Another marathon day today. Today Not Bad and I crossed the halfway point of the Appalachian Trail. A tall sign has been erected, but the trail’s length is always changing, so the official marker doesn’t really mark the middle. This year the trail is 2174.6 miles, but the halfway sign says that Springer and Katahdin are both 1,064 miles away, which omits mileage somewhere. To be a thru-hiker, a person must complete 99% of the trail. It may be a smaller percentage than that, I cannot remember. Regardless of the percentage, I know that it is not the whole trail. To be a ‘2,000 miler,’ a person has to walk 100% of the trail. People can be very judgmental about other people’s hiking habits. There are some purists who claim that they touch every white blaze that they pass, and even one I have heard who claims to kiss each one. This seems quite ridiculous to me. I’m not a purist in any sense, and many purists disapprove of my hiking habits. I don’t particularly approve of people who skip hundreds of miles of trail by car and still claim to have accomplished the feat of walking the Appalachian Trail, but missing some mileage because of detours and excursions makes little difference to me. At many shelters along the AT that are off the trail, side trails allow access to the shelter from the north and the south of the shelter, creating a triangle with the two side trails and the AT. Some purists will return to the trail only by the side trail that they walked to the lean-to so that they won’t miss the 20 yards between the north and south side trail junctions with the AT. By the time this trip ends, I will have walked much farther than 2174.6 miles between Katahdin and Springer because of side trips to towns and the loop trails that provide better alternatives to the often dull AT. Not every mile on the AT will be included, and that suits me just fine.
After taking pictures at the halfway point, Not Bad and I went to the state park where a grocery store sells ice cream. He wanted to complete the AT tradition of the half gallon challenge, eating an entire half gallon of ice cream. I decided that I would not participate. Not Bad ate the half gallon in around 45 minutes, and it nearly killed him. He was so cold that he put on his beanie and gloves, and then he climbed into his sleeping bag and sat in the sun to warm up. After an hour of rest, he was able to walk again. We climbed out of the valley and slept at a shelter at high elevation. When the sun dropped behind the mountains, the cold set in.