July 20th, Mile 1101.8
I’m sitting in a lobby area within the Iron Master’s Mansion at Pine Grove Furnace State Park. As I type, a computer fan is whirring on full blast, doing everything it can to cool the Pentium 4 within. While I’m quite certain that my Iphone is much, much faster, a real keyboard is a rare and wonderful luxury!
Yesterday my hitch back from Walmart was flawless. I put out my thumb at the parking lot exit, and a tradesman in his pickup, former USMC, ran me back to the trail.
“Dirty Girl?” He questioned. “Sounds like you got a hold of one!”
“Or a few!” I rebutted with a smile. His laughter roared. He shook my hand and bid me farewell. I must have smelled awful, because the short conversation we had before that, centered around every place I could get a shower within ten miles.
I stayed at Quarry Gap Shelter last night, which is one of the nicest structures on the AT. The Potomac Appalachian Trail Club has done an incredible job of building, hosting, and maintaining this section of trail. Last week I stopped in at their Blackburn AT Center, a home owned by the club, before reaching Harpers Ferry.
“Trail Boss,” the designer of the infamous “Roller Coaster” section, invited me to dinner there. He and his wife put on a fantastic spaghetti dinner for eight hikers, and several of us camped on their property that night. A couple there had completed their thru-hike in ’06, and were back for a ten year reunion of sorts. They met on trail, got married, and now live in India as teachers. Conversations among hikers, like the one had that evening, are the real marrow of this adventure.
Tonight I stopped in at the general store nearby and met a few other hikers there. Pine Grove Furnace is the site of the famous “Half-gallon Challenge.” Hikers attempt to eat a half-gallon of ice cream as fast as they can. The prize? A tiny wooden sundae spoon.
There is a trail register there, and I sat and read the entries. Turtle Goat rolled through on the 14th and noted:
“Challenge completed, now to go off and die…”
On the 18th Firebird made it as well, leaving only a drawing of a bird on fire as she often does. I did not see anything from Ladybug, though we’ve been in contact via text, and he should be two days ahead as well. Many hikers decided to forgo the gastrointestinal horror, which has no doubt left its mark on several privies to the North.
I opted against the challenge and got a quesadilla instead. In the register I noted:
“Opted out of the challenge due to my reputation for deadly flatulence. The result could potentially rival Hiroshima. You’re welcome AT.”
Tomorrow I am going to head out as early as possible and make some miles. Thanks to Amazon’s incredibly fast shipping, I already have a new pair of size 10 Altra Superiors ready for battle with the PA rocks. I also hit the official halfway point on the AT. Below are the 2016 and previous markers.