Day mileage: 26.7
AT total mileage: 1,105.5
Time: 9.5 hours
♪♫ Woah, we're half way there.......! ♪♫
I woke up around 5:30 in order to shower a second time. Walking wasn't easy per-say, as I still felt some pain with each step, but a hot shower worked miracles on my moral and got me ready for the day. Pneumo's dad Brian would be visiting again, driving up two hours from Virginia to go to breakfast with us and then do some hiking. We packed up our gear while watching The Brady Bunch on TV Land, and then headed over to the Flamingo Diner (same as lunch yesterday) for breakfast once Brian arrived. The restaurant was quite busy, understandable for a Saturday morning, and there was a beautiful teal colored '57 Chevy out front. A gorgeous Saturday morning, I wasn't surprised to see someone's pride and joy out on the road like that. We ordered breakfast, and I went with a bacon and cheese omelette and a Belgian waffle. Breakfast is the meal I miss most, and I look forward to getting eggs Benedict at a local restaurant called Christopher's when I get home. We conversed about the 'long hike' as well as Brian's upcoming job in Afghanistan. After finishing breakfast we headed back to the motel to grab our gear and squeeze it into the back of their Mini Cooper, headed towards the Trail. A very big thanks to Brian not only for breakfast but also for saving us from having to hitchhike back the few miles to where the trail crossed the state road, both are greatly appreciated.
Leaving the car in the lot at the state park made things simple, and we hopped back on the Trail right where I had camped the night before. A local gentlemen setting up for a wedding asked to get photos of 'real thru-hikers' to show wedding guests later in the day. The first mile or two of the hike damn near killed me. Pneumo and his dad hiked ahead which was fine with me, as I cautiously stepped to avoid hitting sore spots on my feet. At points I felt like I was hiking drunk, asking my feet to go in a certain direction and having them not cooperate. The muscles in my legs certainly showed a fatigue from the exercise two days prior. About an after starting we came across the Quarry Gap shelters, a gorgeous pair of shelters next to each other with a cooking pavilion in between. The space around was gorgeously decorated with hanging planted flowers, benches, stone fire rings, and a sign naming the 'innkeeper' of the shelter. Certainly a cut above some of the run down ones we've stayed in. We hiked on, a gradual climb of 1,000' spread over 2 more miles. The rocks at this point weren't as bad as they had been, so it was relatively easy to keep a good pace. Around 10:00 Brian was needing to turn back for the car, so we said goodbye and parted ways. Pneumo and I moved on enjoying the relatively easy day of hiking through Pennsylvania. We came across 4 or 5 separate Boy Scout troops preparing for Philmont scout camp, a week long backpacking adventure many scouts go on. Stopping at one shelter we answered many questions the scout leaders had about gear, weight, food consumption, and other hiking information we're now well versed in after 1,000 miles of walking in the woods. At about noon we passed by the official half way point of the 2014 Appalachian Trail: 1,092.7 miles hiked, with the same amount remaining. For a guy who constantly complains about the lack of ceremony with these mileages, this 'sign' seemed more like the trail mocking me. An 8 1/2 x 11" piece of laminated paper stapled to a 1x1" wooden stick announced the halfway point. It was pathetic! I had to kneel down next to it in order to take a photo. Three miles further up the trail we took photos with the 10' tall sign that's much more halfway worthy. I signed the log book there with more Bon Jovi lyrics.
One of the highlights of the halfway point is a silly hiker tradition known as the 'half gallon challenge'. Akin to the 'hiker burger' in Atkins, VA, the half gallon challenge is a ritual at the Pine Grove Furnace State Park general store where hikers are challenged to eat a half gallon of ice cream in one sitting. We've been talking about this for weeks, and arrived at the store just after 1630hrs. Despite the luring smell of the short order grill, I bought a half gallon of Cookie Dough ice cream and a Gatorade, and made my way outside to consume it. Conversing with visitors about thru-hiking, it took me almost 40 minutes to methodically eat down my ice cream carton layer by layer. I ate it in a fashion that reminded me of the children's book 'Mike Mulligan & His Steam Shovel', which warranted mockery from other hikers. We were also given trail magic by the mother and father of a hiker who's doing a flip-flop hike, walking Harper's Ferry to Katahdin, then Harper's Ferry to Springer. They brought us an assortment of fruit which I carried on due to a full stomach of 2,500 calories of ice cream. As I've said before, this is the only time in life I can eat like this.
Leaving the general store we passed by the official Appalachian Trail museum which was unfortunately closed for the afternoon. I would have enjoyed seeing what was there. With 7 miles left to hike, we passed by many weekend campers and hikers in the state park before the Appalachian Trail split from the pedestrian path and headed back into the woods. The miles flew by with the rush of sugar we'd taken in, and Pneumo and I found ourselves at the James Fry shelter just before 2030hrs. I brushed my teeth and got into my sleeping bag, looking at my phone and discovering a rather cool thing. I had a comment on an Instagram photo I posted yesterday (Instagram is a social media app based around photos). A woman had commented on my photo saying 'Random question but were you hiking through Pine Grove state park tonight? I could swear I passed you!' I wrote back saying that yes I had been there, and sure enough had walked right by her as she and her boyfriend walked their dog. How truly amazing it is in this day and age that we're so connected. This woman goes on a walk with her dog, passed me, and within two hours has managed to come across a photo of me on my Appalachian Trail Instagram account (@2180miles if you're interested in following on IG). It blows my mind.
I was happy that as the day went on my pain in my legs subsided. I feel strong and believe that there won't be any long term consequences of the long day's hike. Tomorrow the plan is for another 26 miles or so, and I'll hope for some moderately easy terrain. I can't believe it'll be June 1st already. I've now been on the trail for 8 weeks... time sure does fly by.