I was dropped off at Caledonia State Park on the afternoon of July 5th, after experiencing an awesome Independence Day at our capital. Feeling somewhat lazy, I decided to hike just 2.2 miles to the first shelter, Quarry Gap, to set up camp. The next day, I planned to hike at least 17.2 miles to Pine Grove Furnace, so I could finally compete in the Half Gallon Ice Cream Challenge. Within a couple miles, I came upon my first rattle snake (on the trail). He didn’t even care to rattle, and finally eased off the trail. Trust me, I waited patiently and let him go at his own pace.
A few miles later, I officially crossed the halfway point of the AT for the year of 2015. Mile 1094.6.
I wish I could say that I was absolutely thrilled, I jumped up and down or had a tingly feeling. But, to be honest, I read the sign…posed for a picture…shrugged my shoulders and continued hiking as the rain started pouring down. It felt somewhat surreal. Somewhat bittersweet. Somewhat I didn’t care. My feet were sore, my body tired. Meh. I continued on and came across the halfway point from a previous year. It was slightly more exciting, but it still didn’t provide me with the jolt I would’ve expected.
I crossed mile 1100 shortly after, and I felt my spirits lift slightly at that point. Maybe I was just worn out from the weekend. Maybe nothing felt new anymore. I had hiked in rain and thunderstorms, seen bears and snakes, been miserably cold and hot, fallen down, marveled at beautiful views, experienced the same forest since Georgia (basically), slept in a hammock, tent and shelters, etc. Yeah, maybe I was just bored. In addition, my dog Sugar was still not feeling well and the vet couldn’t figure out why. That was very frustrating, especially because I couldn’t be there with her. The sky cleared up for a while and I hiked in pretty weather all the way up to Pine Grove Furnace General Store. I was feeling good upon arrival–time for the challenge!
I strategically selected vanilla as my first flavor. Because the ice cream no longer comes in full half gallon cartons, you have to order two separate scoops to actually make a gallon of icecream. My two scoops were mint moosetracks. Rebel Yell, Ice King and I set our timers and dug in. I had to stop in the middle of eating to put on my coat because I was shivering! My tongue felt like it was frost bitten and the vanilla ice cream tasted like wax. Bleh! Ice King threw up, but still managed to finish. He’s a trooper. Rebel Yell breezed through pretty easily. He won with a time of 19 minutes and 33 seconds, and I followed with a time of 23 minutes and 30 seconds.
I can’t remember Ice King’s final time, but I know he beat Rigga’s 1 hour and 27 minutes. Anyway, other than bragging rights, we received these nice wooden spoons.
That was by far the most disgusting thing I have ever forced my body to endure. If anyone is wondering, NO I do not want ice cream for a while. But, I don’t regret participating at all!
After consuming a gallon of milk and sugar, my motivation to hike dramatically diminished. The Pine Grove Furnace Mansion appeared rather inviting. Plus, the Orr Family was staying there and I love hanging out with them. So, I rented a bed for the night. The Orr’s are such a sweet group of people. The two parents, Bumble Bee and Queen Bee, have been fearlessly leading their five children every step of the way. It amazes me how well everyone gets along and that a negative or hurtful word is never cast. In fact, they are extremely helpful and encouraging to one another. They have been an inspiration to me, and all of the hikers they encounter.
The next morning, I was feeling rather refreshed after a good night of sleep and a fun slumber party with the girls. After breakfast, the inn keeper showed us around the AT Museum next door.
My favorite part of the museum was the old Katahdin sign. I wanted to touch it, but felt an eerie superstition towards it…as if it would be bad luck, because I had not yet earned the right to. I stood looking at it in awe, playing over and over in my mind how it might feel to reach the new sign that awaits me at the end of this long journey. Oh, how I long for that moment.
The following day offered a nice, needed, change of view. I sauntered along through various pastures, hay fields, corn fields, and past multiple dairy farms. It was refreshing to escape the green tunnel for several miles.
I stopped for a while and took a break, chatting with other hikers at the ATC in Boiling Springs, PA. I noticed my feet were really starting to hurt and a thought dawned on me. I had been wearing the same shoes since Damascus, VA–almost 700 miles. Rebel Yell had invited a group of us to stay with his family in Mohrsville for the weekend, so I decided then that I would buy another pair when we got to town.
We weren’t supposed to be picked up until the following day. But, with both of us feeling down in the dumps, his dad came to get us around midnight after we had hiked 12 more miles through a muddy, sloppy terrain. The excitement of sleeping in a real bed never gets old!
Happy Trails 🙂