Wednesday, June 5, 2013

The Half-Gallon Challenge

While I was at Pine Grove Furnace State Park over Memorial Day weekend I observed a bizarre and gruesome spectacle. No, it wasn't a bear eating anybody. That might have been preferable. Instead it was the Half-Gallon Challenge.

Pine Grove Furnace is traditionally considered the halfway mark on the Appalachian Trail. (The actual halfway mark changes year to year as the trail is rerouted around problem areas.) Since 1980 its been customary for the through hiker to stop at the Pine Grove Furnace General Store and consume a half-gallon of ice cream in one sitting. Purists will tell you there's an hour time limit, but I think the law "hike your own hike" applies to ice cream gorging as well.

Sunday morning I walked over to the store from the Ironmaster's Mansion to witness Eleven, a twenty-three year old through hiker, down her Hershey's Moose Chips for breakfast. She was soon joined by Dundee, an older man with next to no meat on his bones. Both dug in. Eleven asked I not photograph her, but Dundee was game....

The older man had done his research. Survivors have said the process goes better if you consume a hamburger or other hot food midway. He did so, although Dundee said he regretted getting the burger with onions. Veterans also suggest getting an ice cream without additions such as chips or chunks, but Dundee said he needed the additional calories.

Both Eleven and Dundee were very sleepy by the time they finished. Meanwhile a group of four young men had arrived, downed four half-gallons of chocolate, and were napping on the grass across from the store.

While the spectacle of the challenge brought to mind Mel Brook's line from The Producers that actors are animals because of their eating habits, the calorie consumption has a point. Backpacking 15 miles a day or more over rolling terrain burns an enormous amount of fuel. They have to get the calories somewhere. I'm familiar with the problem from my bike tours. When you ride long distances hauling camping gear, anything you through into the furnace burns. That said, I've never downed a half-gallon of ice cream.



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A Taste For The Woods: The Half-Gallon Challenge

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The Half-Gallon Challenge