Every year the length of the Appalachian Trail changes, but the celebration for reaching the halfway point of the AT is remains the same… with “the half-gallon challenge”.
The half-gallon challenge is to eat half a gallon of ice cream at/near the midpoint of the trail. This is a timed event, and a lot of thought and energy goes into deciding which flavor of ice cream to eat for the challenge. Advice varies wildly, but most people suggest that you should pick a flavor that isn’t your favorite because you may never want to eat it again.
I chose raspberry ice cream for my half gallon challenge. It didn’t seem like it would hang as heavily in my stomach as the flavors with chocolate or marshmallow in them, and it was *only* 160 calories/serving (with 12 servings per container).
Sitting with Lotus, Uno, Juno, and a section hiker I began my challenge. Just like hiking the trail is done one step at a time, eating a half gallon of ice cream is done one spoonful at a time. The ice cream disappeared slowly but surely. It was a lot of ice cream and by the end it was starting to feel a bit like a chore, but in under 40 minutes I’d devoured all of it!
Due to a technicality, however, I hadn’t really completed the half gallon challenge yet. Ice cream manufacturers have downsized their half gallon buckets of ice cream to 1.5 qts. I was 0.5 qts short of meeting the challenge and that just wouldn’t do.
Unable to walk away from the uncompleted challenge, I went back into the store for more ice cream. Feeling quite full, but not yet queasy, I set my sights on the orange and vanilla swirl ice cream and finished the challenge.
With a half gallon of ice cream in my belly I wasn’t going to hike anywhere soon or fast. I spent a lazy afternoon lounging in the sun, chatting with other thru-hikers (Bud, Boo Bear, Wash, and Hummingbird all arrived and rose to the challenge), and checking out the AT museum before eating some french fries and eventually getting back on the trail.
At the end of the day I’m not sure which surprised me more: that I was hungry for dinner, or that my stomach wasn’t upset!