Halfway Means Ice Cream

Day 76

We woke fore-warned that in 1.3 miles there would be a trail magic breakfast. I hoped for and got hashbrowns and eggs! The two guys serving breakfast were a thru-hiker from last year, named Upchuck, and his friend, both from Ohio. Bumblebee, who camped separately from the rest of us, rejoined our group during breakfast and only 0.65 miles later we made it to the trail’s actual midpoint. Yay, so exciting to be halfway to Katahdin!

I chatted with Bumblebee, who has hiked portions of the Florida trail, but lives in Asheville, NC. Late morning I heard a continuous hum. It sounded like a rattlesnake yet I’d never heard one give a non-stop warning. I looked around and spotted a large Timber Rattlesnake curled up near a fallen log. Poor creature to be so stressed!

Mid-day found us in Pine Grove Furnace State Park. We stopped at the general store for the half gallon challenge, which entails eating that quantity of ice cream in 30 minutes. Apparently Hershey’s ice cream does not come in half gallons. Come Along, Bumblebee, and I got 1.5 quart containers of Neapolitan ice cream. The guys each got an additional pint, but I felt challenged enough attempting three pints. Bumblebee finished in 22 minutes, Come Along in 25, and myself in 39. I immediately ate some Fritos to counteract the sweet.

The park had an Appalachian Trail Museum filled with fascinating exhibits about Myron Avery, Heather Anish, trail history, and hikers through the years. Then it was back to the trail for seven miles hiking to a lovely site alongside a creek. A thru-hiker named MacGyver joined our dinner log circle.

Day 77

Ever since Maryland we have been closer to civilization. This morning the trail took us across several roads before doing a slight roller coaster. My favorite spot was a rock cluster where I threw my hiking poles up top then ascended using hands and feet. The last of the 12 miles to town was across a corn field and the sun’s heat beat down without the tree canopy’s protection.

Boiling Springs, PA was a cute town. The trail wound through a park past a lake filled with ducks and swans. Hobble-It and Come Along got new shoes at the outdoor store. Then Cricket, myself, and the two of them got lunch at a cafe. We saw Bumblebee briefly before he continued on to the next shelter.

Our remaining eight miles for the day were very flat, through a mix of forests and fields. It was one of my most miserable afternoons on the trail. I had a slight headache, my stomach felt uncomfortable, and my legs ached in spots. Still I kept going and tried to stay present. It also rained for the last couple of hours, but I didn’t mind that, especially knowing we planned to stop in Carlisle and share a motel room.

A pedestrian bridge crossed US 11. We turned directly before it and walked a half mile on a busy road with no sidewalk. In the lobby, the Quality Inn air conditioning chilled my wet body. We took turns showering, hung rain gear to dry, did laundry, and positioned our soaked shoes over the room’s air conditioning unit. So much better than camping in the rain!

Day 78

The original plan was to stay in the motel overnight and continue on to Duncannon this morning. However, Cricket’s feet hurt, Hobble-It and I felt sore, and Come Along hadn’t zero’d since he got back on trail after a month break. We decided a rest day was in order.

It turned out the motel had a continental breakfast and that MacGyver also stayed overnight. He joined us at our table, eating a large waffle. I weirded Cricket out by putting Cheerios in my orange juice. All of us laughed at the ludicrous chatter of the TV anchors.

We uber’d to REI and Wegmans. Cricket got new shoes. All of us ate grocery store sushi for lunch, sitting on plastic chairs we pulled from a sale stack on the front sidewalk. When it came time to head “home”, we returned to REI. Cricket worked at REI in Ohio and asked one of the employees about a store shuttle. An amazing employee, Boden, gave up his entire 30 minute break to drive us back to our motel. The generosity of people we meet along the trail continues to astound me and give me hope in the human race.

Hobble-It and I finished watching the Broadway musical Hamilton. I really enjoyed it! It felt more relevant to watch it for the first time while being amidst the original colony states.

Day 79

When the motel’s continental breakfast began, we were packed and downstairs. After a quick breakfast, we hiked back to the trail. The day was sunny and slightly chill. I started the audiobook Breath by James Nestor. My pack felt light and I felt energized. The first 13.6 miles passed by quickly and soon I met the others for lunch at a shelter junction.

The trail offered a scenic viewpoint before dropping into Duncannon. Cricket got to town first and a local man warned her to make the visit quick, said the town is unsafe due to fentanyl drug addicts. Funny, it is the town Jennifer Pharr Davis said not to go into solo. Hobble-It picked up replacement electronics that she sent to the outdoor store. I stopped at the post office for a resupply box. The surprise snacks from my family continue to multiply! The box also contained new batteries for my headlamp.

We walked through town for nearly a mile then bridges took us over the Juniata and Susquehanna Rivers. The trail ascended to a rocky ridge. I picked my way carefully along, so intent on the rocks that I didn’t see the poison ivy on both sides of the trail. Good thing I was wearing pants.  We stopped at the next shelter and set up our tents/ hammock. The spring had a clear and hearty water flow.

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