Austin Hikes - Part 8 - Half down, Half to go

Austin Hikes - Part 8 - Half down, Half to go

Hey, what's up, hello!

I'm currently writing from Delaware Water Gap, right on the edge of the Pennsylvania/New Jersey border. It's a tiny, old town with tons of character. Feels like it was plucked out of the 50's.

I've crushed some serious miles since my last update, including two more states! I passed through West Virginia, Maryland, and Pennsylvania. West Virginia and Maryland were lovely, two tiny blips on the radar in terms of mileage, barely 60 miles put together. Maryland was pretty bland, short and sweet. But, it did have the original Washington Monument on an overlook, including a small museum dedicated to the Founding Father.

Pennsylvania has had its ups and downs (heh, get it?). The first ~2/3 of the state were AWESOME. Flat as a pancake, with one of my friends describing the terrain as "buttery." There were some great overlooks, and we were really able to demolish miles.

Along with being flat, the official half way point of the AT is a couple of days in to PA. That's right, I'm over half way to Maine, which is still an insane thing to think about. Right after the half way point, the trail runs through Pine Grove Furnace State Park, the home of the Half Gallon Challenge.

The Half Gallon Challenge is where thru hikers are able to test their hiker hunger against a terrible foe, a half gallon of ice cream. When I arrived there were a half dozen fellow hikers in various states of discomfort, ranging from slight stomach pains to fully laying down and moaning. All had a giant tub of ice cream next to them. All regretted their decisions.

I am happy to report that I completed the challenge, shoveling down 1.5 quarts of Neopolitan and a pint of Crazy Vanilla. I felt the sugar sink deep into my teeth, my stomach grew queasy, and I looked death straight in the eye. But I succeeded against all odds. All of my friends but one also succeeded! We give him endless grief for his lack of resolve, but we were very jealous that his stomach wasn't gurgling the rest of the day like ours.

While the first part of Pennsylvania was "buttery" the second was...rocky. Very, very rocky. The entire trail was a series of rocks ranging from baseball to minivan sized. They were a shifting, slippery, ankle straining and boot shredding mass that we had to jump around on every day. But on the bright side, it added a new level of difficulty to the hike as we had to hop, skip, and jump around on these new challengers. But we prevailed!

There was even a gnarly rock scramble (essentially rock climbing) out of Lehigh Gap. It was a hot, near vertical climb straight up for almost a thousand feet. Boy howdy it was a test of will to get to the top of that ridge and be able to look back over the valley beneath us.

I'll be sure to update soon, as we head into New Jersey tomorrow, aka the Land of a Thousand Bears.

High since the last update: The morning we all realized we were now counting down miles from Katahdin, instead of up. It doesn't actually mean anything, as it's just a shift in how we look at the mileage, but it was really cool to see our progress in such a meaningful way.

Low since the last update: My trail family, made up of Dozer, Pheasant Melon, Umbrella Face, and Stax, has split up. Stax and I decided to start doing fewer miles every day in order to relax and enjoy the scenery a little more, while the other bros pushed on. It was a sad split, because we've been hiking together over a month now, but hopefully we'll run in to each other further down the trail. C'est la vie

Happy Trails Everybody!



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