Tandem and I woke up with everyone else in one of the Quarry Gap shelters. I was hungry, so I grabbed my food from the bear box and ate a lot before packing up my pad and sleeping bag.
Thunderstorms are expected again tonight. Tandem and I discussed our budget and the possibility of staying in the Iron Masters Mansion hostel in Pine Grove Furnace State Park. We decided that it was feasible if we didn’t buy the pizza dinner and we split the laundry charges.
We hiked up from the shelter and along a variety of semi-level roads and trails with rocks all the way. We took a brief break at the PATC Milesburn cabin, but it was locked, so we moved on a couple of miles to the Birch Run shelter for lunch.
We found some abandoned-looking gear, a radio, and left over birthday cake there. The owner of the gear came back shortly before we left and asked about thru hiking. He was young, kinda stoned, and creepy. We took off.
From that point forward, we made great time, averaging three miles per hour. Shortly past the Tom Run shelters, at mile 1090.5, we passed a very permanent post marking what had been the literal midway point of the AT in 2011. At mile 1092.5 — this year’s halfway point — we found a movable sign indicating the milestone.
Three miles later we arrived at the Pine Grove Furnace State Park and settled on the porch of the General Store. Johnny Utah’s pack was there, but he was nowhere to be found. We wandered next door to the Appalachian Trail Museum and learned a lot about founding supporters other than Benton MacKaye and about early maintenance of the AT. Also on display is one of the original Pennsylvania shelters.
We went back to the General Store and bought a 1.5 quart container of Neapolitan ice cream for me to eat in the Half Gallon Challenge. I was able to polish it off in 18 minutes, which won me a small wooden spoon and the right to sign the logbook of those who had accomplished the feat.
After that we checked into the hostel, took showers, and did laundry. Tandem and I didn’t buy the pizza dinner, but instead made pasta in the back yard on the stove. I dried my wet tent nearby on another picnic table.
We went inside before the storms hit and found that Mio and his father had made it to the hostel! I’d left Mio miles back taking a two day break at home. We greeted each other and talked about the experiences they’d had hiking together.
We also discussed the option of slack packing 20 miles to Boiling Springs tomorrow by having Mio’s dad drive our packs ahead. Tandem was up for it, so I prepared for the easier hiking day by taking the top off of my pack and filling it with snacks and my full Nalgene bottle. My only concern is carrying my electronic devices without a pack cover if it rains all day. I may need to trust my Z-Pack cuben fiber pouches or leave the devices in my pack while it’s shuttled to Boiling Springs.