Appalachian Trail Thru-hike
Total AT Miles: 1,121 mi
Miles Remaining: 1,068 mi
Welcome to Boiling Springs, Pennsylvania, the land where ice-cold spring water bubbles forth from the ground rippling the surface like water at a roiling boil. In one spot, water (clean enough to dunk your head and drink) flows out of a cavern 1,800ft deep. The opening lies beneath a shelf of rocks and is barely larger than the width of a human torso. We soaked in the 52 degree water for as long as we could. The initial shock of the cold gave way to euphoric giggles. Better than a half gallon of ice-cream I’d say.
Four days ago, we reached the official halfway point of the trail. Initial excitement from overcoming the challenge of hiking half the trail quickly gave way to the prospect of a new challenge: eating half-a-gallon of ice-cream. The challenge dates back at least two decades to the previous owner of the Pine Grove General Store. Seeing skinny and starving thru-hikers gave him the idea. Thru-hikers are always craving ice-cream. It is cold, refreshing, and loaded with calories. Why not eat as much as it as they can?
Eating this quantity of ice-cream is as hard as it sounds. For many at least. Firecracker walked laps up and down the road making room for more and to ward off the nausea. I did not try and race, like many, but took my time savoring each bite. I felt fine upon completion easily claiming my wooden spooned stamped “member of half gal. club.” I even ate a burger afterward. Then again, I’ve completed this challenge before… Firecracker, she felt a little sick and needed to lie down. She earned her spoon though!
From my journal:
“Whew wheee!!! What a day! This morning we woke up and hiked our butts off to make it to the Pine Grove General Store in time to eat half-a-gallon of ice-cream. Firecracker put it best just a second ago, “I can’t believe I hiked that hard just to hurt myself more.” She’s still not feeling so well. I’m not either, but not because of the ice-cream. Her farts are nauseating! I quite enjoyed myself. I even washed all that ice-cream down with a California Burger. Its special for having avocado.
Funny thing is, it barely registered at the time. We were too focused on the ice-cream challenge. Now, sitting here in the tent, the milestone has sunk in. Over four months it has taken us to walk this far. We’re over the hump. The rest of the trail is going to fly by and, before we know it, will all be over. Firecracker will be back in Georgia with her family and friends. Me? I’m not so sure. I’ll go home for a little while; at least long enough to get my bicycle and see my own family and friends. For the most part though, Pittsburgh isn’t home anymore. The road is. My tent is. I didn’t mean for this to dig so deep. This is all just coming out as I type. I have a lot to figure out. And at the same time, nothing at all. Life is weird and simple if we don’t complicate it too much.“
I think back on what I wrote about the rest of the trail flying by. If it’s going to, it certainly isn’t right now. I am tired of the daily struggle of pushing to make miles; of the constant worry about my budget and the avoidance of “luxuries” like restaurant meals, beds, and showers. I am exhausted from the social challenges the trail presents. I miss my bike. And, I am just plain tired.
Everyday we hear of another hiker ending their long walk in the woods before the summit they set out for. We learned of four quitting yesterday. I do not want to be another on the long list of unsuccessful thru-hikers. But it’s really hard. Especially as my goals change.
Without the lows, we would never recognize the highs.“
I have begun dreaming of life after the trail. For once in my life I dream of a future that isn’t another adventure. I’ll continue traveling on bike, and maybe even foot, but I feel a need to accomplish something greater before moving on. I crave a different form of accomplishment: writing a book and learning a new skill, programming and web design.
To live the life I desire, I must make money independent of location. I also do not want to work for someone else. All the freedom I’ve experienced traveling has ruined me. I’ll never be able to work a constant 9-5. At least not one I can think of now.
For anyone considering a thru-hike, I urge you not to do it. It will ruin you as well! This lifestyle will change your reality and allow you to see things as they are. You do not need much to be happy. Friends and family are more important than anything else in this world. Your time is EVERYTHING; it is all that is truly yours in this world. Do not squander it and do not waste it doing something you hate! Your options are endless when you allow yourself room dream. And your dreams WILL materialize when you fully commit your time and energy. Anything is possible.
All this being said, I only feel this way when I am down. Life is a rollercoaster with up’s and down’s. We are living an extreme life making the high’s even higher and low’s that much lower. It’s all part of the adventure and what makes it so special. Without the low’s, we’d never recognize the high’s.
Signs of the Trail:
If you would like to mail us some tasty treats, send an email to find out where we will be. RyanBMTB@gmail.com Or use the link below. If Cash is King, Paypal is Treasurer. $1 buys a pound of pasta, enough food for two dinners; $2.50 – a cup of coffee while I write these posts. If you can smell me through the screen, $5 lets me take a hot shower in town and for $10-$20 I’m sleeping soundly in the softest bed I’ll ever know. Thank you so much!
Happy Trails! And thanks for following along!