The Appalachian Trail is a mammoth undertaking in its own right, but there are several optional feats that hikers can partake in along the way. Because masochism. For example, the 4 State Challenge has you traversing about 43 miles across 4 states (Virginia, West Virginia, Maryland, and Pennsylvania) in one day. Insane. I recently listened in mild horror as some guys proposed their tactics for tackling the 24x24x24 Challenge, hiking 24 miles in 24 hours while consuming 24 beers. Foul. My body isn’t built to survive either of these.
The Half Gallon Challenge, seemingly the most popular, was more up my alley. Pine Grove General Store is the official home of the challenge, located a handful of miles past the halfway mark (1094.9 miles in 2017, the trail length varies slightly each year due to reroutes). You have to eat, you guessed it, a half gallon of ice cream. The size of the standard ice cream tubs has shrunk a bit over the years, so you also need to eat a pint of hand scooped ice cream to consume the requisite amount.
I arrived at the General Store at 8:30am having only consumed a couple meager handfuls of off-brand Froot Loops for breakfast beforehand (Walmart was sold out of my preferred Trail cereal, Cap’n Crunch Oops All Berries, as well as actual Froot Loops; WTF?!). I was only 70% sure I’d be able to finish as I sat down to start my 1200 calorie tub of Rainbow Ice, somewhere between ice cream and sherbert. There were a dozen or so flavors to choose from and I was discouraged from picking anything containing too much solid matter that I’d have to chew through, like Moose Tracks. Knowing my stomach, Rainbow Ice seemed like my best bet. For my additional home-stretch pint, there was no vanilla and I’ve never been a straight chocolate ice cream guy, so I went with some thankfully delicious chocolate chip cookie dough, chewables be damned.
There is some contention as to whether the challenge has a 45 minute time limit, but the proprietress of the General Store said you can take as long as you need over the course of one sitting. 75 gluttonous minutes and $10 later, I emerged a champion and claimed my reward, the small wooden ice cream spoon pictured below. Such a pointless, unceremonious trinket seems like a perfect fit for the pointless, unceremonious undertaking. I was fully expecting a severe upchuck session before long, but a dip in nearby Fuller Lake settled my stomach in surprisingly quick fashion. I suffered zero digestive issues and was ready to eat the grilled chicken wrap I packed out within an hour. Can you imagine a better Saturday morning? This is the best summer vacation of my life.