July 5th 2018
US route 30 – Pine Grove Furnace State Park (mile 1103.9)
20.2 miles
Total miles: 1122.9

I had a good nights sleep and we packed up and got some breakfast, waffles and banana for me, and Dennis, our Uber driver from yesterday came to pick us up at 8am. Dennis gave us a free ride back to the trail which was so nice of him. It was about 9 miles and he had to get back again. Thank you Dennis! 


We drove past Timbers and it was so open. They must be closed for only one day a year! It ended up working out for us in the end anyway, even if I did end up spending more money than I wanted to but, whatever. Something Timbers did do for me was to get that song stuck in my head. But just those two lines. We’re going down, I’m yelling timber! All day. All day that has been stuck in my head. 

Leaving town the weather looked grim, and it was grey and overcast and wet out. We got on the trail at 8:20am and we had 20 miles to do to get to the pine grove store and the half gallon challenge. I have been adamant that I am not going to do the challenge but I tend to get swept up into these ideas, like with McDonald’s and Taco Bell. So I was in two minds about whether I was going to do it or not. The half gallon challenge is to eat a half gallon of ice cream, and for those competitive ones it’s who can do it fastest. 


The trail climbed up to start with and I was happily plodding along at the back. I was instantly overheating and sweating out of my face. My head got so hot I felt like it was about to burst open. But I climbed to the top using my slow and steady method and when the trail evened out a bit I was able to catch up with the others. Flat and downhill are my thing. 


We came to a shelter which was the nicest shelter I’ve seen on the trail. It was two rooms with a joining section in the middle with a covered picnic table and there were flowers in hanging baskets all around. Plus a swing bench and a little flower fairy garden. This would have been a nice place to stay, but it was only 9am.

The trail from here was just a delight. It was wide and flat and with few trip hazards! And we could go really quickly! This is definitely the quickest I have been able to go, at least for a sustained length of time. I felt like I was flying down the trail. Unfortunately my foot started to really hurt to the point where it was pretty unbearable. I was so annoyed. All this way and now my foot hurts all because of those stupid new shoes. I was pleased to see Bryce and Peaches taking a break in the shade and joined them. Gusher caught up to us too and we had a little boogie to Timber, which I had downloaded on my phone so everyone could now have it stuck in their heads like me. I found a tick crawling on my leg and flicked it away. Ticks are so gross.


Carrying on Peaches went first and I followed, when she stopped to stretch I overtook and I found myself out front. I was worried about letting the side down today and coming in last and late to the store so I was trying to go really fast on the flat bits so that didn’t happen. The trail was so nice. Beautiful, and flat! 

I came to a road crossing and there was a cooler full of…trash. There had been trail magic once upon a time but it was now just full of empty Gatorade bottles and people’s trash they had dumped. I carried on and no one had caught me yet which I thought was odd. Later Bryce said he tried to catch me but he couldn’t keep up with me on the flat, and I was I quote: as fast as shit on the flat”. 


I came across the ‘2018’ halfway point and Bryce caught up along with a couple of others. We carried on because we knew there was a more impressive, albeit inaccurate, halfway sign. We walked for ages and assumed we must have missed it. We passed through a burn area which was a controlled burn, but it was weird seeing the burnt trees on the AT. It’s so wet and humid here it’s hard to imagine it being on fire. 


We passed the 1100 mile marker and then finally came across the official halfway sign. The trail changes so much with rerouting and maintenance every year that it’s really hard to know where the halfway point actually is. But a rough estimate and a nice sign are good. 


We had charged through the trail and with only three miles to go we had to sit down and have a quick rest. I was feeling all over leg pain, just general soreness, so it was nice to take the load off for a tiny moment. We could hear thunder in the not too far distance and we hoped we would get to the store before the storm. As it was the trail was pretty wet so we think it had already been through and we managed to miss it. 


I hiked with Bryce to the store and we had done 20 miles by 3:30pm. When we arrived we saw hikers in the midst of the half gallon challenge. They looked in a bad way. Three of them had finished their main tubs and were trying to get through the cup. You have to buy this big tub of ice cream and then to make it up to a half gallon you have to also get two scoops of another ice cream. A total of $10. A great money spinner for that store!! When I saw how rough they looked and saw how many comments of regret there were in the hiker log, I made up my mind that I didn’t need to do it. I like ice cream. I didn’t want to ruin ice cream for myself. 

The three dudes had taken over an hour to get their challenge, and one of them was now lying flat out on the porch and groaning. This years record was 12 minutes something. The overall record was 8 minutes something. 

My three friends, Bryce, Peaches and Gusher were all up for the challenge so they got their ice cream, they all went for the same, a tub of neopolitan and two scoops of raspberry. The scooped ice cream is a lot higher quality than the tubs, so they enjoyed that first. 


I ordered two scoops, one moose droppings (or something like that) which was basically vanilla with a lot of chocolatey pieces in, and a chocolate. That was enough for me and it was delicious and I enjoyed it. 

The others had to go on to the tub of cheap ice cream and it was great entertainment for me. Earlier in the day we saw another hiker, Stix, complete the challenge in 22 minutes and he was pumped, like he had just won a championship of some sort. He did not stop banging on about it. So Gusher silently took him down. Gusher powered through his half gallon of ice cream in 20 minutes. What a champ! 


None of them looked in a good way at the end but they all managed it. Bryce came home in 36 minutes and Peaches in 38. I don’t think any of them really enjoyed it! Another guy was attempting it, after eating a burger, but he managed the tub and then called it a day foregoing the two scoops! 

I knew there wasn’t going to be a lot of movement very quickly after all that ice cream and our plans to do another 7 miles were quickly abandoned. So I got a soda and a Californian cheeseburger. Put avocado in it and call it Californian. It was delicious. 


They all made very quick trips to the bathroom when they had finished their ice cream, and about an hour after, despite eating about 2500 calories, they were hungry. Hungry for actual food! So they got burgers and fries and ate those too. Really good food here, pricey but worth it. 

We hung out at the store all afternoon. We had missed the museum because it closed at 4pm which was really annoying. It sounded like they had some really cool stuff in there. Some of grandma gatewoods original things which would have been cool to see but alas it was not meant to be. The man in the store was so nice and he kept coming out and giving us slices of watermelon. He also brought his radio outside so we could have a little boogie before we packed up and moved on. 


We didn’t want to go any further and with overnight rain forecast, after rain in the afternoon, we considered setting up camp under the pavilion, but it wasn’t really allowed and we would be a bit exposed. We decided to walk down to the lake, which is a popular destination it seems for a lot of people. There is a toilet and shower block there and the lake is set up for swimming in with a little sandy beach in front of it. Had it been a super hot but non rainy day it would have been a nice place to hang out for a few hours but it was late now and I didn’t want to have wet stuff. We paddled in up to our knees and then hung around on the picnic benches. There was a play park and we had a swing on the swings but I was feeling a bit motion sick, and the ice cream eaters were probably feeling a lot more sick than I was! 

We planned to stealth camp in the park. We were 99% sure no one was going to come round and check, especially after dark, but there was some nervous tension around. The worst they could do is ask us to move on, or they could have fined us I guess but there were absolutely no signs around saying no camping so we risked it. 

We waited until about 8:30pm before finding a little sheltered spot by the lake and setting up our tents. It’s 10pm now. So far no one has come round. I think we’ll be alright. 

Gusher found a tiny tick in his leg today. It was so small and now I am super paranoid about them being anywhere on me. It’s quite possible I wouldn’t notice it, it was so small, and they just look like a speck of dirt or a freckle. I’m concerned they might be in my hair and I would never be able to see it. I also have a nasty bug bite on my thigh which had a bit of puss and is quite sore. 



I’m about to fall asleep listening to the bull frog. Which is loud! 

Watch the video!

For this trip I made a daily video diary which you can watch here: DAY 58