Visions of food danced through my mind. While John never quite revved up to a thru-hiker’s appetite, I sure did. Since Sam’s Gap, pretty much, I had ravenous pangs of hunger at random times, despite our making sure – except on days of pouring-down rain – to stop and eat every couple of hours. Worst was waking up in the middle of the night with dreams of steak or shrimp or even a Powerbar, knowing full well that our food was dangling out there from some tree, getting rained on again, and I couldn’t even grab a snack.
Pulling into Birch Run Shelter for lunch, I kept eating. And eating. Our supplies were getting a bit low. We knew our friends Jim & Ginny would meet us up the trail, tomorrow, bringing up memories of an AYCE steakhouse visit after they met us at Pen-Mar. But first: ice cream.
The General Store at Pine Grove Furnance State Park is where thru-hikers stop and celebrate the mid-point of the Appalachian Trail by downing a half-gallon of ice cream. Yep, I had ice cream on the brain, especially as the rain clouds lifted and the weather warmed up. We’d be celebrating a quarter of the trail finished, with our leap over Virginia, so we talked about splitting one of those half-gallons to join the “quarter-gallon” club.
Reaching the Tom’s Run Shelters in late afternoon, I was disappointed that they weren’t where I remembered them. Worse, the hillside was a muddy, sloppy mess – as was most of the trail leading in and out of the area – because of all the rain. After a stop for water and more food for fuel, we kept moving, passing the halfway marker just as Pastor John caught up with us again. We snapped each others’ photos. And pushed on to Ironmasters Mansion, the easy terrain making this our longest day of hiking, nearly 17 miles.
I love Ironmasters – I’ve stayed there many times over the past 15 years – but the folks running it don’t understand hungry hiker appetites. Dinner and breakfast were included, but they didn’t do much to quench the bottomless pits that most of us had, burning more calories than we could possibly eat. Worse: the General Store was closed. No! Yes, said our fellow hikers, who walked down to double-check. No ice cream tonight.
We went down to the store in the morning and found the rumor to be true. No ice cream at all! Our dreams of the quarter-gallon club dashed by getting there before Memorial Day Weekend. In the trail register next to the locked door, I found this note:
“At the last shelter, my ancestors came to me in a dream and said I would have ice cream. Lots of ice cream!
The store is closed.
I hate my ancestors.”