... at a price, of course.  

We let Chipmunk rest in the camper, allowing the pain reliever portion of the meds to start working.  Papa Chip and I walked out on the giant rocks where you could see beautiful views of Hessian Lake and way off in the distance, the Manhattan skyline.  We enjoyed a chat with 2 ladies; one was from NY and the other from Hawaii.   The New Yorker was drawn to Chocolate Chip and enjoyed learning more about French Bulldogs.  We talked "Hawaii" and "Ohana" (family) with the lady from Hawaii and all shared a few wonderful laughs.  After a while, we headed back toward the Chip Mobile to check on Chipmunk and found her walking towards us, pack on.  She said she felt quite a bit better and wanted to hike on.  We had hugs and confirmed that we'd see her at the original meet up spot and she headed back out on the Appalachian Trail, which passes right through the park there.  


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We drove back across the bridge (we are doing our part to keep NY in toll funds!) and back up the mountain to the little parking spot for the end of day meet up.  Papa Chip offered to make lunch while I finished sorting and organizing our truck and camper.  He called to me and my eyes lit up when I saw the beautiful salad he made.  He added the cherry tomatoes from Teresa and Peter's garden, a pack of nuts and dried fruit from the packs of snacks Barbara gave Chipmunk and some lettuce and feta cheese ... sprinkled Balsamic Vinegar and Olive Oil over it ... and YUM!  It was delicious and full of flavor and nutrients ... it's nice to have Papa Chip back!  (Don't worry, Barbara, we only took one pack of Chipmunk's nuts ... and by the way, she loves them, too! Thanks!)


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While we waited for Chipmunk, 4 thru hikers arrived and we treated them to cold sodas and talked.  While looking down, I realized that 3 out of 4 of the hikers were wearing Vasque footwear.  I asked them how they liked theirs, noting that Chipmunk really likes her boots.  They all agreed that they are the best shoes they've ever used hiking; that none of them have gotten blisters or had any problems with toenails falling off.  I'm taking notes because I have a few places in mind I'd like to hike after Chipmunk finishes the A.T.  Papa Chip and I are considering day trips on the Florida Trail and hopefully someday, we'd like to hike "El Camino" in Spain. 


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They hiked on and we took a break to read books.  While we sat in the cab of the truck, we heard the sounds of branches crackling in the forest next to us.  By now, we are in tune with whether the sounds are those of a person or an animal.  We watched up the hill until a bunch of turkeys made their way down to the gravel road ahead of us.  It was very relaxing to watch these birds as they cautiously made their way from the safety of the woods to the road crossing.  I saw a few of them look both ways.  It was likely random but it felt very much like they knew to look both ways before crossing the road.  

I was lost in the moment and startled when my phone buzzed.  It was Chipmunk.  She texted to say that she "screwed up".  Because she took the break earlier in the day, she had not made it to the zoo before they closed at 4:30 pm.  According to the A.T. Guide, Appalachian Trail thru hikers are allowed to pass through the zoo at no charge, instead of taking the  A.T. around the outside of the zoo.  She was a little disappointed but said she was hiking onward.  

While we waited, we met a nice couple who parked nearby and had two young dogs they were training.  They planned to camp in the woods for the night.  Chocolate Chip was excited to have some four legged friends to hang with.  They all got along very well and we listened to the fellow tell us about his recent kayaking adventure.  We have not tried kayaking and he made it sound that much more attractive for us to look into.  Thanks, my friend!  

In short order, Chipmunk arrived, said hi to the campers and then peeled off her pack and boots.  She had put in a solid 15 miles and was tired.  She relaxed with Chocolate Chip while Papa Chip and I made dinner.  After dinner, we talked for a while and then we all fell into reading:  Papa Chip on the Kindle, Chipmunk on fan fiction and me on my phone, reading emails and messages from friends and family.  Before I fell asleep, I looked around the camper.  It's not much to look at, kinda messy and very dated.  It's not exactly the comforts of my home in Florida (and yes, sometimes, I really miss it) but I felt surrounded by love and support.  Today, I had eaten a salad with fixings from Theresa and Peter's garden together with package of nuts & fruit from Barbara.  Lying next to me was Papa Chip, now playing a game on Aunt Carol's Kindle.  Chipmunk was going to sleep in her Blue Blaze Cafe Shirt that was given to her by Val (Mayor) in Damascus.  On the ceiling is art work by Eliza and a big sheet of kraft paper with messages from Mayor, Junior and some other friends.  The orange hat from Barbara was hanging on a hook (ready for Chipmunk to wear during hunting season, Oct-Dec.) and a bag of DVDs from Brother Chip was on a hook near Chipmunk's bunk.  In the cabinet were snacks and sodas from so many of the wonderful friends and family who have met up with us along the trail.  There's also a bag of Wild Hunt Packs from Paramount Fit Foods and also openly mountain goat 'nola.   In the cab, Chipmunk's hiking poles that Leki gave her at Trail Days and her spare hiking boots from Vasque, were piled next to my old gray fleece volunteer pullover that Trilogy Park BMX gave me over 5 years ago.   The fan that Ellie and Mike gave us was plugged into the 12 volt outlet that Mike installed.   As I looked around, my phone buzzed, letting me know that Doreen liked one of my silly facebook posts.  Yeah ... it still rains inside the camper occasionally ... and yes, there are days I grow weary of hunting down Wifi, driving mountain roads to trailheads and finding a safe place to camp for the night.   But, being surrounded by all the kindness and love we've been shown on this adventure has made living in this little old camper not just doable, but quite heartwarmingly happy.  Thanks, my friends ... truly, for making all of this as great as it is.  I look forward to taking all of you with us to wherever and whenever this journey ends.  

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) 




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<![CDATA[Squeezing out a few more miles on the Appalachian Trail]]>Wed, 14 Aug 2013 13:41:11 GMThttp://www.ridethenation.org/3/post/2013/08/squeezing-out-a-few-more-miles-on-the-appalachian-trail.htmlChipmunk's Solo AT Thru Hike Update
Day 132 on the Appalachian Trail  Miles Hiked to Date:  1385  Hiked yesterday: 7 Trail Miles, Miles left to hike:  798


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After sleeping in until 9:30 am, we awoke to find Chipmunk reading in bed.  She said she was being quiet so we could sleep and then she said, "Hi, Daddy, welcome back!"  Papa Chip smiled and said, "It's good to be back."  One by one, we got up and started our morning routines, all the while telling one another stuff we missed in each other's lives while Papa Chip was away on his bike tour.  


After eating breakfast, Papa Chip asked Chipmunk if she planned to hike and she said, "I don't know.  I guess I should since I cut my hiking day short yesterday."  With that, we started pulling snacks for her, filling her Camelbak, etc.  I have to admit, I wasn't disappointed that she planned to hike.  It's been a long time since I had some "quiet time" with Papa Chip.  We hugged and kissed Chipmunk good bye and watched as she made her way through the grassy field and onto the trail where she had left off the afternoon before.   

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Once "fun time" was over, I reminded Papa Chip that I wanted to post the day's blog.  We secured everything in the camper and then drove to a Dunkin' Donuts for some coffee and wifi.  Mid-blogging, I looked up to see this mug staring back at me.  He looked bored and tired.  In that moment, I wondered if he was wishing he was back on his bike riding through the beautiful scenery that is the West.  I know there will be a bit of a transition for all of us but I'm hopeful we'll all be back in the same groove soon.  

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After blogging, we headed towards the meet up spot and en route, I received a couple pics from Chipmunk on the trail.  I believe this pic is the beginning of the "Lemon Squeeze".  If you look closely, you'll see a couple arrows painted on the boulder on the right.  

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Once she passed through the boulders above, she came to the true "squeeze" part: a passage wide enough for a body, turned sideways, but not hardly wide enough for a hiker AND her pack.  Chipmunk placed Big Red above her and scooted thru, pulling her pack and poles along.  She thought it was pretty cool and so did we; a nice change of pace from going OVER the rocks.  


We also received a message later, letting us know that she thought she could squeeze a few more miles out before wrapping up for the day.  We set up another meet up spot and we all found each other easily.  

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To celebrate our family being back together, we had a dinner out at a Pizzeria Uno.  In no time, Papa Chip had us all laughing.  We had a good time and at some point between funny stories, I wished that the Editor and Brother Chip could have been with us, too.  I remember the many meals we'd had together over the years that became such a laugh fest, it was almost impossible to eat.  Each of us has a different sense of humor and all of us can crack one another up. Sometimes, certain family phrases can get the ball rolling, like:  "Ohhh.  That's Cheap"  or "Short Line, 2 Reds" or "Shrimp!  Do you like Shrimp?" or "I'm gonna kick you" or "I know what my last will and testament is going to say:  Oh, $*@!, I'm dead" or "I whacked her in her good eye".  (Yep, that was a little chuckle that most only my family members will get ... and you're welcome, kids!)

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After dinner, we took a campsite at Beaver Pond, a NY State Campground.  Although Papa Chip returned with a suitcase full of clean clothes, Chipmunk and I  had exhausted our supply of clean underwear, socks, etc.  I had called ahead to find out if they had a laundry area on site.  The lady who answered the phone said, "Oh yes ... and a recreation room, a shower building, a lake."  She sounded so upbeat on the phone that I was stunned when we arrived and found it to be other than I imagined.  There was one washer and one dryer for over 100 campers .. and it was in a very dirty laundry room with only a knee high bench to fold your clothes.   It was such a disappointment that I ended up instragraming, facebooking and tweeting my distaste for the place.   Thanks, Laura P., for re-tweeting.  Sorry I didn't list the name of the campground at the time, but I try not to put our exact location, in real time, for Chipmunk's safety.

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Here's a pic of the Rec (WRECK) room.  It had a few picnic tables, where campers had to sit to re-charge electronics since none of the campsites had electrical hook ups (which the cheery voiced clerk failed to mention).  The Recreation room also had a near collapsed ping pong table and a bunch of cobwebs and dirt on the floor.  Mind you, a tired thru hiker might be willing to spend the night in there if he or she were truly desperate ... but other than that, I don't think it was a place any camper would have "embraced".  


When I finally got my 2 loads of laundry done, I zipped up my rolling luggage bag (the best way to transport laundry on the road!) and headed out the door.  As soon as I stepped outside, I realized that it was pitch dark and there were no outdoor lights.  I slowly made my way down the rock and grass lawn to the roadway and headed towards the Ranger Station, which I could find by the glow of their INDOOR lights.  I found a ranger, named Sean, who listened to my complaints before finally saying, "I just work 7:30 pm - 3:30 am.  I know the place is a mess.  It's been that way for a while.  It's gotten better since we put up the 'no alcohol' rule."  When I told him I didn't know if I could even find my way in the dark back to my campsite, he offered to give me a ride there in his Gator.  I took him up on it and thanked him for listening.  I asked him to please pass my complaints onto the supervisor.  He suggested I could stop at the office after 9 am the next morning and tell her myself.  I told him I honestly didn't think I'd still be there past 7 am ... and that I didn't see myself returning there for any other reason, especially not to camp.  He said, "Yeah.  I get that."  I thanked him and he left saying, "I'm sorry you didn't know about the place before you arrived."  Me, too.  

It was near 10 pm when I climbed into the dark camper to find Papa Chip and Chipmunk quietly snoozing.  Chocolate Chip's eyes glowed in the dark as I pulled the laundry bag inside.  I quietly slipped into my bunk and Papa Chip half awoke, saying, "Why didn't you call?  I'd have picked you up?"  I shushed him, kissed him good night and rolled on my side.  Within minutes, I think I fell asleep ... with not a real worry in the world.  It was nice.  

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) 


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<![CDATA[Heading to the airport]]>Tue, 13 Aug 2013 15:43:56 GMThttp://www.ridethenation.org/3/post/2013/08/heading-to-the-airport.htmlChipmunk's Solo AT Thru Hike Update
Day 131 on the Appalachian Trail  Miles Hiked to Date:  1378  Hiked yesterday: 9 Trail Miles, Miles left to hike:  805


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We awoke to sunny skies and Chipmunk ate breakfast and dressed while I re-filled her Camelbak and pulled snacks.  Together we looked at the A.T. Guide sheets to determine our meet up points for the day.  Since Papa Chip would be flying in the next day, we decided that after she finished hiking for the day, we'd drive about halfway to Logan Airport in Boston (where Papa Chip was flying into), pull into a campground, get showers, etc..  Then, the next day, we'd drive the remaining few hours and pick him up at 1:30 pm.  


With our morning duties done and our meet up spots chosen, we had a big hug and a kiss and then she headed into the woods.  I watched for a long while and then headed into town for Wifi and blog posting.  My new friend, Theresa, had recommended the Village Buzz Cafe, noting that they offered great home cooked meals and very good coffee.  I found it easily and it lived up to everything she said.  


When I was near finished with my online work, Theresa walked in the door.  I smiled immediately and told her I'd hoped she would stop in so we could talk again before Chipmunk and I headed out of town.  She joined me for a cup of coffee.  

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As we talked, I told her that I had snapped a quick pic of her daughter, Eliza, and I told her how absolutely beautiful she is.  She had some wildflowers tangled in her hair and I thought this sweet child just radiated beauty.  Theresa smiled and said, "Yes, a lot of people think she's also a very happy child."  In the short amount of time we spent together, I could see that both of her children were self-assured, curious, smart and fun.   As we talked, Theresa reminded me that it's easy just to see Eliza's beauty and lose sight of all that she is as a person.   I have grown up in a time that put (and still puts) so much value on physical appearance; so much so that often there are interesting people all around us doing amazing things that we fail to see because we wear "pretty goggles".   No matter how progressively we think, we need reminders now and again about what's important in life.  

Theresa had to get on with her day and I mine so we had a nice hug and said goodbye.  As she left, I thought to myself, "hmm... there really were many reasons we were supposed to become friends."  Thanks, Theresa, for turning my focus back to what's really important about the people I meet.  

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I found our midday meet up spot easily and soon after parking, a familiar face appeared at my back door.  It was "Hail Satan" (formerly Beaver) and a new face, "Babyface".  I gave them both cold drinks and we exchanged trail news.  I told them who had passed us in the last few days and they told me who they had seen during their recent Zero days.   None of us had any news of Gilgamesh, who lost his cell phone and doesn't do facebook, etc.  We all hope he's just taking some down time or that he somehow hiked ahead of all of us.  While we chatted, I invited Babyface to sign the camper.  

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Hail Satan and Babyface hiked on and I decided to address the day's latest truck issue.  The fuse box popped out from its spot under the dash and was hanging over the brake pedal ... obviously not a safe way to drive.  I laid on the floor of the truck and tried to maneuver it back into place and it just wouldn't fit properly.  Luckily, I'm well acquainted with duct tape and decided to tape it up and out of the way.  Papa Chip would soon be back and have a few "patch" jobs to fix properly.  

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I straightened up the camper and swept the floor and then heard voices outside. They were pointing out names of hikers they knew and I stepped out the back to greet them.   "Fat Toodles", "etc." and "RYLU" (from left to right) were excited to see the Chip Mobile and eager to sign it.  Fat Toodles also asked if I could dispose of some mailing boxes; they had all just gotten re-supply shipments from home but there was no trash can at the trailhead parking lot.  I agreed and as I broke down the boxes, I found a nice pair of pants.  I asked whose they were and Fat Toodles said, "They're mine and they're great but I don't have a cheap way to mail them home."  I told her that I had some padded flat rate Priority Mail envelopes on board and that they cost about $5.75 for anything you fit into it and mail in the continental U.S.  She said that she'd definitely like to send them home if I didn't mind dropping it at a post office for her.  I told her I'd be glad to do so.  

I offered them all drinks and they were quite pleased to have a cold drink.  The noon time sun was warming up the air and it was about 85 degrees.  I asked where they were all from and how they knew each other.  Fat Toodles and Etc. are siblings from Florida and they said they've adopted RYLU along the trail.  They got along famously and were fun to chat with.  Once the mailing envelope was good to go and the hikers hydrated, they headed out.  

My phone buzzed and I get a message from Papa Chip:  "They changed my flight.  I get into Boston at 1:00 AM."   Earlier in the day, he had messaged me that his phone battery was low and would only contact me for vital stuff.   I thought for a moment and then texted back, "Tonight??" and he replied "Yes".  I texted, "No problem, we'll be there to get you."  

Hmmm.... no problem?? I looked at the time and it was mid-afternoon.  Chipmunk was still hiking and should be at the meet up spot by now.  I texted her and told her the change in plans; that I needed her to meet me ASAP.   Sometimes, she really takes in what's around her and her hiking slows down.  A few minutes after I sent the text messages, Chipmunk arrived.  I told her the change in Papa Chip's flight and we talked about a new plan.  

Our plan to get a campsite and showers had to be shelved.  We needed to eat dinner, fill the truck with diesel and get started on the 5 hour drive ahead of us.  I told her that we should probably drive as close as we can to the airport and find a safe spot to park and snooze while we waited for word that his plane had arrived.  She heaved her pack and poles into the back of the truck while I walked Chocolate Chip.  She changed into clean clothes and cleaned up, brushed her hair, etc.  We searched and programmed the Google Maps on my phone and Evil Vengeful Rosie for Logan International Airport in Boston.  

As we drove, Chipmunk noticed that there was a "5 Guys" burger place and asked if we could stop there for dinner. I pulled in and as I parked I noticed that the back door to the camper was open.  This was not a big surprise to me; the handle and latch have not been working well for a while.  The camper is old or as my mom would say, "It's on its last leg."  I fooled around with the handle and felt like it was pretty well latched.  I debated duct taping the door shut but tossed that idea out when I visualized a giant wad of duct tape wrapped all the way around the truck and camper.  

We ate dinner and got back on the road.  The sun set as we got into Massachusetts and as the oncoming traffic's headlights shown through the windshield, I realized I probably should have cleaned the windshield when I fueled up last.  If I was in Jersey, I could have stayed in my seat, had my diesel pumped for me and had the windshield cleaned .... ALL FOR LESS PER GALLON THAN I JUST PAID IN NEW YORK!  UGH!  

About an hour down the road, a car pulled up next to us and signaled us that something was wrong.  Luckily, it was just the back door on the camper again.  I eyed a spot to pull over and I hit the brake a little harder than I should.  Ironically, the sudden jerk of the truck slammed the back door shut!  Woo hoo!  I rejoined the traffic and drove on.  Isn't it nice when life's little problems take care of themselves?

I drove to a Dunkin' Donuts about 10 miles from the airport and parked.  Chipmunk and I went in to use their bathroom and for me to get a coffee.  Afterwards, I locked up the cab of the truck and joined Chipmunk and Chocolate Chip in the back for some rest until it was time to head to the airport.  (I had pre-checked the Logan "cell phone waiting lot" rules and apparently they are pretty strict, allowing cars only 30 minutes wait time.)  Knowing the Chip Mobile would not fit under the low ceilings of the parking garages ... the Dunkin' Donuts seemed like the ideal place to wait. 

Chipmunk fell quickly asleep with Chocolate Chip next to her.  I laid in my bunk but found myself wide awake with butterflies in my belly about Papa Chip's return.  To occupy the time, I engaged in a few Facebook exchanges and before I knew it, it was 12:30 am.  I quietly climbed out of my bunk and woke Chipmunk with an important message.  I told her that she could sleep in her bunk but that if the back door opened, she was to stay in her bunk.  She nodded agreement and fell back asleep quickly.  I climbed out the back and secured the back door as best I could.  

I drove to the airport and after only 2 laps, I found Papa Chip with his bike box and luggage standing on the curb.  I pulled up at an awkward angle, suddenly conscious of my driving techniques.  I put it in park, jumped out and hugged him.  We had a nice kiss and then he pointed out that I was blocking other cars with the big camper.  We loaded his bike and luggage in the back and then I hopped back into the driver's seat.  After he closed the door, he came around to the driver's seat and it suddenly hit me:  "Hey, I don't HAVE to drive!"  


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He took the wheel and after a few "fruitless" stops, he found a convenience store that agreed to make a fresh pot of coffee at 1:30 AM.  We talked while the coffee brewed and it felt so good to just be back together.  I told him about the back door on the camper and he quickly fixed it well enough to be sure Chipmunk wouldn't roll out onto the highway while we drove.  


We set the GPS to the trailhead where Chipmunk ended the day before and we talked for a few hours before I started nodding off.  He assured me he was awake so I laid my head on his thigh and contorted my body across the bench seat of the truck and fell sound asleep.  He awoke me as we drove down the road towards the trailhead.  It was light out and my contact lenses were not willing to budge.  I blinked several times and told him where I thought the parking lot was.  We parked the truck and decided we could all use some sleep so we didn't wake Chipmunk.  We climbed over the bike and the luggage and into our bunk.  We assumed the same sleeping positions we've had for the last 17 years:  I on my right side, him behind me with his left arm around my waist.  We whispered the same thing we've said before drifting off to sleep, too:  "I love you."   The only difference?  This time there was a beard that tickled my neck a little before I fell sound asleep.  


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) 




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<![CDATA[Church becomes a homeĀ ]]>Mon, 12 Aug 2013 13:09:30 GMThttp://www.ridethenation.org/3/post/2013/08/church-becomes-a-home.htmlChipmunk's Solo AT Thru Hike Update
Day 130 on the Appalachian Trail  Miles Hiked to Date:  1369  Hiked yesterday: 0 Trail Miles, Miles left to hike:  814



First, to Carol whose 13 year old son, Seth, was inspired to hike 14 miles of the AT over 2 days in Shenandoah National Park ... Chipmunk smiled broadly when I told her and said, "AWESOME!!"  I know what you mean when you say he was hard on himself about facing down all that the trail hands to the hikers.  Chipmunk often says, "I'm sorry ... I just can't take any more of it today."  I tell her that she need not apologize to me; over time, I realize that the apology is half to herself as well.   

Second, to Jennifer: Welcome!... I love all the Ukesters who have started following Chipmunk's story as well.  I only wish Uke and Chipmunk were closer on the trail and I hold out hope that they will end up in the same "hiking bubble" before the trail ends.  Thanks for caring about us and all the hikers that are out here.  

Third, to Barbara ... thanks for capturing that Karma moment and sending me the video footage.  I truly believe we are all somehow connected and that some days the universe shows it to us in an eye opening way.  

Chipmunk and I awoke to heavy rain pelting the camper roof (and a few spots inside, too).  After hearing about the terrain Chipmunk had been hiking over in the last few days, I decided it was better to take a zero than to risk an injury that would take her off the trail for a week or more.  While I waited for her to return from the trail in the 2 previous days, one by one hikers came in telling me how they slipped and fell over the school bus sized rocks.  Chipmunk had a fall, too, but got lucky and landed on her pack.  She told me how she realized early into scaling the large rocks that when they have 45 degree or steeper angles downward, it was best to sit back on her heels and slide down rather than risk tumbling forward.  

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I let Chipmunk sleep in an extra hour past the alarm clock and then told her we ought to get up, to keep our body clocks attuned to the early morning wake up.  I checked my phone and found a text message from Theresa, whose driveway we were parked in overnight.  It said that they were awake and to please come join them for breakfast.  Chipmunk dressed in town clothes and we headed in to find Theresa's husband, Peter making giant blueberry pancakes.  He showed us how, with a flick of the wrists, he flips the giant pancakes in the air and catches them.  It was fun to watch and even better to eat.  I wanted to contribute something to breakfast so I brought some maple syrup in from the camper.  

As we sat around the table eating and talking, Theresa asked if we'd like to see the church that her friends were converting to their home.  I loved the idea and told her how Papa Chip and I had almost bought a church in Vermont years ago in hopes of converting to our home, too.  Unfortunately, we couldn't find a lender willing to think "outside the box"; they all wanted comps on similar project properties in a 50 mile radius and there just weren't any.  In the end, we shelved the idea and moved ahead buying a campground in South Jersey that had closed.  We found a lender willing to see that the 3600 s.f. recreation hall would make an excellent combination home/business property for us.  Kudos to little ole Elmer Bank.  

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After breakfast, Chipmunk, Theresa, her children, Eliza and James, and I all drove through the hilly beautiful roads past dairy farms to the church property.  She explained that the church had once been her congregation's but that it just didn't produce the income necessary to pay the National Methodist organization.  We both shook our heads at how the point of community churches has been lost to commercialization.  At times, it becomes less about helping one another and more about fiscal issues.  Having been confirmed at a Methodist church myself as a child, I, too, remember the philosophies of Wesley and am disappointed that so many of his original goals have been overshadowed by the "business" of religion.  

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When we walked into the church, we were greeted by dogs.  Devin, the daughter of the church owner, fosters dogs to save them from shelters that kill them if they aren't adopted out soon enough.  She's 16 and has been doing this for a few years.  I admire her and her family's commitment to helping unwanted dogs become family members for new families.  These 3 adorable dogs were in a "kill" shelter in South Carolina.  They drove from New York to pick them up and socialize them until they are adopted on www.petfinder.com.  

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Chipmunk enjoyed the pups and I took this picture of her and 1 of the pups, next to one of the beautiful massive stained glass windows that will light their new home's living room.  I loved all the beautiful wood work that the owners, Michael and Gretchen, are keeping and incorporating into their home.  Michael gave us a tour and showed us how he is carving out 3 bedrooms, a kitchen, dining room and family room.  He plans to incorporate the original arches that separated the sanctuary from the altar area into a "telescoping" design.  I had such a good feeling standing in the church.  I don't know if it was because it was a church or if it was because it was a house under construction.  Papa Chip and I have re-habbed all 5 of the houses we have bought and lived in over the last 17 years.  I suppose it feels familiar to have a table saw in the living room.  

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Michael asked Chipmunk if she'd like to ring the church bell and she immediately jumped at the opportunity.  He told her to put her hands high on the rope and pull down repeatedly.  In a few seconds, we heard the deep, dull ring of the bell that once called its parishioners in for Sunday services.  The whole experience was so different from our day to day events ... Thanks, Michael, Devin and Aydin (Michael's son) for opening your home to us and letting us sample a little bit of something we, too, think is a pretty cool idea.  And thanks to Theresa, for turning a rainy day into another cool memory.  

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I took lots of pics, eager to share them with Papa Chip upon his return from the bike tour.  Before we left, Michael brought Chipmunk a t-shirt with his company's  Construction name on it.  When the church is finished, he plans to move his company into the new address.  What a great place to live and to showcase his work!  

We thanked them again and then Theresa, Eliza, James, Chipmunk and I headed back out in the rain to drive back to Theresa's place.  Along the way, Theresa shared local historical sites in her neighborhood and also showed me a hill, where cyclists test their fortitude.  If you can make it to the top without stopping, your training has paid off!  Hmm... I might have to see if Papa Chip's bike tour really challenged him with a trip back to that hill.   

Back at Theresa's, Chipmunk announced that she'd like to go see a movie on her Zero day.  I found a theater nearby and we left Theresa's family to the business of life and ran out to post the blog and catch a movie.  The movies are such a great way to get Chipmunk off her feet and entertained while her body recovers.  We enjoyed the first movie and were about to head out and meet up with Theresa's family for roller skating when I received a text letting me know that Eliza was taking a much needed nap.  I can relate ... when my kids were small, if they gave into a nap, I always let them sleep and took the time to catch a little rest myself.  Those days seem so long ago.  

Chipmunk and I decided to go for a movie marathon.  We decided to see the latest movie in the Percy Jackson series.  Chipmunk liked it but it felt quite a bit like the one we saw a year ago or so.  I was sleepy from having stayed up so late the night before and the dark theater proved to be the right atmosphere for me to snooze.  Luckily, I didn't snore.  Chipmunk nudged me awake towards the end and I apologized to her.  She said, "No problem.  Should we watch another movie?"  I checked the time and said, "No.  I'm movie'd out for today and it'll be past bedtime if we see another one."  Instead, we had a bite to eat and drove back close to the trailhead for the next day's start.  Theresa had offered her driveway again but I declined.  She had opened her home to us and been very kind but I remember the days of having young children, juggling a business and all the other stuff of life.  I just didn't want to intrude or disrupt their family routines for 2 days in a row.  Thanks, Theresa, Peter, Eliza and James for a wonderful time!  It felt so good to hang out with all of you!

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) 



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<![CDATA[... and the universe conspires again]]>Sun, 11 Aug 2013 18:37:35 GMThttp://www.ridethenation.org/3/post/2013/08/-and-the-universe-conspires-again.htmlChipmunk's Solo AT Thru Hike Update
Day 129 on the Appalachian Trail  Miles Hiked to Date:  1369  Hiked yesterday: 13 Trail Miles, Miles left to hike:  814



First, To Heather, thanks for the idea of the neon yellow shirts ... I'll start polling the hikers and see what the consensus is and get back to you.  


Second, To Hata, thanks for your words of support!  They DO make a difference! (and is your name Hata? or was the comment left by Hara S. with a little type-o?  Regardless, your thoughts and words mean a lot to my family and me.) 


Third, thanks for your patience in this late day posting.  It's been a hectic day, but a great day!  More about that soon. 

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Chipmunk awoke a little before 6 AM and asked for a few more minutes of sleep before starting her morning routine.  I agreed and made her PB&J sandwich.  When I pulled her hiking snacks ... it was like Christmas!  Barbara had given us such a variety of yummy and healthy snacks for Chipmunk's hiking day that it was hard to keep the number of snacks to just what she needed.  


Chipmunk got up around 6:30 AM, ate breakfast and dressed while I re-filled her Camelbak.  She spent a little extra time playing with Chocolate Chip on her bunk and ended up resuming the trail where she left off the day before by 7:45 AM.  We had a nice hug and kiss and re-confirmed our meet up spots before she turned to leave.  

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A short while into her day's hike she came to the NJ/NY border and paused to commemorate having hiked through yet another state!  I loved the perspective on the picture and I was so proud of her!  And ... "I love New York ..." (yep, I had to sing it.)  

The skies were overcast but the weather held out most of the day.  Around 11 AM, I decided to text Theresa, the lady with the 2 children who came out to meet us the night before and signed the Chip Mobile.  I asked if she was still interested in a cup of coffee together and she said she was.  We agreed to meet at the same spot as we had the evening before.  I was surprised to see her walking down the road towards me, carrying a cup of coffee.  She lived only a short distance away and took the time to freshly grind coffee and brew a cup for me.  She even asked if I'd like milk and sugar and brought extra sugar with her.  I thought it was such a nice gesture.  We sat down at a picnic table with her daughter, Eliza, while I enjoyed the gourmet coffee.  Eliza had picked some beautiful wild flowers for Chipmunk and couldn't wait to give them to her.  

We talked for quite some time and found that we had a lot in common.  She was such a relaxed and good mom and it was nice to see.  So often, parents are overloaded with work and other commitments and it's hard to find the time and patience to let kids enjoy life.  I read online the story of a mom who made a decision to never again say, "Hurry up!" to her children.  She caught herself saying it about so many things:  "Hurry up and get dressed, Hurry up and eat, Hurry up and get to bed ..."  The author of the article realized that she had overloaded her life with so many things that she lost sight of the things that make life really good:  time with your children, discovering all the little joys of life that so often escape us when we are at a hectic pace.  I liked the article ... and I liked seeing that Theresa "got it" and definitely wanted her kids to be kids.  

We talked a while and then she suggested that Chipmunk and I get showers at her house that evening if we'd like.  I told her that would be a wonderful treat.  She told me where she lived and said stop over whenever.  She said she would be doing a spinning class with friends in her garage around 7 pm but that other than that, her schedule was flexible.  It was a nice offer and I felt a sense of security around her.   

I waited a while longer for an update from Chipmunk at the midday meet up spot.  While I waited, a few other hikers arrived and took advantage of hot dogs and soda at a local food truck.  I recognized quite a few and enjoyed chatting with them.  "Uncle Buck", a hiker who left the trail due to injury, was helping slack pack a few hikers.  Once they were loaded in his car, there were 3 hikers and me left.  I saw a banjo strapped to one of the packs and I inquired about it.  He asked if I'd like to hear a song.  I smiled and said, "Absolutely!"  He broke out the banjo and another hiker his guitar and they did a couple of awesome duets.  I video'd it on my phone and will be posting it to instagram or facebook soon.  Unfortunately, my battery died before I got any still pics.  There is so much talent on the trail!

As I waited, Chipmunk arrived.  She pulled off her boots, had a bite to eat (last night's left overs ... YUM!) and was soon ready to head out again, wanting to put in another 3-4 miles before the storm rolled in.  She and "Lady Mac" headed back to the trailhead within 10 minutes of each other and apparently hiked together for most of that section.  I decided to take Theresa up on the offer of a shower while Chipmunk hiked and drove to her house.  

When I arrived, I found a REAL house!  It reminded me of my home when all 3 of my kids were young.  It had the finest art work:  crayon portraits, painted and glued pictures by the kids.  There were colorful mobiles made by the kids and there were forts in the living room made of couch cushions and pillows.  I was at home immediately!  I told her how wonderful her home felt and she smiled, knowing I got it.  

I showered ... ahhhhh, the joy of a shower without a time limit, without needing to put quarters in as soap runs into my eyes.  After showering, I received a message from Chipmunk that she had finished hiking and I drove to pick her up.  Lady Mac was with her, taking a break before hiking on to her camp spot for the evening.  I gave her a cold soda and they said goodbye to each other and we piled into the truck camper and drove back to Theresa's.

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After Chipmunk's shower, Theresa's husband, Peter, took us for a tour of his garden while Theresa got her clients started in their spinning session.  It was a terrific garden and the kids obviously loved participating in growing the fruits and vegetables and learning about all of it.  Peter gave me kale, tomatoes, nectarines, peppers and all kinds of salad yummies.  Thanks, Peter!  

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Afterwards, Chipmunk joined Eliza and James in the living room forts and the 3 of them lounged and watched a kids show about chickens.  Chipmunk wore her towel on her head, seemingly forgetting it was there.  It was cute and the three of them had fun hanging out.  


After Theresa's class wrapped up, the kids headed for bed, Chipmunk headed to her bunk and Theresa, Peter and I hung out at the dining room table and talked for a while.  It was very relaxed and easy.  While we talked, Theresa opened a bottle of wine and we soon found ourselves in a "grown up girls" pajama party.  Peter headed to bed and we talked about all kinds of things.   She told me that she was really glad to see that we were talking about depression and mental health on the blog.  Like most women, she, too has had her struggles with it, especially after each of her children were born.  I told her it's near impossible for any woman to be unaffected since our bodies go through so many hormonal and chemical changes over the course of our lives.  I'm glad that so many of our readers have also opened up and joined the conversation.  

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Theresa looked at me as if a lightbulb just went off ... and said, "Oh my gosh!  I have the perfect thing for you."  She brought a package of 12 volt boot warmers/dryers to me and said, "Look.  I bought these with no one in mind back during the holidays.  I think they were for you all along.  This was meant to be." And you know what?  Too many things have come together in the last few days for that to be anything but true.  I don't really know how the universe works but it certainly seemed to lead me here ... to meet up with Barbara from my hometown ... to meet Theresa, who had the 12 volt boot dryers we truly needed, to give me a "girls' night" that I desperately needed.  But mostly, I think Theresa and I were plopped down into each other's lives at this very moment because we both needed to connect.  We found questions and answers in one another that we just hadn't shared with anyone else .. and really needed to.  We talked until 1:30 AM and until the bottle of wine was half empty. I hugged her goodnight and quietly made my way into the bunk of my camper in her driveway.  I slept well, feeling a little "lighter".   Thanks, Theresa!  


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) 


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<![CDATA[Mathematical possibilities ...]]>Sat, 10 Aug 2013 14:26:45 GMThttp://www.ridethenation.org/3/post/2013/08/mathematical-possibilities.htmlChipmunk's Solo AT Thru Hike Update
Day 128 on the Appalachian Trail  Miles Hiked to Date:  1356  Hiked yesterday: 9 Trail Miles, Miles left to hike:  827



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We awoke to an overcast day and the air could be described as "thick" ... it wasn't necessarily hot or humid, just kind of "heavy" feeling.  Chipmunk was definitely moving slowly about the camper as she readied for the day.  She is a good hiker but like most hikers she has her "limits".  Whenever she hikes over 15 miles, she is usually "spent" the next day.  I prepared her PB&J sandwich and pulled her snacks while she dressed.  


When our morning tasks were done, we stepped outside and had a nice long hug before she headed for the path.  I noticed that she had put her knee wrap on again today.  The other hikers have mentioned that this is a tough section.  The rocks of Pennsylvania are gone; replaced by the boulders of NJ.  


Once she was securely on the trail, I headed out to take care of my morning tasks.  I returned a message to a lady who has been following our journey from months ago.  We had been arranging to meet up when we got to her area and I can't believe we are finally here.  We discussed a time and place to meet and I let her know that I really wasn't sure just how far Chipmunk would hike after the morning's start.  


When Chipmunk and I met up midday, she said, "I'm done.  I can't hike any more today."  I understood.  I told her that I, too, was tired and she looked at me and roller her eyes.  I'm so used to saying whatever I'm thinking around her that I didn't even consider that saying I was tired was such a dumb thing to say to a kid that has hiked over 1300 miles in the last 4 and a half months.  I quantified it by saying, "I didn't sleep well ... and, sorry.  I know what you are doing is exhausting."  She smiled at me and then pulled her boots off.  I drove to a quiet place where we could both take a rest before we met up with our evening guest.  


Just before I fell asleep, my phone dinged letting me know there was a message.  I looked at it and it was one of our blog followers asking if we could meet up.  Her message was so genuine and it turned out that we'd be close to her neighborhood that evening.  I hit reply and let her know that I'd be at an ice cream shop near her that evening.  I laid my head on my pillow and after about 3 minutes, my eyes popped open and I realized that I posted exactly where Chipmunk would be ... on the internet.  Amongst other safety precautions, we never post the exact location we are, just in case.   The message was posted for a total of 4 minutes before I was able to remove it.  Ugh!  I couldn't believe I did that.  I was disappointed that I didn't have another way to reach her but I had to put Chipmunk's and my safety first.  


Chipmunk and I rested for a short time, got up and brushed our teeth and hair and changed into clean clothes.  I was excited to meet the wonderful lady, Barbara, who we had pre-arranged to meet for the evening.  Not only has she sent wonderful messages of support for Chipmunk but she also has re-tweeted my blog posts and sent me words of wisdom.  

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We drove to the ice cream shop to meet up and the weather turned to late Autumn ... it was cool, windy and rainy.  I couldn't believe it was August and we were all wearing jackets and shivering!  


Barbara stepped out of her car and we were met with a big smile.  I felt like I knew her already.   She sent me info about the local trails that she has hiked many times.  The view at the Ice Cream shop was phenomenal, as she had promised.  She said the sunsets on clear days are worth waiting for ... but it didn't look like the clouds were going to clear out and let us see a good one that night.  

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We drove into town together and ate at a cute little restaurant called FETCH.  A portion of the sales at the restaurant support the care of dogs.  There are adorable dog paintings and decorations everywhere and the menu had a lot of yummies to choose from.  Barbara ordered a beer .. and since she was driving, so did I.  By the way, in the car ride from the ice cream shop into town, Barbara mentioned that she grew up in South Jersey.  I said, "So did I.  I'm from Vineland."  It turns out that Barbara also grew up there ... went to the same high school as I did!  In fact, we both started singing our high school cheer song ... WHAT ARE THE CHANCES??   We both laughed at having "gotten out of Vineland".  For being NJ's largest city, it can certainly be a real "Peyton Place".   As we talked over dinner, we also discovered that her cousin was my art teacher.  I couldn't believe the mathematical possibilities of the three of us meeting.  

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After dinner, Barbara surprised Chipmunk with a bunch of Trail Magic.  She brought a big bag full of healthy granola bars, trail snacks, organic toaster pastries, cookies and more.  There were even treats for Chocolate Chip!  FYI, although the restaurant is called Fetch, Chocolate Chip wouldn't have been allowed to dine in; but the restaurant does have a few outside tables where I bet dog lovers enjoy a bite to eat with their pooches.  

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In the bag of goodies was another very cool treat:  an Orange hat.  You know, "ORANGE IS THE NEW BLACK"!   Barbara told me she read my blog comment about hikers needing to wear orange during hunting season in the woods and she searched everywhere for an appropriate hat for Chipmunk.  She'd almost given up when she asked one more sales clerk and scored this awesome sporty hat that's made of a lightweight wicking material.  It's perfect!!  Chipmunk loves it!  

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After dinner, we returned to the ice cream shop and saw both some old friends and some new friends.  Snacks and Joe Cool had hiked beyond where Chipmunk ended her day and were enjoying some of the best ice cream they've had on the trail.   There was a also a lady with 2 young children who introduced herself.  She was the lady whom I'd messaged about our location ... the message that was online for 4 minutes.  She happened to be online during that 4 minutes and saw the message.  Hmmm ... what is the mathematical possibility of that??

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As we all talked, I asked Barbara to please sign the Chip Mobile.  Since Barbara is tall, she found a nice open space up high and added her name.  Thanks, Barbara!  I will consider meeting you one of the coolest circumstances we've had on this adventure.  It was wonderful hanging out with you and getting to know you.  It was also great to share Vineland stories.  Thank you again for all the wonderful things you gave Chipmunk and me.  We had a wonderful evening and will long remember how special you made both of us feel.  We'll take your signature all the way to the end with us!  And when things start to feel impossible or improbable ... I will remember that just because it feels that way ... it's not mathematically impossible.  

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Chipmunk was eager to share Chocolate Chip's trail magic with her that Barbara gave her.  Chocolate Chip isn't too good at catching treats but she definitely enjoyed them! 


As we hung out, I got to know the lady who lived near the ice cream shop, Theresa.  She introduced me to her two children who were very sweet.  James let me know that he, too, had hiked with his dad.   

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I thought it was so nice that Theresa wanted her kids to meet Chipmunk and me that I wanted all of them to sign the Chip Mobile.  As we talked, I discovered that Theresa runs triathlons, teaches spinning classes and is a great mom.  She told me that she was really glad to read in the blog that Chipmunk and I want to alleviate the stigma of mental illness.  


Since posting that blog, I've received so many messages from others saying that it's time for all of us to look at mental illness as just that ... an illness.  The more we talk about it, the more people will feel comfortable in seeking treatment and in being accepted just the way they are.  Life is too short to live it feeling "less".  After signing the camper, Theresa gave me her phone # and said to text or call her if I'd like to meet up for a cup of coffee while I'm still in the area.  

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Her daughter, Eliza, and her son, James, also signed the Chip Mobile.  They found a perfect spot at their height and used markers of different colors.  I wondered to myself if there would be a day way off in the future, where these siblings turn to one another and say something like, "Do you remember writing our names on a lady's camper when we were kids?  What was that all about?"  I enjoyed watching them take the task so seriously.  


When everyone was done signing, Chipmunk and I hugged Barbara, Theresa, Eliza and James and thanked all of them for supporting us.  It was a wonderful ending to the day!  I really like the way it all "added up".  


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) 


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<![CDATA[Under the Boardwalk ... (Did you have to sing it, too?)]]>Fri, 09 Aug 2013 16:54:03 GMThttp://www.ridethenation.org/3/post/2013/08/under-the-boardwalk-did-you-have-to-sing-it-too.htmlChipmunk's Solo AT Thru Hike Update
Day 127 on the Appalachian Trail  Miles Hiked to Date:  1347  Hiked yesterday: 17 Trail Miles, Miles left to hike:  837

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After a really good night of sleep, Chipmunk and I awoke to beautiful, clear sunny skies... a good hiking day!  Chipmunk opted for "pop tarts" for breakfast while I made her PB & J sandwich.  I drove the short distance to the trailhead where she ended the day before while she dressed in the camper.  When we parked, Chocolate Chip made it clear that she'd have to check out the place before Chipmunk put her boots to the ground.  


Once she took care of her morning business, she parked herself at Chipmunk's side and dutifully watched her put her socks and boots on.  Chipmunk's feet have been tired but she is still free of blisters ... YEAH!  Must be those awesome Thorlos padded hiking socks together with her Vasque Boots!  We lucked out in picking that combo!


We confirmed our midday meet up point and had a nice hug goodbye; then she walked across the road and resumed the trail.  

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I had seen on the A.T. Guide sheets that she would be walking through a section called the "Boardwalk".  My brain instantly started playing that famous summer anthem ... "Under the Boardwalk, Down by the Sea ..."  (I know you just sung it, too!)   The song was stuck in my head as I busied myself with my daily tasks.  

Chipmunk texted me updates and one included this pic.  Ahhh ... so that's the boardwalk.  Cool!  She said it was a welcome change from all the rock climbing she's been doing.  

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I drove to the midday meetup point, which I found easily.  (I love when the A.T. Guide gives GPS coordinates!)  When I arrived, I saw that there was a rather large paving machine in the roadside pulloff trailside.  Hmm.  I watched until the traffic slowed, then I pulled the Chip Mobile forward and backed it into the tight space in front of the paver.  

Chocolate Chip and I checked it out and while we were walking around it, two of our favorite hikers emerged from the woods:  Joe Cool and Snacks.  They dropped their packs, got a couple cold sodas from the cooler and then joined me on my inspection of the giant paver.  

There was no one around and it was so tempting to climb up and pretend we were driving the paver.  We all took turns behind the controls and on the back platform, taking pictures of one another.  I liked this pic where Joe Cool lived up to her trail name ... doesn't she look cool??  Snacks was fascinated by all the dials and controls on the back platform, too.  Don't worry, we didn't change any controls or attempt to start it ... we just had fun stepping out of our regular roles in life and pretending.  It's such a huge part of childhood that many of us leave behind as we grow older.  I had a blast with them and it made the time pass quicker until Chipmunk arrived.  

They finished their breaks and told me to tell Chipmunk that they're hoping she catches up to them.  I wished them well and told them where we figured we'd be ending the day.  They waved and were off into the woods across the street.  About 15 minutes later, I heard Chipmunk call from the trailhead.  Chocolate Chip leaped to the open window ledge and wagged her entire back side.  They shared kisses while I climbed up in the camper to fix Chipmunk a bite to eat.  



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I put her baked ziti from the night before into a frying pan with a little butter and heated it up.  I also buttered her a piece of the french loaf I picked up earlier in the day.  By the time it was done, her boots were off and her phone was on.  She was checking text messages and was thrilled to see a few from her friend, Ganina.  She smiles and laughs at all the messages Ganina sends.  Apparently, Ganina was inspired by Chipmunk's hike and decided to go for a walk.  She walked about a mile and found it to be quite taxing.  She took a pic of her sweaty, exhausted self and sent it to Chipmunk, making her laugh out loud.  (Sorry, Ganina ... you're so cute and funny that I had to post this pic!)

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After lunch, Chipmunk pulled fresh socks and her boots back on and hit the trail for another few miles.  By day's end, she was quite tired.  She put in a solid day of hiking and said she really needed to rest.  


We drove to a quiet place for the night and parked.  Chipmunk actually fell asleep during our evening talk and I decided to give into my body's need for sleep, too.  It had been a good day that put her 17 miles closer to her goal.  Well done, Chipmunk!


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) 


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<![CDATA[It's a Rocky Road to Adulthood]]>Thu, 08 Aug 2013 14:13:22 GMThttp://www.ridethenation.org/3/post/2013/08/its-a-rocky-road-to-adulthood.htmlChipmunk's Solo AT Thru Hike Update
Day 126 on the Appalachian Trail  Miles Hiked to Date:  1330  Hiked yesterday: 14 Trail Miles, Miles left to hike:  853



First, thanks to Mike & Gloria for your generous donation.  I adore your daughter, Joe Cool, and think she is one of the toughest and most competent hikers on the trail.  She is currently hiking with Snacks and like most every other hiker, she occasionally says, "I can't do this any more.  This is just too hard."  Then Snacks laughs and says, "I've been hearing that from her for over 1,000 miles.  I tell her she can say that all she wants until we get to Katahdin."  She smiles, tightens up her boots, pulls on her pack, adjusts her skirt and head scarf (oh yes, she's also one of the most fashionable hikers!) and gets hiking.  

Second, thanks to Doinit (Tom), Twinkle Toes (Wendy) and Bird Wing (Mona) for all the great pics from the trail that you shared with me!  

Third, thanks to Barbara and Theresa ... more soon about the mathematical equation needed to figure out the possibility of all that transpired between these two terrific women and me.  

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Chipmunk woke early and dressed but I noticed she was moving a little slower than usual.  I reminded her that there were two men waiting in the woods for her.  She looked at me with a raised eyebrow and I realized just how strange that sounded.  What I meant to say was that Doinit (Tom) and Doug (really?..no trail name?) of Hike for Mental Health were planning to hike in, meet up with her and hike onward.  Only in our family could that phrase actually make sense, huh?

After a hug and kiss goodbye, she walked into the woods and I drove off and searched out wifi.  While I was posting the morning blog, I got a message from Doinit, inquiring where she was?  I had just received an update from Chipmunk and filled him in.  I told him I was sorry that she was moving a little slower than usual.  I think this hiker cold she and I have had for the last 3-4 weeks, just wears us both out some days.  Luckily, Chipmunk and Doinit met up shortly after that and she was introduced to Doug, another member of Hike for Mental Health.  Note that we've added a link to Hike for Mental Health's website along the right border of this page.  Chipmunk and I like what this organization does and how they do it.  We've also registered Chipmunk's hike with HFMH and details about her hike should be available soon on their webpage.  We sincerely hope that Chipmunk's hike helps keep the conversation about hiking for mental health going and helps alleviate the stigma of mental illness, especially amongst teens. 


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I received this pic from the prior day's hike.  Chipmunk and Doinit (Tom Kennedy of Hike for Mental Health) look pretty happy here.  I think they just covered a big climb and were happy to be at the top.  Or maybe they just finished performing an impromptu stage show for their fellow hikers ... who knows?    

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Word has it that Doinit dressed as the Hunger Games' President Snow along with a bunch of other family members and attended a premiere opening of the movie.  Chipmunk liked hearing that Doinit also liked one of the books/movies that our family has read/seen and enjoyed.  

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I received this pic of what looks like an endless field of rocks and a pretty intense climb up to a ridge.  Chipmunk said that the rock hiking is amongst the hardest.  Her Vasque boots work great but her feet, ankles and legs are always a bit more sore after hiking rock fields.  All the hikers say that they can feel the rocks through their boots.  I truly don't know how they do this day in and day out.  

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Doesn't Chipmunk look skeptical about the hike ahead?  Sometimes she calls me from the trail after a tough hike and she sounds drained.  Now, I see why.  I've looked at the pictures and often wonder how the hikers determine where the trail goes, especially when it's a rock field.  The hikers have a saying they shared with me:  "If you can't figure out which way the trail goes ... look for the toughest way forward and you can be assured, that's the Appalachian Trail."  

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Here's a view that's at least a pretty payoff to the tough hiking it takes to get there.  They had an absolutely beautiful weather day for hiking and I enjoyed hearing updates throughout the day.  Chocolate Chip and I found the late day meet up spot and returned phone calls, emails, texts, facebook messages, etc., while we waited.

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When the hikers trickled into the parking area, I had the back door to the Chip Mobile open and a cooler full of cold sodas, V8's, water, etc. waiting for them.  During their hike, Chipmunk, Doinit and Doug ran into Snacks, Joe Cool and Sly Fox.  They hiked together on and off and all met up here, the flat parking lot.  It looks like Doinit is thinking about strangling Chipmunk but he's actually helping her pull her jacket up onto her shoulders.    
I enjoy hearing the hikers' stories as they come out of the woods and they are all so grateful for the simple pleasure of a cold drink.  One evening, Chipmunk said to me, "Hiking the Appalachian Trail is like doing the hardest job, getting an occasional coffee break that doesn't last long enough ... and feeling like you'll never get to sleep in your own bed again."  Chipmunk, this may be the hardest job you'll ever do ... and by the end, you will have grown in ways most teenagers (and adults) can not fathom.  

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After the hikers cooled down, the next item on the agenda had to be addressed:  FOOD!  Hikers are always hungry and they all say that food tastes amazing after a long day's hike.  Doinit and Doug invited Chipmunk and me to dinner.  Once we were seated, Chipmunk helped herself to some bread and butter while we all talked.  When the waitress arrived, Doinit made it clear that our dinners were to be included on his check.  I objected since he had just bought us dinner the night before.  While we were fighting it out, Chipmunk said, "I don't care who pays.  I just want Baked Ziti" (one of her favorites).  The waitress asked, "Children's portion?"  Without missing a beat, Chipmunk said, "I'm 24."  Then Doinit said, "She's hiking the Appalachian Trail."  Neither comment registered with the waitress who said, "So, Children's size or Regular?"  Doug and I snickered at the fact that neither Chipmunk's nor Doinit's comments made a "hill of beans" of difference to the waitress.   

I enjoyed a cold beer, a hot sandwich and good conversation with Doinit, Doug and Chipmunk.  They cracked inside jokes about the day's hiking and I realized that they had shared an experience that could only be fully understood by having joined them for the day.  I was happy that Chipmunk had hiking partners that treated her as their equal.   I know I'm her mom ... but there are times that I forget that; times when I realize she is better company than some adults I meet.   

I know that we are all products of our cumulative experiences.  These last two days of Chipmunk's hiking with the wonderful people from Hike for Mental Health, will surely go a long way in shaping who Chipmunk will be as an adult, too.  


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) 


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<![CDATA[The KEYS to hiking success ...]]>Wed, 07 Aug 2013 13:12:14 GMThttp://www.ridethenation.org/3/post/2013/08/the-keys-to-hiking-success.htmlChipmunk's Solo AT Thru Hike Update
Day 125 on the Appalachian Trail  Miles Hiked to Date:  1316  Hiked yesterday: 15 Trail Miles, Miles left to hike:  867



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It was another cool morning when we awoke but the sun was shining and there wasn't any rain in the forecast.  It looked like a near perfect hiking day!  Chipmunk dressed quickly and ate breakfast before pulling her boots on and heading out onto the trail.  She wore her fleece and long pants because it was only about 55 degrees at the start of the day.  


I reminded her to watch for the Hike For Mental Health members who said they would meet up with her on the trail and asked her to text me when they all connected.  After a nice hug and a kiss I yelled "I love you.  Be careful."  Then I watched her as she headed into the woods again.  

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I searched Google Maps and the GPS for a wifi location nearby and found out that there really wasn't much in range.  In fact, it would be a 30 minute ride into town so I stopped to get fuel at the first station.   I climbed out of the truck, pulled my credit card out and was about to start pumping the diesel when this man arrived and took over.  


At first, I thought he may have mistaken me for Jennifer Lopez; was a fan just wanting to show his loyalty, etc.  Then I realized it ... I'M IN JERSEY!  LAND OF PROFESSIONALLY PUMPED GAS!  I'm a Jersey girl and have never accepted the rest of our country's obsession with pumping their own fuel.  I wondered again how the state of NJ not only pumps your gas but also usually sells it lower than its neighboring states.  I have a love/hate relationship with my home state but I appreciate having my gas pumped for me.  I also appreciate that many people have jobs here pumping gas because NJ refuses to go self-serve.  Every time I pump gas in the rain, cold, snow, unbearable heat of Florida ... I think wistfully about my home state.  Go, Jersey!  (FYI, there is no proof that the gentleman pumping my gas didn't mistake me for J-Lo.)  (Also ... yes, Papa Chip ... I know.  It's Diesel, not gas.  Don't worry, I've caught myself every time before putting the wrong stuff in the tank.)

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As I was blogging, I got word from Chipmunk that she had met up with Tom Kennedy of Hike for Mental Health and two other members:  Mona and Wendy.  She said she'd text me later in the day with an update.  

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I received this pic of Chipmunk and Mona, who Chipmunk would later give a new trail name, Bird Wing.  Apparently, they called each other (unbeknownst to their fellow hikers) to coordinate the day's hiking outfit colors.  Very cute!  Both of them are also wearing visors!

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I love this pic of Chipmunk and Wendy, whose trail name is "Twinkle Toes"!  Don't they look like they could wrestle the bears, hog tie them and then steal their snacks???   Girl Power!  In Wendy's case, she should probably just steal the bear's keys.  Don't worry, Wendy, we still love you, with or without your keys!  

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When they took hiking breaks, Chipmunk scored some Twizzlers and took the opportunity to do her "Zoidberg" (of Futurama) impersonation.  Later, I heard the story of how Chipmunk spelled out her name on the rocks in Twizzlers.  One of the other hikers spelled out "AT" with Twizzlers, took a pic and then put the pieces into her trash bag.  Chipmunk scooped up her pieces and started eating them, confused as to why the other hiker hadn't eaten hers.  She said, "But, there was an ant crawling on them."  Like a true thru hiker, Chipmunk said, "Yeah, so?"  

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Here's a pic of Zoidberg ... in order to judge Chipmunk's "take" on him, I might have to put a banana peel on her head for the full visual effect!   

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I loved getting text messages throughout the day from her fellow hikers that didn't quite make sense until after I received their photos.  They referenced Chipmunk sleeping on the trail and I was like, "Huh?"  Apparently, she hiked ahead and then found a "comfy?" spot to lounge and make it look like she was so far ahead that she had time to take a nap.  Hmm, reminds me of the many times we'd beat Papa Chip home in separate cars from the same place, run into the house, change quickly into our PJ's and get under the covers just before he walked in and turned on the lights.  We'd act like we'd been there forever waiting for him to haul his slow moving self home. We are NOT A MATURE group!

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It appears that Chipmunk has corrupted yet another hiker!  I think the kid is trying to "lounge" her way to Katahdin!  I don't want to be the one to tell her, but there really must be more comfortable spots to catch a little rest, don't you think?  Hey, Mona ... what's the on the ground just above your shoulder?  That's not poison ivy, is it??  Oh no.  That's going to be a pain in the neck! 

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Tom "Doinit" Kennedy and "Birdwing" finally got the troops up and moving.  They tackled some tough, rocky terrain by laughing and poking fun throughout the day.  It was such a treat for Chipmunk.  She even told them that they were her "second" favorite group to hike with.  Doinit noted that they should have brought more Twizzlers!  As Chipmunk says ... "you know STRESSED spelled backwards is DESSERTS!"  

Hey, look closely ... I think Doinit was carrying a mini-Chipmunk in his backpack.  Don't be embarrassed, Tom.  Even Chipmunk carries a mini "guy" on her pack ... see below.  

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See, Tom?  We all do a little "Fan Girling"!  This is Chipmunk's "non-essential" hiking item, a miniature Niall Horan from her favorite boy band, One Direction.  It hangs on a carabiner from her waist belt so that he's always on hand.  In the words of my southern born mother, "Why, he's no bigger than a cake of soap!"  Actually, he's no bigger than a hand sanitizer "... oh, the times they are a changing!" 

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It was great that Chipmunk's fellow hikers took pics of her on the trail for me and our blog readers.  I usually only get a small glimpse into her hiking day, when we chat over dinner in the evenings.  Pics complete the story for me.   Look at the beautiful long views they had!   I guess that's the payoff for all the rocky hiking they're enduring.   


Word has it there's also some video footage.  If I'm able to figure out how to post it here, I will.  If not, I'll get a link to the hikeformentalhealth.org page with the video on it when it's published and then put it on a future blog.  

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I drove to the end of day meet up spot, where Twinkle Toes signed the Chip Mobile.  I passed out cold drinks and listened to all their fun stories about hiking with Chipmunk.  Poor Tom, a.k.a. "Doinit", fell during the day and apparently it sounded like a balloon popping.  Chipmunk immediately asked if he'd had any plastic surgery, insinuating that he had butt implants!  Out of the mouths of 15 year olds!   


Look at the smile on Twinkle Toes face ... kinda looks like she knows the "key to happiness" in life, doesn't it?  Well, although that is important ... the keys to the car might actually be more helpful.  oooohhhh! Snap!

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Mona also signed the Po White Trash Truck Camper in the new trail name Chipmunk assigned her:  "Bird Wing"  According to Chipmunk, something about her hiking style, her poles, etc. led to the trail name.  Everyone agreed and so it is:  Mona is Bird Wing!  


Once it was confirmed that Twinkle Toes had left her keys behind at Mona's house, we came up with a new plan:  We'd all pile into the Chip Mobile, drive to Mona's, get the keys to her car (which was at the trailhead where they ended), grab a bite to eat and just plain relax.  That sounded good to me!  


NOTE, Chipmunk:  People will do anything to score a ride in the Chip Mobile!  


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I like HFMH's way of relaxing:  Board Doinit's boat, the "Grateful Sled", and hydroplane over to any number of waterfront restaurants for a bite to eat ... Niiiiiiice!   In fact, I think we all should thank Wendy for her absentmindedness!  It was a great way to end a very good hiking day!  
FYI, this is not "aqua-blazing" since the AT doesn't cross this waterway ... this is just plain "perfect-blazing".  


Thanks to Mona for taking Chipmunk "under her wing"; to Wendy for being fun for Chipmunk to mon"KEY" around with and to Tom, for knowing that life goes on even after your butt implants deflate!  (Trust me, I think many a man's butt implants have deflated!) Thanks also to the three of you for some great trail pics!  It gave me insight into Chipmunk's hiking day and made me feel like I was right there with all of you.  


After a yummy dinner out (thanks again, Tom!), Chipmunk, Twinkle Toes and I headed back to the trailhead where Wendy's car was waiting.  We had some nice hugs and good night wishes before Chipmunk and I fell asleep quickly in our bunks.  FYI, word has it that Chipmunk might meet up with another Hike for Mental Health member during tomorrow's hike.  Sweet!  I like these folks!


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) 



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<![CDATA[Putting the Boots back on the Trail]]>Tue, 06 Aug 2013 14:56:05 GMThttp://www.ridethenation.org/3/post/2013/08/putting-the-boots-back-on-the-trail.htmlChipmunk's Solo AT Thru Hike Update
Day 124 on the Appalachian Trail  Miles Hiked to Date:  1301  Hiked yesterday: 14 Trail Miles, Miles left to hike:  882



To Tune's Mom, Sue, thanks! and your timing was actually perfect.  While planning and budgeting, we figured that Papa Chip would be receiving payment for leading his bike tour either weekly or by the month.  He actually will not get any payment until the tour is over, the transport van returned, the log books completed, etc.  When the hikers talk about "trail magic", it isn't always cold sodas and food; they think of it more in a serendipitous way.  They believe that if you are doing something good, the universe protects and supports you.  They believe that you may not get everything you want, but you'll get what you need, when you need it, to keep on "keeping on".  I can't tell you how many times they've shared stories of losing their cook stove or some other key item ... only to find a replacement waiting in the next hiker box or left behind at a shelter.  When you see Tune, please give him a cold soda (or two!  trust me, he likes two) and a hug from me.  I miss seeing him along the trail but I'm glad to hear he's hiking so well.  He's a wonderful young man and I think he's giving me a cut of the book he's writing that will supposedly include many a "family" story I've shared with him trail side.   


Second, to Leo with Hike For Mental Health, I love what your organization is doing and I'd like to add a link to your website on my blog page.  Feel free to send me any basic instruction you can offer ... I'm no techie but I've gotten this far so I'm sure I'll figure it out.  


Third, to my friend, K Biz:  I don't know all the details of your tormented fb post but I will say this:  There are many times I couldn't see my way forward and just had to trust that life would get better.  And it did.  I learned and grew and promised myself I would not be bitter.  As Chipmunk told her big sister the other day, "Sometimes when I'm hiking, I think this is the worst day.  When will it end?  But it does end.  And I go to sleep, get up the next day and I do feel better."  And so will you ... Now, pull on your boots, get off your "7" rated butt and get hiking, K Biz!  "Don't make me turn this po' white trash truck camper around ... "
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We awoke to a cool, rainy morning and again Chipmunk pulled on her boots and hit the trail.  She asked to borrow one of my BMX volunteer hoodies since it was a chilly morning and her jacket had still not dried out from her last rainy hiking day.  We re-confirmed our meet up spots and I hugged and kissed her goodbye, reminding her to be careful on the slippery rocks.  

Chocolate Chip and I were sitting in the cab of the truck for a while after Chipmunk left.  A car pulled up next to us and a hiker got out and said, "You're Chipmunk's mom, right?"  I nodded and said, "and you are?"  He gave me his name and told me that he read about Chipmunk's story in the Pocono Record this morning.  It surprised me that the story got into the paper so quickly after yesterday's interview.  

He told me he enjoyed the story and that he often hikes with his adult children thru many of the historic sites in Delaware Water Gap.  We talked for quite some time and he told me all about some great hikes and views in the area.  It was nice to hear that not only did he support what our family does, but that he also shares all the benefits of hiking with his own children.  It was a good way to start the day.  

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I drove to the local convenience store to pick up some ice and look for the newspaper.  I was shocked to see my kid staring back at me from the newspaper stand.  You know you're in a small town when your kid makes the front page WITHOUT committing a crime!  


I picked up a few extra copies for my friends at Hike for Mental Health and then Chocolate Chip and I settled into the cab to read the article.  I was pleased with the coverage and proud that my daughter is strong enough to speak out about mental illness, when so many of her fellow teens feel muted by society who says things like, "What are you so sad about?  These are the best years of your life!"  I can't imagine how hard it is to hear those words when you're depressed.   If this is how the best years of your life feel, it can't offer much hope for the future, especially when you are in the throes of depression.   

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After icing down the drinks in the cooler, I headed to a local campground to dump my tanks.  When I arrived, a few of the staff came out to look over the camper and ask what it was all about.  I explained and they took a few pictures of it.  Then, the young fellow in the picture to the left, led me to the dump area.  He helped hook up the hose and start the process.  We realized that there was a "clog" of sorts and he instructed me to pump water into the tank to build pressure until he released the valve again.  He was really sweet and so helpful.  It goes beyond nice when someone helps you dump your tank!  


Afterwards, I followed him back to the office area where he rinsed my sewer hose and re-filled my water tank.  Just before I left, he brought me a few bottles of tank deodorizer/cleanser, saying that would help prevent the clogging.  When I pulled out my wallet to pay him, he said, "No, you don't owe me.  Just consider it my contribution to your adventure."  Wow!  There it was!  Trail Magic just for me!  Thanks, my friend and good luck in all you do.  I hope we meet again some day and I can extend a kindness to you. 

I headed out with a clean tank and a smile on my face.  I found some wifi and posted the blog and talked online with the Editor.  Her boyfriend, Dillon, was officially headed for Korea and she was officially sad.  I tried to offer her support and reminded her that as hard as it is for her, he was facing a new phase of his life.  He was going to have a tough few weeks in a place where he doesn't fully understand the language, he knows no one and nothing is familiar.  I reminded her that many a military spouse has felt all that she is feeling PLUS they have to cope with knowing their loved one is headed into a battle zone.   Nonetheless, I can feel for anyone who is separated from their loved ones, including all the parents whose children are hiking the Appalachian Trail.  


I told the Editor that although this is hard, it's not the end of the world ... it's just a different reality.  She and Dillon will have lots of ways to stay connected and be important in one another's lives through email, phone, texting, Skype, etc.  Throughout the day, she let me know as he arrived safely for each leg of his trip.  She was proud that when he  arrived at his apartment and didn't know how to get his gas stove to work, she talked him through lighting it.  I know they're both going to get through this phase of their lives just fine.  


I drove and met Chipmunk and a few other hikers at a midday meet up spot and passed out cold sodas and treats.  Joe Cool wanted a V8 drink and I gave her a chilled can.  She said, "Wow!  Everything tastes soooo good when you're hiking."  I remember that same sentiment from my family bike ride.  They were all quite grateful and smiling as they headed back into the woods.  

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I drove towards the end of day meet up spot, glad that the rain wasn't as heavy as it was at the start of the day.  There were brief periods of bright sunshine followed by bouts of steady light rain.  I found the parking area and parked the Chip Mobile.  Chocolate Chip and I got out to stretch our legs and one of us to "do our business".  When I was done, Chipmunk found a big footprint on the ground and took a long look at it, presumably thinking, "there's 'squatch up in these woods!"  


As we waited a group of hikers, that were ahead of Chipmunk earlier in the day, passed through.  They hopped into a shuttle to spend the night at a Trail Angel's house.  The man had a familiar accent and I asked what part of New York he was from.  He said, "Brooklyn.  You're not from New York though, are you?"  I told him I wasn't but that my father was from 'da Bronx and that it was nice to hear the accent.  

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After they left, a group of 4 day hikers came into the trailhead and wondered about all the signatures on the Chip Mobile.  I told them the story of Chipmunk's adventure and learned that they were two dads out hiking with their sons.  They explained that their wives were college friends and that they are trying hard to instill exercise and a love of nature into the childhoods of their children; a concept that wasn't emphasized during their childhoods in India.  


As we talked, Chipmunk arrived and was glad to answer their questions about hiking.  The young man in the red poncho and glasses is 14 years old and was surprised to hear that she started the trail at 14.  When she told them she rode her bike 3800 miles when she was 12, the young man in the blue poncho said, "I ride my bike around the neighborhood a few times and that's it."  I told him that if he can ride around his neighborhood, he can ride around the country.  I don't think he believed me but that's how I tend to look at things.  If I can ride my bike from here to there, I can just duplicate that over and over again until I get to where I want to go.  We gave them a business card with our website address and we hope we inspired them to keep hiking ... and maybe bike a little more, too.  The dads have both participated in longer bike rides; one having done the MS 150, a terrific fundraising bike ride for Multiple Sclerosis.  


Chipmunk and I wished them a nice evening.  She removed her pack and climbed into the truck.  We drove into town in search of a laundromat; her hiking clothes needed to be washed and dried before they took on a whole new smell!  While the machines did their thing, Chipmunk and I were fully entertained watching the Sherlock DVDs that Brother Chip gave her on the laptop.  We love that show!  Thanks again, Brother Chip.  After laundry and dinner, we parked in our camp spot for the night and drifted off to sleep.  


Chipmunk plans to meet up with some day hikers from Hike For Mental Health during her next hike day.   The HFMH group are trying to get in shape for a big upcoming event:  they are hiking Mount Washington, the highest peak in New England!   The thought of that can be a bit intimidating but the HFMH group believes in their cause and they'll put their boots to the trail to show their commitment.  Good Luck to all the HFMH hikers!  


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) 



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