I had ice cream on my mind for seven hours today.
You see, it's one of the cool traditions (pun intended) on the Appalachian
Trail for thru-hikers to stop at the store just inside Pine Grove Furnace State
Park in Pennsylvania to buy a half gallon of ice cream and try to eat it before
It's very near this point that hikers have finished the first 1087.5 miles of
the AT. Downing half a gallon of ice cream allows one to join the "Half Gallon
Club," a fairly exclusive group of people. Members receive a little flat wooden
spoon with the club name on it, and get to sign a special register.
That's a lot of ice cream, even more than this hot and hungry runner wanted
at the end of 24 miles.
I got to the store a few minutes before Jim arrived. I mingled with some of
the twenty-odd hikers already indulging themselves, none of whom I've met
before. They've all been ahead of me until now. Every day I'm catching up to
more and more NOBO thru-hikers. I was 476th in at Harpers Ferry and I've passed
about fifteen since then.
I still have a lot of hikers to catch before Katahdin! A few have already
finished, including Robin Kane, an ultra runner from Virginia Beach.
When Jim got to the store I reminded him about the ice cream tradition and
the significance of today - reaching half way in distance. We had a busy
morning and I just didn't think about it until I was running. We decided even
between the two of us that we couldn't eat a half gallon of ice cream so we
each got one pint. I got mint chocolate chip; it was just right.
DREAMING OF NEW ENGLAND
I really enjoyed today's run, probably because of all the running that
was possible. My overall pace was 18:24/mile, including all stops (e.g., at
three shelters to read and sign the registers). There were several short road
sections today - dirt, gravel, even pavement - which was unusual. That helped my
pace. The best trails were the pine-needle covered ones in the Michaux State
Forest in the second half of the run.
Since I came out of the Shenandoah Mountains it's been much hotter at the
lower elevations I've been covering. I usually try to do most of my running in
the morning while I'm still fresh and before the temps get too high.
I didn't have much hope for today's run. I was very tired when I got done
with yesterday's long run/hike and I didn't sleep very well last night. For the
past week, since it's been hot, my sleep has been poor. The camper is cool
enough with air conditioning but my body thermometer is out of whack. I
alternate being hot and cold. My legs twitch. I move around a lot trying to
find a comfortable position but there isn't one.
Just like I feel after a 100-miler.
I was a little frustrated the first five miles this morning on Rocky Mountain
because it was, well, very rocky. There were several pointless ups and
downs (PUDS) to and from the ridge, where I had to pick my way very carefully
among the boulders.
I could run through Caledonia State Park, then hit an 1,100-foot rocky, steep
climb to Big Flat Pine Ridge (still part of South Mountain). The Trail stayed
around 2,000 feet for the next thirteen miles, with fairly gentle ups and downs.
The last five miles were gradually down to Pine Grove Forest State Park.
Most of the last eighteen miles was runnable, with periodic sections of rough
rock. I was really happy to discover that I felt like running many of
those miles. I was tired from yesterday and it was hot again today but somehow
my legs kept going and going. It was wonderful.
The woods were beautiful again today - hardwoods, numerous laurels (still
blooming at 2,000 feet), one cool rhododendron tunnel (hadn't seen one of those
for a while), and several pine forests that reminded me of trails I've run in
The pines are a taste of what's to come in New England. I have to keep my
goal in mind when I am suffering through the heat, humidity, and bugs the next
few weeks. My reward will come in the cool wilderness that is New England.
I found a beautiful little double shelter today at Quarry Gap that was built
by the CCC about 1935. It looked like a professional landscaper designed the
grounds: huge old rhododendrons, a little creek and spring, beautiful
rock work, a lovely bench by the spring, several hanging baskets full of summer
flowers, several wooden tent platforms, and a covered breezeway connecting the
A wooden sign above the picnic table in the breezeway said, "Jim Stauch,
Innkeeper." He's the Potomac AT Club member who oversees the shelter and the
pride he takes in a job well done is obvious.
The PATC takes care of about 240 miles of the AT (from this section down
through Shenandoah NP), plus over 700 miles of other trails in the area. They do
a first class job keeping their trails in good shape (except for all those doggone
rocks!!). I've met two of their ridge runners, who are friendly and
knowledgeable. I like some of the little touches they use like hard-bound
shelter registers (not just spiral notebooks) and using dark brown paint under
the white blazes (it makes the blazes easier to spot).
I also stopped at the Birch Run shelter and Toms Run shelter today to read
and sign registers. It's fun to see the names of people a day or two ahead,
knowing I'll be seeing them soon. I didn't talk much to any of the hikers I saw
at the shelters today. They were in two's or bunches and busy talking so I
didn't interrupt except to say hello and goodbye.
At the last shelter before Pine Grove Furnace State Park the hikers were
talking about the ice cream awaiting them in a few miles. They'd heard the store
only had cherries jubilee flavor left and they were trying to decide it they'd
get it. Apparently the store did run out of ice cream today. One young
lady wrote in the store hiker register this morning that she'd have to come back
after 2 PM because they'd totally run out of ice cream. I got there at 3:30 and
the freezer case was full of a wide variety of flavors.
Good thing I didn't start earlier or run faster today! Mighta missed out on
some ice cream.
Jim had a much better day today! After dropping me off at the trail head at 8
AM, he went back to Gettysburg and visited the cyclorama, museum, and some of
the Civil War battle sites from early July of 1863. Every year on the Fourth of
July weekend re-enactors descend on Gettysburg to "do battle" again. It's a
popular spectator event, which is why we had trouble finding a campsite at the
Jim took this photo of two Army of the Potomac (Union) re-enactors this
Early in the afternoon he moved the camper from Gettysburg to Carlisle, PA,
where we'll be for three days. We're in a very nice campground south of town
called Western Village RV Resort. And we've got great internet access here
finally. Now I just gotta get these entries written . . .
I'm also 'way behind on reading e-mail messages. I hope to have more time in
a few days to catch up on correspondence. Thanks so much for all your
encouraging letters! Jim and I really enjoy them.
We decided to celebrate further this evening by eating supper at Bonanza
Steak House. Their food buffet is just the ticket for two hungry runners! We
don't eat out much so it's a real treat when we do.
Hoping to sleep better tonight,