AT Challenges 1: Wilt 1; Trying for 24-Hour Day
I have had a very busy past week on trail. After reaching Harpers Ferry I took a couple days off trail to spend time with friends and family in Maryland, where I was living before trail. My body appreciated the rest and my soul appreciated all the love I surrounded myself with. After a couple of days off I hit the ground running.
I hiked a couple of longer-mile days and then my friend Sarah, from home, joined me for three days. We had a blast hiking together and I am glad I got to share a sliver of this experience with her, even though it rained most of the time.
After Sarah got off trail I passed the official halfway point and entered Pine Grove Furnace State Park, home of the half-gallon challenge. As the name suggests, the half- gallon challenge is when hikers attempt to eat a half-gallon of ice cream to celebrate reaching the halfway point. The half-gallon challenge is the part of the trail I felt most prepared for. I may not have trained by hiking a lot but I have been eating copious amounts of ice cream my whole life.
When I arrived I met a hiker named Achilles, who had just completed his half- gallon challenge, and we started talking as I shoveled scoops of Neapolitan ice cream into my mouth. Once his ice cream digested and his phone charged he hiked off and we said goodbye. I finished the 1.5 quart of Neapolitan ice cream without too much difficulty but the final pint of Crazy Vanilla ice cream gave me a little trouble. But no worries. I successfully finished my half-gallon of ice cream in 46 minutes and 52 seconds. When I hiked out I ran into Achilles again and we decided to camp together, since I am not yet comfortable camping alone.
That night we set up camp, looked at our maps, and discussed our plans for the next day. I looked at the terrain and saw that we’re finally going to have some good weather and made the decision to attempt my longest day yet, 33.6 miles. I knew it would be a big undertaking but I believed in myself and my ability to push to a new level. Achilles was also toying with a large undertaking, a 24-hour challenge. That is when you hike for 24 hours and see how far you get.
The next morning Achilles and I woke up and left camp together at 8:45 a.m. He hadn’t committed himself to the 24-hour challenge but it was still on his mind and I was still focused on my 33.6-mile attempt. We hiked all morning together just chatting about our lives. If it weren’t for the trail we probably would have never had the opportunity to get to know each other. He is in his late 40s, with a military background, and lived on a sailboat for the past two years. On the surface we don’t have much in common but I really enjoyed his company and his philosophies on life. After 12 miles we got to Boiling Springs, PA, and I felt amazing. We were cruising at a pace of three miles an hour and I was now discussing attempting the 24-hour challenge with him.
Achilles and I decided to keep hiking together and officially decide what we wanted to do later that night. Having only known him for about a day it is surprising how easily we are able to break down barriers on trail. We talked about all the taboo things like politics, religion, drugs, and parenthood, and this is one thing I hope I am able to transfer into my post-trail life because these conversations are such a valuable resource for my view of the world.
I believed strongly in my ability to complete the 24-hour challenge until we reached Duncannon, PA, around 1:30 a.m. I was tired and I was developing pain in my right shin and I felt blisters forming. While passing through Duncannon we saw a couple of skunks and we stopped into the strip club because it was the only thing open and I needed to use the restroom.
As we climbed the hill out of Duncannon I felt rejuvenated and determined to finish the challenge. Achilles even recited historical speeches to motivate me. But when we got to the top there was a rock scramble we needed to navigate and I started to get concerned about my safety. I didn’t want to make poorly thought-out steps and hurt myself to a degree that would end my thru-hike. I needed to focus on the big picture. Which is why at 3:45 a.m. I gave up on the attempt.
I still hiked for 19 hours and covered 42 miles, which is nothing to scoff at. I am extremely proud of myself for attempting the challenge and making the mature decision to stop and not risk injury. Ultimately, the only failure is not trying. I am happy to say that Achilles did continue his attempt and was successful! He hiked for 24 hours and covered 52.8 miles.
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