Harpers Ferry to Boiling Springs: Days #119-129

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!

The tub is “only” 1.5 quarts. To complete the challenge, the participant must finish the tub then eat an overflowing cup. I chose my favorite ice-cream, chocolate chip cookie dough. For my second, I changed it up selecting raspberry. I couldn’t handle more vanilla! Many are afraid to choose their favorite flavors for fear they will never be able to eat them again. This will not be an issue for me.

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.


Another thru-hiker that needed to lie down after eating half-a-gallon of ice-cream. No more hiking today!

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.

Firecracker says goodbye to her shoes that have traveled over a thousand miles.
The weather forcast for the upcoming week. HOT!
Did I mention it is hot?!?
Ice-cream, fueling thru-hikers everywhere.
Crossing the rail bridge takes us out of Harpers Ferry and West Virginia. Welcome to Maryland!
So close to half-way.
It was weird walking the C&O Canal Towpath. I’ve biked this trail many times beginning in Pittsburgh, Pa. In fact, it is this trail that first inspired me to travel the way I do. A weeklong ride led unemployment and two months on the road riding to Maine.


Perfect! Just hold that a second longer so I can get the photo. “Are you serious!” She says through gritted teeth. The pole in her hand is 30lbs of steel with another 10lbs of food on the end. It is used to place our feedbags on high poles to keep them safe from critters.
Inside of the Washington monument are two thru-hikers, The Don and Firecracker.
The view from the top of the Washington Monument. It’s not as high as it looks…
Crossing over I-70 was a big moment for me. Ive passed beneath this bridge labeled, “Appalachian Trail” many times in my life. Each time I’ve dreamt of wandering these hills and what this epic adventure would feel like.


We walk passed thousands of blazes. All are special though some are more special than others.
Lost in a maze of rocks. The trail is difficult to follow at times if one is not paying close attention.
In Penmar state park, on the border of Pennsylvania and Maryland, an older man in a truck offers us a ride. We jump in back of the rickety vehicle and hang on for dear life. The leaf spring is broken making the ride in the bed feel like a real rollercoaster with every bend threatening to throw us to the pavement.
We stop in a thrift store to purchase running shorts when Firecrackers inner diva flies. Think they’ll handle the Pennsylvania Rocks?
We cross the Mason Dixon line. Firecracker shows her appreciation.
Me standing on the state line of Pennsylvania and Maryland.
Firecracker reading through the register at another half-way point.
A pine strewn floor is a sight for sore feet. They are soft for walking adding a nice cushion.
Huckleberry beginning the half-gallon challenge.
The french fries were fresh cut and delicious. So much better than instant mashed potatoes.
We zero at the lake in Pine Grove Furnace State Park. The water is cool and refreshing.
Why did the crawfish cross the road?
I have no idea, but he did!
Selfie time! Kodak and Firecracker.
The original bronze marker for the halfway point on the Appalachian Trail. According to the museum, it was found buried in a farm field after being lost for years.
Passing through open farm fields on our way into Boiling Springs, Pa
With no protection frorm the blazing sun, we roast.
In the blazing sun, a redhead’s skin needs more protection than sunscreen provides leading to the acquisition of a hat.
Firecracker hugging a tree. She has a deep appreciation for nature and all things living.
Walking past the lake in Boilding Springs as a group.
My mom sent us a giant box of food including chili dark chocolate, Firecrackers favorite. She sends her thanks!!!
The water in Boiling springs is 52 degrees year round. It does feel that shocking.
The water is also potable. Firecracker dunks her head for a drink.
Firecracker savoring the sweet spring water.
Thumper prepares himself for a plunge in the ice-like pool.
Caveman does the same.
Then rockets out of the water as fast as he went in.
Me soaking in the ice-bath allowing the cold water to erase days of aches and pains.


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!
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Happy Trails! And thanks for following along!


2 thoughts on “Harpers Ferry to Boiling Springs: Days #119-129

  1. Definitely feel you on feeling the need to be productive. I always think of your story from central America: ceaseless adventure ceases to be adventure. They having been said I have trouble imagining myself behind a desk. Maybe I’ll join you in the location independent lifestyle!

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