The road less traveled…

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5-23-12 Just keep walking…almost there.

Over the years the trail changes a little bit here and there as it is re-routed or switchbacks are added. Therefore the “official” halfway point, about 90 miles north of Harper’s Ferry, changes from time to time and the sign has to be moved. I can’t even begin to describe the thoughts and emotions I experienced as I came upon the actual halfway point of the A.T. The experiences and adventures I’ve shared with both new and old friends to get to that point have been so wonderful.

1090 miles done, 1090 miles left to go!

Official halfway sign

Knowing that my journey is only half over, or that another part of my journey is beginning, it felt like I was starting a whole new chapter. It also brought on a new wave of confidence in my ability to be able to accomplish my dream of finishing the trail. I’ve had my doubts and fears in the past, but upon reaching that midpoint, I realized those same fears had been slipping away as each day passes.

To celebrate the midpoint of the trail, there is a place in Pine Grove State Park that does the 1/2 gallon ice cream challenge. Basically, hikers are supposed to eat the whole thing in one sitting. I was super-excited and craving ice cream all day, but when I got there, Ratbucket was sitting on the porch with a sad pouty face. The famous 1/2 gallon store was CLOSED!! It was too early in the season and had only just opened for the weekends. We were deeply saddened and tried to drown our sorrows with a soda from the machines outside…but it didn’t work. We resolved to do the challenge on our own in a town later on the trail. Ratbucket was deeply concerned about the “commemorative spoon” that hikers receive upon completing the challenge, so we pinky swore that we would whittle each other spoons and exchange them when our own challenge was completed.

As we were sitting on the porch, a dark ominous storm was creeping closer, and we did not wish to set out in that weather, so we walked across the street to check out the A.T. museum, that WAS open.

There were some really amazing artifacts and stories about various hikers that I found very interesting. Exhibits included a trail shelter that was built by hiker legend Earl Shaffer, and named after him as well. The shelter, which has been replaced with a more modern one, was painstakingly disassembled at its former site on Peters Mountain in Pennsylvania and reassembled in the new Museum. There was a story about how Earl did not want a floor put on the shelter and when a floor was put in, he asked that the shelter be re-named.

Old shelter that is currently in the A.T. Museum. One of the 1st shelters ever to have existed on the trail.

In addition, there are artifacts that belonged to other hiking pioneers such as Grandma Gatewood, Gene Espy, and Ed Garvey. I thought the story of Grandma Gatewood was awesome. She was an extreme, ultra-light hiking pioneer who was the first woman to hike the A.T. in one season and by herself. She hiked the Appalachian Trail in 1955 at the age of 67, wearing Keds sneakers and carrying an army blanket, a raincoat, and a plastic shower curtain which she carried in a homemade bag slung over one shoulder. She hiked it again in 1960 and then again at age 75 in 1963, making her the first person to hike the trail three times and was also credited with being the oldest female thru-hiker. She decided not to tell her family what her plans were until she reached Virginia and sent them all postcards.

Old sign from Katahdin, now housed in the A.T. museum. The signs are replaced every 10 years or so.

I thought it was really awesome seeing all of the gear used by these pioneer hikers, and learning more about the history of the trail and everything involved in making it still be in existence today. The hikers of today and tomorrow are forever grateful.

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June 28, 2012 - Posted by | Uncategorized

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