May 15, 2018
Destination: James Fry Shelter Today's Miles: 17.10
Start Location: Birch Run Shelter Trip Miles: 1110.70
The Whippoorwill came back. It decided an evening chorus wasn’t enough and that a repeat was in order at 5am.
Cody Coyote was already getting ready as he planned to hike big miles today. The rest of us got up though because, well, the Whippoorwill basically told us to with his looney tunes car alarm song. It wasn’t raining, which was great. Happy Feet and I headed out as quickly as possible for the same reason - there was much to see and do today.
It didn’t take long to get to the halfway point at mile 1096. This was an exciting moment, and for me more meaningful than making it to Harpers Ferry, though definitely less interesting. I took a picture of the halfway sign. We both signed the log book there, and I ate a snickers to celebrate. While we were sitting down, an old man pulled up in a truck to ask us if we had seen any turkeys (I think he wanted to shoot them) and warn us about bears and snakes. He mentioned a fire and I wasn’t sure what he was talking about until I walked a little further and saw that, indeed, across the road at the midpoint there was significant fire damage. It looked fairly recent as there was no regrowth of underbrush.
I hiked on and turned on a bit of speed. I was hungry and my next stop was Pine Grove Furnace State Park, Home of the famous Half Gallon Challenge. You basically have to eat a half gallon of ice cream and you get a wooden spoon that says “half gallon challenge.” Also at the park is the AT museum, with all kinds of history on the AT. When I got to the park the General Store was closed, so I went to the museum first. The museum was really awesome and had lots of great exhibits on AT history. I actually liked it better than the info at Harpers Ferry, though I liked that too. They also had a nice hiker lounge and charging station for phones, and an old dog that was really cute and friendly. He followed me around the exhibits to be petted.
After I looked at the museum, I heard that the general store had opened, so I went over and saw Happy Feet there, along with some sectioners and flip floppers. We all waited outside while the store prepared for us, and then we went in like the horde of locusts we are. I wasn’t sure if they only had ice cream, but it turns out they had all kinds of burgers and sandwiches. I really really wanted a burger, so I opted to get their Hiker Burger, which was a bacon cheeseburger with avocado and lots of delicious toppings on a ciabatta bun. I washed it down with a Mountain Dew, which I never drank, but I had it in honor of Wallace (it’s his favorite). After that I had an ice cream cone with two scoops. I opted to not do the half gallon challenge. I didn’t want to feel sick and I knew I would if I ate that much ice cream. A cone was enough! I mean, I probably could have had two cones, but I need to watch my figure.
After eating, Happy Feet and I hiked on to the lake. They have a lake with a beach at the park. I wanted to check out the free showers there and she wanted to swim. The lake had a sand beach - it was pretty cool. There were a million little kids running around the picnic area - part of a school field trip. As I walked away from the beach and said I wasn’t going to swim, Happy Feet said I would regret it. I went to the bathrooms anyway and the shower room was great! Then I started thinking - maybe I would regret it! So I ran back outside with my pack and went for a short dip in my hiking shorts. It was so cold! The water felt really good on my feet though. I didn’t stay in long and went to shower. I knew the sad reality was that I would be sweating and stinky 10 minutes after I started hiking again. It was hot today - maybe high 80s. But, mentally it felt good to shower, and it was good to get salt off my body and out of my hair.
After the shower, I headed out. I waked with Happy Feet for a little bit. An older lady took a picture of us. I’m not sure why. We didn’t even pose so I think she got my back. I think she was impressed that we were hiking the whole thing, and more impressed that Happy Feet was so young and a female AND thru hiking. It is pretty impressive at her age! We laughed about her taking the picture and then I turned on the speed and hiked on my own for a while. The goal was to get to the James Fry shelter. I thought about pushing farther, but that thought faded quickly.
About two miles from the shelter the wind picked up, it started thundering, and I felt the temperature drop about 5 degrees. Uh oh.... Living most of my life in the south, I know what that means all too well! I started to hustle and walk faster. As the thunder picked up and it started to rain, I broke into a jog. Too late! The heavens poured down and I got completely drenched; however, I did manage to make it to the shelter before the hail fell. Chickpea sized hail bounced off the roof and off the bodies of the hikers still strewn along the trail. I was the first person at the shelter and got my stuff set up after wringing out my shirt. I felt good to have a dry place to sleep for the night.
Other hikers showed up - the same sectioners and flip floppers from Pine Grove, and Happy Feet made it in. We all chatted a bit and ate. I worked on my hiking plans and next resupply and double checked mileage. It was a good evening. Because I hiked so many miles over the last few days, I had extra food and so I ate more than usual for dinner - yay!
I was grateful for Pine Grove today, especially the museum and the food. It was nice making it to the halfway point with another thru hiker who I had hiked with. It was a great day. Hopefully there are no Whippoorwills at this shelter....