Saturday, June 25, 2011

Half-Gallon Challenge

A sign stood before me that read: Springer Mtn - 1090.5, Mt. Katahdin - 1090.5.  I had finally made it to the halfway point after 3 months and a few days of plodding along.  How did I feel?  Ecstatic.  Excited.  Overwhelmed.  How did I celebrate?  The only way I should.  I ate a half-gallon of ice cream.

It's thru-hiker tradition to stop in at the Pine Grove Furnace State Park, located a couple miles past the official halfway point (this year it was 1090.5, but the trail changes in length each year and only seems to be getting longer), purchase a half-gallon of the flavor of their choice of Hershey's ice cream, and down it, in its entirety, in one sitting.  A half-gallon is four pints, which means I would have to eat the equivalent of four Ben and Jerry's.  I had to participate, of course, but I had some things going against me.  I got sick a couple weeks ago and since then have been on anitbiotics that have completely eliminated my hiker hunger.  My spork had snapped in half in my peanut butter the night before, which I figured could only be a bad sign.  And I don't even like ice cream.  But if you know me, you know how competitive I am.  I was going to will myself through this one. 

I got to the park in the morning after hiking about 7 miles.  I purposely skipped breakfast to leave as much room as possible.  I was excited to see Snake Farm and GPS were already there and letting there ice cream blocks thaw out in the sun.  I quickly purchased my half-gallon of Neapolitan (didn't want to get tired of one flavor) and set it out with theirs.  I had so much adrenaline pumping, I was ready to kill a lion or just demolish a whole bunch of ice cream.  GPS was focused and Snake Farm was a little more relaxed, smoking a cigarette and cracking jokes.

18 minutes and 30 seconds in, and GPS gobbles up his last bit of Peanut Butter Swirl.  The crazy Lithuanian dominated his half-gallon like it was finger food and exclaimed he could eat more.  He went inside and got a ham, egg, and cheese sandwich and a coke.  I looked down and I was maybe 1/4 of the way done.  My brain was already telling me to stop.

39 minutes in, and Snake Farm and I were struggling.  We had moved out of the sun into the shade, and were having to take long 5-10 minute breaks between every couple of bites.  My never-ending brick wasn't getting any smaller. 

50 minutes in, and Snake Farm was visibly about to get sick.  "You better not throw up!" GPS yelled through a mouthful of some other food he was making fun of us with.  I was doing jumping jacks and running around, trying to get my belly to digest some of the frothy, creamy mass.  I needed a different taste in my mouth.  I went over to the soda machine and got a Sprite. 

51 minutes in, the Sprite allowed me to take two more bites.  My ice cream was melting at an alarming rate and I was getting a chocolatey, strawberry soup forming at the bottom of my box.  I still had a pretty good sized lump of strawberry ice cream left, with the chunks of strawberry giving me the most trouble. 

An hour in, and I was ready to be done.  I finished up the last of the solid ice cream, gagging with each bite.  I just had a small cupfull of melted ice cream left.  It was sure to ruin milkshakes for the rest of my life.  Ice cream had already been ruined.  Strawberrys were definitely coming close to be ruined, too.

67 minutes, and I drank my last sip of ice cream soup and slammed my cup down as Snake Farm had his head down on the table and GPS and some others had already lost interest or given up on us.  "Ahhhhh!!", was all I could let out, as the others realized I was done.  I had succesfully willed myself through one of the most miserable food experiences of my life. 

Two hours later, and I finally strapped my pack back on and hiked out of Pine Grove.  I'm pretty sure I'm lactose intolerant, although I think anyone is intolerant to that much.  But I did it!  On to hike the second half to Maine.  I will surely finish just as long as I don't have to eat a full gallon at the end.  I'm officially a member of the half-gallon club.  Booyah.