An Appalachian Trail thru hike is quite a challenge; now imagine hiking it at the age of 14. One enthusiastic East Coast native who goes by “Chipmunk” on the trail decided to embark on this journey. We had the opportunity of meeting her at Springer Mountain departure on April 1st; “2 boots, 1 pack and 14 years of inexperience” is her motto, we #loveit!

She carries a SPOT and connects with her parents at the end of every day to meet up for meals, share stories and get some good rest. Here are some stories from the trail; they’re stories of camaraderie, safety, determination and even some ‘Trail magic” . We hope you enjoy them as much as we did! If you have any words of advice or support we’d love to pass them along to Chipmunk through her parents!

 

April 1 Start Day: She had her favorite breakfast of chocolate chip pancakes after camping in Amicalola Falls State Park for the night with us. We drove the 45 minute loop from the park to the parking lot 1 mile from Springer Mountain and she hiked up to the start around 9:45 am. We followed her in and took pictures alongside the amazing vIews. She signed the registry and chatted with the ATC staffer wirh whom she shared her hiking motto:  “2 boots, 1 pack and 14 years of inexperience.” We assured her that no matter what she accomplishes, we are proud of her for wanting to do this.

She turned on her SPOT monitoring device, hugged us goodbye and hiked out. We hung back for about an hour and greeted other hikers.

 

April 6 Update: Well, Neva hiked away from Neel Gap around 9:45am yesterday morning with a good attitude. It wasn’t raining and the sky was only partly cloudy. In the truck ride to Neel Gap she mentioned to us that 2 or 3 hikers were rescued from the section she hiked due to hypothermia. Thankfully, Neva’s Gear Aid waterproofed outer layer worked well enough to keep her base layer dry enough to at least halfway between her start and finish point (learn how to waterproof a jacket here).  We did see a few day hikers come into Neel Gap in rain drenched jeans that made both of us gasp.  The thought of the chafing alone made me shutter!

We consulted Google maps and found an alternate paved route and made it to Hogpen gap by 11am. We saw several of her fellow hikers as we waited and pointed out to them the styrafoam cooler of “Trail Magic” sodas dropped off earlier in the day.  It’s amazing what a cold soda means to a hiker and it’s comforting to see the almost daily gifts that show up at the gaps, all unceremoniously done by trail angels. Jay and I have decided to incorporate it into our lives, become trail angels, as we travel in the future, too.

Chipmunk arrived around 2:30 in the afternoon and looked great! She came down the mountain at a good pace and even hopped over a few rocks. She’s happy with her new boots and was happy to settle into a camp chair and tell us trail stories.  Pat, the British hiker, told us that she started out from Neel Gap about 9am and that mist hid most of the mountain tops from view; Neva said the mist lifted just as she was coming up to each one and she had amazing views and took some pics.