Day 96 – June 11 -20.3 miles – Birch Run Shelter to Mt. Holly Springs
I woke up in the middle of the night to the sounds of a woman in the throws of passion. Apparently one of the overnight campers thought the thin fabric separating them from the rest of the world might muffle their screaming. Not cool. Not only were they waking people up, some of those people were kids. They were breaking the number on rule of camping. Whatever you do at night, do so quietly.
After the wailing of the Siren had ended, whippoorwills, who had been waiting for their turn to make some noise, pounced at their chance to take center stage. They were in the tree above my head and they never shut up!
Some owls had heard all the commotion and soon decided to join the fray. They may be wise, but there are not without ego.
As I lay there bleary eyed, I remembered that I had downloaded an audio book recently. I put my earbuds in and pressed play. I was finally fell back to sleep. I thought he name of the book was kind of ironic. It was, “To Hell and Back” by Audie Murphy.
In the morning it was obvious that most people didn’t get much sleep. Stoat, however, slept through the whole thing. I was jealous.
We got on trail early and the miles passed quickly. They were going along so quickly that Stoat and I completely missed the 2017 midpoint sign. It had looked just like all the other signs that told people not to litter etc., so we completely ignored it. Thankfully Flashfire and Zeus saw it and took a picture for us.
Not long after we missed the first sign we came to an older, and harder to miss, midpoint sign.
We took some pictures and signed the logbook the was inside the box connected to the sign. It was and exciting moment. We had successfully completed half of the Appalachian Trail.
After crossing the midpoint we made our way to the next stop on the trail. Pine Grove Furnace State Park. Where we were going to attempt the Half Gallon Challenge.
Along the way, Stoat and I completely blew by the 1100 mile marker without seeing it.
The Half Gallon Challenge is an Appalachian Trail tradition in which a hiker tries to eat a half gallon of ice cream.
When Stoat and I got there, Zeus and Flashfire were already there. Zeus had already started. Flashfire, due to a food allergy, looked on.
Stoat and I went into the store to pick get our half gallons. I got Neapolitan and Stoat got raspberry. We were informed by the lady behind the counter that the half gallons we were buying were not truly a half gallon. When we were done with them, we could come back in and get a few scoops of ice cream to finish the challenge.
I finished the first “half gallon” and decided to go with cookies and cream for the remainder of the challenge.
In the end Zeus and I successfully completed the challenge. We both clocked in at around 45 minutes. No where close to the eight minuet record.
Stoat didn’t finish but I think it was more of the flavor choice than anything.
Zeus and I both got a small wooden “spoon” the let everyone know we were a member of the half gallon club.
When we got up to leave, Stoat was looking at me funny. He thought I shouldn’t be able to move after eating all that and the fact that I was good to go astonished him. I was feeling great. I even debated going back in the store to get a cheese burger. In the end I decided not to push my luck.
There was a lake not far from the store. The temperature was in the 90’s (F) and we were looking forward to going for a swim. When we got there the place was crowded with people. We decided to hike on.
After Stoat and I passed the swimming area we saw the Zeus and Flashfire had stopped at a picnic table. Flashfire was resting off to one side of the trail while Zeus was sitting at the picnic table. As Stoat and I joined Zeus at the table we could tell that there was something wrong. Zeus was visibly upset and Flashfire was despondent.
Zeus told us that he had gone to get cash from the ATM in the ice cream store. When he looked at his balance, he realized something terrible.
Zeus was out of money.
Zeus was not the first person to ever run out of funds on the trail. In fact, we had already run into a few hikers on their second attempt at a thru hike after running out of cash on their first try. Its very easy to overspend on the trail.
Zeus was crushed. He was upset to the point of tears. When he began to tell us to promise to look after Flashfire he began to get emotional.
I felt like I was punched in the stomach and told him so. We had met him over 800 miles ago, many of those miles we had hiked together. For it to end like this felt wrong.
Flashfire came over to the picnic table and sat down. It was quite for a minute or two and then I spoke up. There was no point sitting around. We needed to come up with a plan but nothing had to be decided then and there. Right now we needed to hike the remaining miles that we had planned for the day. We had planned to stay that night in Mt. Holley Springs to resupply. That still needed to happen and Zeus’s problem didn’t affect that at all. We would go to town and then regroup.
The remaining 10 miles were easy. Even so, the high temps and high humidity took its toll. By the end, we were ready to be done.
Due to some confusion, on the hotels part, we wound up waiting a hour for the shuttle into town. While we were waiting, we played the game that everyone plays while waiting on the side of the road. The game of “Who can hit the target with a rock”. We began to run out of targets by the time the shuttle arrived.
The shuttle driver was a very nice woman who was part owner of the hotel. When the normal shuttle driver quit for the day before picking us up she decided to pick us up herself.
The hotel was named the Holly Inn. It was basically a motel connected to a restaurant / bar. We didn’t know what to expect when we got there but we were pleasantly surprised. The rooms were clean and spacious and there was a large patio area in the back to hang out.
Stoat and I went over to the restaurant area for a bite to eat and watched some people perform at an open mic. Most of the performers weren’t half bad.
After eating Stoat and I called it a day
We would see what could be done about Zeus’s problem tomorrow. Right now we needed to rest.