Day 73. Another beautiful day in the books! And a pretty important milestone and achievement to boot. I will admit though, it was really hard to leave Quarry Gap Shelter this morning … it was so picturesque and tranquil at sunrise, I simply had to take it in as long as possible. But as 8am approached, I reluctantly packed my bag and headed north like I’ve done for the past 10.5 weeks.
Today was an important day as I had miles to put behind me and the official halfway point was waiting to greet me at the end of my hike. Since I had that good long day yesterday, it was only 18 miles today. The day went really quick and by 1pm, I reached a monument on the trail displaying the officially halfway point (though technically, it does move a bit each year so probably was off by a mile or so). Regardless of technical accuracy, given it’s clear significance, I snapped many photos to commemorate the moment. Then I sauntered on to finish the last 3 miles of my day.
However, I was fortunate to yet again have my family come out and join me, and soon heard the tramping of tiny boys’ boots on the trail ahead of me. I gave a patented Tom Neiman “Yo”, to test the audience, and they excitedly returned it. My dad brainwashed us well (just kidding, love you dad!). Reunited once again, we all hiked the last couple miles together to Pine Grove Furnace State Park.
When we arrived, I told my family about the “Half Gallon Challenge” that thuhikers do at the general store here. For those unfamiliar, this is a famous food challenge where hikers must consume a half gallon of ice cream in one sitting to commemorate finishing half the trail. If accomplished, they get to sign the record book and receive a tiny wooden spoon trophy. I was wary of my ability to do this, as I still don’t have the hiker hunger common in others, where your appetite never seems satisfied. But the boys (and their mom) were adamant I could accomplish this feat and promised to cheer me on. So, I gave it a go.
To complete the challenge, first you pick out and eat a 1.5 quart tub of Hershey’s ice cream, then you go back for a pint of more generic flavors scooped into a cup. The Hershey’s options are much better (and tastier), and I was delighted to see my favorite flavor was an option. Raspberry! With that find, I felt much more optimistic about my chances. A fellow hiker named Charley Horse loaned me a metal spoon to better attack it, and I dug in.
My sister documented the whole thing while everyone really did cheer me on. And, I’m proud to admit, I was victorious! The raspberry definitely made the difference, as it was tasted amazing good going down … alternatively, I could barely stomach the final pint of peach. But I did, then I took a triumphant photo with my empty tubs and spoon trophy, amazed at where it all went. At least I got my calorie fill for the day, right?
The other thing to do in Pine Grove Furnace State Park is to visit the AT Museum. Similar to the ATC HQ in Harpers Ferry, this building held photos and relics of all the famous people and moments in the trails existence: Earl Shaffer’s guitar, Grandma Gatewood’s rucksack, the original Katahdin finisher sign and more. They also had a children’s museum that we toured with the kids, showing them what to expect when they join again for the White Mountains next month. All in all, it was a really fun afternoon.
I also ran into the last hiker ahead of me whose name I knew. Gandalf (the 3rd of that name this year) was a guy I met on my very first night back at Stover Creek Shelter in Georgia. He had plans to spend the night with his family as well, so we discussed possibly hiking together tomorrow. He also finished the half gallon challenge, so he’ll be a worthy hiking partner.
After that, the family and I drove into Boiling Springs for the night, which is another 16 miles along the trail. The AT crosses town right next to the amazing Allenberry Resort and Theater, which is our lodging for the night. This place is far nicer than I deserve, and quite popular tonight. Besides their normal playhouse crowd, they are host to a wedding, a 70th birthday party, and a high school prom today. It’s crazy a nice place! So nice that when I hike back to Boiling Springs tomorrow, I’ll be staying here again. I mean, it would be rude not to, right?
My family, and some of their extended family who have been reading along (shout out to Marcy and Rachel!), all went out to dinner at Anile’s Pizza where I somehow managed to eat an entire chicken parmigiana sandwich. My stomach is not pleased with me tonight, but some treats are just worth the pain.
Hello Neiman (Sharkbait)!
- Start Mile: 1086.2
- Start Time: 07:50
- End Mile: 1103.4
- End Time: 14:00
- Miles Hiked: 17.2
- Miles to Go: 1087.5
- Lodging: Allenberry Resort