Halfway Half Gallon (PCT Days 91-92)

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How did it get to be July already? It seemed almost impossible. I started hiking on April 1, and it was already July 1! I’d come so far that it shouldn’t have felt strange that months had gone by while I’d been hiking. I had hiked through the desert and through the high Sierra and it seemed fitting that on July first I was going to cross the midpoint of the PCT.

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Last year when I crossed the halfway point of the AT, I was feeling the pressure of a time crunch, I had started the AT late (May 8) and I knew that if I was going to make it to Mt. Katahdin before the October 15 deadline, I was going to have to hike the second half I the AT much faster than I’d hiked the first half (which I ended up doing without a problem, finishing on October 4).

This time, on the PCT, I started my hike early (April 1) and didn’t have the same kind of time pressure. Even if I hiked the second half of the PCT as slowly as I’d hiked the first half (which seems unlikely to me), I’d still be done by October 1, hopefully before the first of the big winter storms rolled it.

At the midpoint of the PCT I stopped in the shade to celebrate with Wardrobe and Stumbles… The last 1300+ miles had been amazing and had challenged me in ways that I hadn’t expected (the trail always does), and yet here I was, looking forward to seeing what the next 1300+ miles would bring.

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On the Appalachian Trail the traditional way to celebrate the halfway point is to eat a half gallon of ice cream. They call it the “half-gallon challenge.” As I sat at the midpoint of the PCT in 90+ degree weather I decided that that was how I wanted to celebrate this halfway point too!! A couple of miles down the trail was Chester, CA, the closest town to the halfway point… I could get my half gallon of ice cream there and relax somewhere in the shade (or maybe even air conditioning) and eat it. That definitely seemed like a good plan to me!

My friend Wardrobe headed into town with me and sure enough there was a grocery store with a great selection of ice cream. I paced up and down the ice cream aisle, which kind of ice cream did I want to eat a 1/2 gallon of? On the AT I had gone with black raspberry, but here I had a lot more options. I also had to take into account the fact that the ice cream manufacturers have all downsized their containers so that they aren’t full half gallons anymore… They’re either 1.5 quarts or 1.75 quarts… I would have to supplement my box of ice cream to bump it up to 2 full quarts if I wanted to truly have my half gallon of ice cream at the halfway point.

In a sudden stroke of brilliance (if I do say so myself) I realized that I could just get four individual pints and if I ate them all that would make a full half gallon! 4 pints… That also meant I could go for the fancy ice cream, and I could mix up the flavors… Mmmmm… They had my favorite Haagen Daz flavors (their Ben & Jerry’s selection was abysmal): dulce de leche and raspberry… So those were the first two that I picked and then, eventually, I decided on strawberry and vanilla bean as the other two flavors. That should make for a tasty combination!!!

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On the Appalachian Trail the half gallon challenge is a timed event, you’re supposed to eat your half gallon in under an hour. I’d finished mine in just under 40 minutes, but those last few bites had been a real chore, and I left feeling slightly uncomfortable. For the PCT I decided to eliminate the timed component… Or maybe make it half a gallon at the halfway, in half a day. I was going to savor and enjoy my 4 pints of ice cream because I was vacation and there was no reason not to. I was determined to try to maximize the fun parts of this trip and to minimize the uncomfortable parts whenever possible!

When Wardrobe saw me with my four pints of tasty tasty ice cream she said, “maybe you shouldn’t have had the strawberry milkshake, the root beer float, and the chicken fried steak earlier,” and laughed. “No problem,” I assured her, “I’m still hungry!”

“Mmmmm” I devoured first one pint (the dulce de leche) and then another (the raspberry). I was halfway through the challenge and still loving my yummy yummy ice cream. I was right, eliminating the timed component and going with my favorite flavors had been a stroke of brilliance, “tasty tasty calories!” Eventually, to Wardrobe’s disbelief, I finished off the two remaining pints (the vanilla bean and then the strawberry). I’d eaten my half gallon of ice cream at the halfway point! Each pint had had 3.5 servings, and was between 230 and 270 calories per serving, thus my half gallon challenge had given me an extra 3500 calories… Not bad, especially when combined with all of the other stuff I’d eaten in town. It was kind of funny to think that I would need to eat at least 8 pints of ice cream for each day that I spent hiking to make up for the calories I was burning!

Happy, and feeling full for the first time in at least a week, I was ready to head back for the second half of the trail! There’s no such thing as too much ice cream, and there’s no such thing as too much hiking. Now the only question was whether or not I should make a new challenge: 1 gallon of ice cream, in 1 day, at the completion of the trail?

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4 thoughts on “Halfway Half Gallon (PCT Days 91-92)

  1. >Now the only question was whether or not I should make a new challenge: 1 gallon of ice cream, in 1 day, at the completion of the trail?

    YES! Yes you should. :)

  2. So, 3500 calories in half a gallon, but you’re burning around 5000 a day while walking 20 miles in a day, so in rough numbers you’re getting around 30 miles-per-gallon(of ice cream).

    • I think 5000 calories a day is a lowball estimate, it’s more like 8000 to 10000 calories a day… So that would mean 1.5 gallons of ice cream for 20-25 miles/day, and 15 miles-per-gallon (of ice cream) for backpacking through mountainous terrain :)

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