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I May Only Walk This Way Once …

July 27-28, 2017

The small wooden sign nailed to the tree bore a single word.  Five simple letters, promising mystery, excitement, adventure.

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“Caves?” I turned hopefully to Jay.

“It’s not on our AT guide,” Jay looked thoughtful.  “Do you really have the energy to explore it now?  What if we come back tomorrow after breakfast.”

Jay was right.  We were just finishing a grueling 10 mile hike over the tops of three mountains.  Only minutes before I had been counting the steps between me and a horizontal position in our tent, soon to be set up at the nearby Piazza Rock Lean-to.

Our day began with a 700 foot ascent of Saddleback Junior Mountain, only considered a junior because it didn’t quite reach 4,000 feet altitude.  It’s slightly lower top kept us under the clouds, however, and gave us a great view of the surrounding countryside.

Then it was down 500 feet, and up another 1,000 feet to the top of The Horn, which did breach the 4,000 foot mark and put us in the clouds.  There wasn’t much of a view, but we weren’t in danger of sunburn either!

We then descended approximately 500 feet again, then climbed 600 feet to the top of Saddleback Mountain.  The view at the bottom of the ‘saddle’ was spectacular, with blobs of fog blowing across our faces, in turn obscuring, then revealing a world of green trees and sparkling lakes below us.  Up on the top of the mountain however, the cold wind blew fog mercilessly around us, shrinking our world to the next white blaze as we made our way across the wide bare granite summit.

Finally, the last four miles of our day included a 2,100 foot descent.  This, really, was the hardest part of the day, as we slid and scrambled down, down, down.  It seemed the shelter would never appear.

And now, caves beckoned!

“Promise we can come back after breakfast?” I asked Jay.

“You bet,” he replied, and continued down the trail, headed for the tent sites by the shelter.

The next morning, most of the hikers at the shelter were talking of going to the town of Rangeley.  Everyone was anticipating showers, clean clothes, delicious hamburgers and milkshakes.  When asked if we were headed to town, I replied, “Yes, but first we have to go explore those caves.”

The other hikers looked at us in shock.  Some had not even seen the sign yesterday when coming toward the shelter.  Others had seen the sign, were slightly intrigued, but not enough to delay a trip to town.

“It’s only two miles from here to the road to Rangeley,” I explained.  “I may never get a chance to be here again.  How can I pass up caves?  The town will still be there later.”

Breakfast over, most of the hikers headed south, while Jay and I took a blue-blazed trail a short distance west.  A jumble of huge boulders extended through the trees, up the mountainside, as far as the eye could see.  Blue painted blazes led me over, under, around, and between giant tilted slabs of granite.  Dark passageways beckoned, small ledges offered finger and toe-holds to climb to the next level, patches of gravel made spots to catch ones breath in shadowy comfort.  One large ledge gave room for me to sit and dangle my feet in mid-air, looking at the entrance to this vertical cave some 20 feet below me.  I kept climbing, lured by blue blazes promising more cave above.  Finally, as leg muscles protested, I came out on a large level rock, looking through the top of the forest canopy.  I realized I had climbed several hundred feet.  “Hmm,” I thought.  “I just climbed and descended this mountain yesterday.  Maybe I better stop here.”  Blue blazes continued up the mountainside, but my brain was full of cavernous images, my imagination on fire with the possibilities for stories here.  What a wondrous place we live in, Planet Earth!

Fifteen minutes later I had rejoined Jay at the bottom of the caves, and we continued south on the AT, headed for town.  Five minute later, our progress was once again derailed when we came to another blue-blazed trail, this one leading to Piazza Rock.  We had wondered at the unusual name of the shelter, now was our chance to find out.  The trail headed steeply uphill for one tenth of a mile, over rocks and more rocks.  Suddenly we came to a clearing, and there high above us, was the predecessor of Pride Rock from the movie, The Lion King!  HUGE!  AIRBORNE!  AMAZING!  Words fail to describe, and pictures don’t show it all, but wow, what a sight!  The delights of town, wonderful as they are, just can’t compete with the wonders of nature.

Each Day is Something New

July 18, 2017

On the way down from Moxie Bald Mountain, we passed some huge boulders, with slim, twisty passages between.  What fun!  A miniature catacombs waiting for exploration.

July 19, 2017

The sunrise from a ridge near the top of Pleasant Pond Mountain set the tone for the whole day.  What a glorious way to begin!

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View from our tent this morning.

July 20, 2017

Today we crossed the Kennebec River using a canoe ferry!  The Appalachian Trail Conference provides a free canoe ferry service for all hikers each spring, summer, and fall.  There were six of us waiting on the bank of the river as the canoe crossed toward us.  Craig, the ferryman, gave us a lecture on boat safety and highlights of the trail to come.  Then he took two people at a time to the far shore, each time crossing back alone.  When it was our turn, Jay kindly let me paddle, and he sat in the middle.  The sun was shining, a gentle breeze kissed our faces, and the ride was over all too soon.  “That was perhaps the best part of the trail,” I told Jay when we finished.

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Craig stands up in the canoe as he ferries towards us.

July 21, 2017

We entered the Bigelow Preserve today, named for a brigade commander in the Revolutionary War who climbed a peak “for military reasons”.  We camped at Little Bigelow Lean-to, site of “tubs” along the AT.  The tubs are natural, formed as a stream pools and drops down a deep cleft.  We climbed down and around a couple of big boulders, and had a fast, cold bath all to ourselves!  What a treat!

 

July 22, 2017

Today we climbed four mountain peaks in the space of 10 miles, Little Bigelow Mountain, Avery Peak and West Peak of the Bigelow Mountains, and South Horn.  The tops of Avery Peak, West Peak, and South Horn were above tree line, giving us lovely panoramic views while the wind whipped in a frenzy around us.  The terrain was the roughest I’ve seen since climbing Katahdin, and it took me 11.5 hours to hike 10 miles.  I was one tired hiker by the time we reached our campsite at Horns Pond Lean-to!

July 23, 2017

On our way down the mountain from our campsite, we met a northbound hiker named Soul Flower.  She is 70 years old, and really enjoying her hike!  I thought of how tired I had been after climbing those four peaks yesterday, and marveled at Soul Flower’s energy and athleticism!

We talked a few minutes, and Soul Flower told us that her husband of 48 years had died in 2014.  She hiked the PCT in 2015 as a way of grieving.  Then in 2016, she started a thru-hike of the AT.  However, she fell and broke her hand, and had to leave the trail at Harper’s Ferry, WV.  So this year she is finishing her AT hike, going from Harper’s Ferry to Katahdin.  She has made it through the toughest part of the hike, through New Hampshire and southern Maine.  I am entranced with her story, and inspired to continue with my own!

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P.S.  Take a look at our Trail Angel page on the menu!  Scroll to the bottom to see the latest trail angel help we have received.

The Real Heroes

July 16, 2017

The AT has more than its share of mythical figures, inspiring stories, people seeking and finding redemption, peace, direction.  Earl Schaffer, the first AT thru-hiker, laid to rest personal demons from the war.  Grandma Gatewood, age 67, persevered to become a celebrity in the 1950s, after forest rangers told her, “Go home, Grandma.”   Bill Erwin hiked the trail blind, depending upon his own wits and determination as well as his guide dog, Orient.  Stacey Kozel conquered incredible difficulties as she thru-hiked with paralyzed legs.  These are the stories that draw people to the AT, these are the stories that shine as a beacon when people grope through dark times.

However, the real heroes of the AT are a small group of dedicated volunteers, spread thinly across 2,196 miles of mountains.  Trail maintenance crews make possible the dreams of thousands of hikers.  Without the service of these incredible people, the trail would quickly cease to exist.  For the love of the trail, these folks keep our path safer, more reliable, and navigable.

Today we were hiking through the trees, following a route of rocks and roots and mud as usual.  Suddenly the sound of metal striking metal rang through the woods.  We rounded a couple bends in the path and came upon three men laboring over a series of logs crossing a long morass of mud.

Peter Rodrick, head of the Maine Appalachian Trail Club (MATC), stopped to chat as we admired their work.  “I’ve been wanting to get a boardwalk over this section for several years,” he gloated.  “It’s good to see it happening!”

“Those logs look pretty heavy!  How did you get them in here?” I asked.

“Well, we had a bunch of volunteers this morning, trucked the logs up to the nearest road, and they all carried them in.  Then the three of us, Shamus LaPerriere, Scott Quint, and myself, have been working the rest of the day, laying out and securing this walkway.  You know, the MATC is going more and more towards bridging these swampy places with rocks.  But the boardwalks are a good deal faster to build.  If made from cedar, they’ll last 20 years.  I reckon the rocks might last 100 years though.”

We watched, fascinated, as Shamus and Scott used brace and bit to drill holes, then secured the last log with a couple of metal spikes, tamping them in with the back of an ax.  “You two can be the first hikers to walk this,” they invited us.

It seemed to me that such a moment needed more than just two grubby hikers prosaically walking over the mud.  I stepped up on the first log.  “Ta-ta-ta!  Ta-ra-ta-ta Ta-ta-ta!” I played on an imaginary trumpet.  Then, spreading my arms for balance, I crossed, enjoying the level boards, dry feet, and ease of passage.  “Wow, this is wonderful!  Thank you, thank you!  You are awesome!”

 

July 17, 2017

Today as we were hiking, once again we heard the sound of metal striking upon metal.  There were five in the trail crew, bridging a long mucky stretch of trail, this time using large stones.  Once again we stopped to proffer our thanks and get educated on the methods of trail building.

“How do you move such huge rocks?” Jay asked as he eyed the boulders, some easily the size of a Galapagos giant tortoise.  “They must weigh 500 pounds or so!”

“We mostly roll them, using these steel pry bars,” the crew leader answered.  “Yesterday we mined 72 stones from the forest.  It was a good day!”

“I guess you always try to get the rocks from the uphill side of trail then,” Jay laughed.

“We met a trail crew yesterday.  The leader told us that these walkways made with stones could last 100 years,” I remarked.

“Well, I haven’t been around long enough to know if that is true,” the crew leader smiled.  “But hopefully they will last a long time.  It’s slow going, getting the rocks put in.”

“I think it is amazing, the way you lay them so close together, and all level!  It makes it really easy to walk upon.  Thank you so much!” I told him.

“You can be the first hikers to walk these 15 stones that are already laid,” he invited us.

As we walked excitedly over the stone path, I thought, ‘Wow, 15 rocks out of 72.  They’ve got a huge job today!’

We took their picture, thanked them again, and continued, marveling at the dedication and commitment of these volunteers.  Yes, these are the real heroes on the AT.

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Southbound …

July 5, 2017

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The day after climbing Katahdin, the mountain already looks a little far away!

So here we are, heading south on the AT, hips a little creaky, legs a little rubbery, but ready for more adventure and beauty!  Jay, with the wisdom of experience, has scheduled ten easy miles for us, from Katahdin Stream Campground to Abol Pines Campground, ending our recovery day with a lovely fish and chips dinner at the Abol Bridge Northern Restaurant!

We are both sore, and battling headaches from the exertion of climbing Katahdin.  The miles slowly pass with much natural beauty attempting to distract us from the pain of our bodies.  Little Niagara and Big Niagara Falls are awesome!  Water pours over a series of ledges, throwing up mist and froth, swirling at the bottom into a classic pool.  “If this were anywhere else in the lower 48 states,” I remark to Jay, “there would be a road to these falls, with crowds of people!  Instead, we have it all to ourselves.  This is incredible!”

July 6, 2017

Both Jay and I are still tired from Katahdin!  This is very surprising to me.  I really expected to feel better today, after taking an easy day yesterday and getting a delicious meal at the restaurant.  I guess climbing that mountain is not something one does on a whim!

We begin to meet many other southbounders today.  All are tired, yet a little giddy.  After all, they just conquered a trail that had to be painted onto rocks!  How tough could the next 2,180 miles be compared to that?

As I think of all the people hiking the AT, each with his or her own agenda, schedule, ideas, joys, fears, experiences, a young hiker named Homer puts it into words:  “There is only one path, the path you take.”

July 7-9, 2017

We enter the 100 Mile Wilderness!

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During this three days, we gradually recover our energy.  We also see many lakes and ponds, bogs, moss, trees, mountains.  Beauty is all around, it is our job to notice it.

We continue to meet more southbounders, beginning to put names with faces as we leapfrog with several small groups of hikers.

We hike, swim, eat, sleep, and get up to do it again!  The lakes and ponds are so shallow, that the water is actually warm, a real treat!  One day we see loons, another day we see mergansers.

On July 9, as I’m walking down the trail, I look up to see a marten peering at me from behind a tree trunk!  I stop, amazed and enthralled.  “Jay, look!” I whisper.  We watch as the marten runs up the tree trunk, peers at us again, makes a flying leap to another tree, then disappears into the green north woods.  Wow!

July 10, 2017

White Cap Mountain begins our day, the first mountain since Katahdin that is above tree-line.  My pack feels heavy, and I am very slow over rocks and roots.  The top is cold, windy, a little rainy.  We take a picture, then scurry down to the protection of tree-line!

This same day we also climb Hay Mountain, West Peak, and Gulf Hagas Mountain.  Yes, this is the AT. Either the trail goes up, or it goes down.  Yee-hah!

July 11-13, 2017

The trail continues to challenge us with bogs, boulders, roots, rocks, mud, granite, vertical scrambles and horizontal boardwalk balances!  A hiker named Mike describes the roots as looking like someone spilled a bowl of spaghetti across the ground.  When it rains, those roots are about as slippery as spaghetti also!

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The trail also continues to give beauty at every turn, with sunlit lakes, misty bogs, mountain peak views, and deep forest shade.  My pace has slowed, from a 45 minute mile to a 75 minute mile.  It takes all day just to go 10 miles.  If I think of how slowly I am hiking, I get discouraged.  But Jay says to keep enjoying this beauty, and he is right.  We are lucky to have enough time, enjoying the warm summer months in these north woods.

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July 14, 2017

We made it to Monson, Maine!  Hot showers! Clean clothes!  Resupply!  Restaurants!

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Incredible food at the Spring Creek Bar-B-Que!

July 15, 2017

Monson is having it’s Summerfest this weekend.  What fun!

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This is the “Anything Floats” Race, with three entries!  Homemade craft paddled across the Monson Pond.  Fun!

The day ends with fireworks at the ball field while the Spring Creek Bar-b-que Restaurant pipes patriotic tunes, including, “Proud to Be an American” and “The 1812 Overture”.  What a lovely end to our zero day!

 

For more pictures of  our adventures, please see our photo pages on the Menu!

Katahdin!

July 4, 2017

Katahdin!  The terminus of the AT for northbound hikers holds the beginning of adventure for southbounders!  For Jay and me, as flip-floppers, the climb up Katahdin marked the midpoint of our journey.

From Millinocket, Maine, the Appalachian Trail Lodge shuttled us to Baxter State Park, depositing us at the ranger station.  We parked our backpacks on the ranger’s front porch, stuffed a borrowed day pack with food and rain gear, and registered.  Finally, it was time to go!

The first mile of our journey was quite easy, with a wide trail, gentle tread, and scenic vistas of trees, rock, and moss.  Winding rock stairs meandered up the foot of the mountain, gaining elevation in four inch increments.  The mile ended at a stream with a Boy Scout-built bridge and a privy!  What a practical thing to put on this heavily used trail!

Continuing past the privy, the trail gave a little evil chuckle, and suddenly boulders began appearing as the gradient steepened.  Tangled bushes and thickets of pines pressed around us, forcing us to stay on the narrow stony track, conveniently marked with white AT blazes.  From knee-high to thigh-high, the boulders required climbing, scrambling, clambering, shinnying, and sometimes crawling.  “This isn’t so bad,” I remarked breathlessly.  “It’s a little steep, but I can do it.”

About the time I was thinking of lunch, we reached tree-line.  Suddenly, instead of a narrow path, the painted white blazes traversed the tops of a whole field of boulders.  These rocks were car-sized, and vertical.  My eyes traveled out, and up, and more up.  “Oh geeze,” I thought in sudden panic.  “What have I got myself into?  I don’t like climbing mountains!”

The clouds that had been hovering all morning suddenly descended to eye level, spitting a few raindrops, but mostly just obscuring the view with mist and fog.  That was fine by me.  What I couldn’t see, didn’t exist, which allowed me to focus energy and muscles on each individual boulder challenge, following Jay as he disappeared above me into the atmosphere.  An occasional piece of re-bar hammered into a rock face helped me climb, but I often felt that I could have used a whole ladder on most of those boulders.  Toes, fingertips, knees, thighs, even stomach and posterior came into use as I crept up the ridge.

Finally, after an eternity of granite, we reached what is known as the Tableland, a relatively flat mile on top of Katahdin.  The trail continued to boulder hop, but with smaller stones and more horizontally.  Fortunately for me, the clouds persisted, obscuring the view.  I was able to lie to myself, “See, you’ve done the hard part.  The top is probably just a few minutes of easy walking!”  Although my intellect knew the Tableland was slightly over a mile long, my gut was happy to accept the lie as we kept walking and walking and walking…

Just as I was about to give up completely, Jay said, “I see it!  We’re almost to the sign!”  Hopefully, I stopped, looking up, peering through the swirling mist.  No sign.  No celebrating people.  Just gray, blank cloud.  My shoulders sagged.  My eyes fell back down to the boulders, my feet relentlessly taking slow step by slow step.  I was sure Jay was right, but I was too tired to believe.

We climbed over a tiny hump, indistinguishable from the hundreds of tiny humps I’d already ascended during this last mile.  But there, through the mist, a shape loomed precipitously above us, dim blobs of color resolved to people taking pictures, and we were there!  The top!  Katahdin!!!

In honor of our nation’s birthday, we had brought patriotic wigs to wear for our picture by the famous sign.  Many people laughed and cheered as we donned our 4th of July head gear and posed.

Ten minutes passed as we ate a quick snack, preparing for the five miles downhill still ahead of us.  Just as we were finishing, the clouds abruptly rolled off the top of the mountain, revealing spectacular scenery below – lakes, mountains, trees, granite.  Nature’s glory at our feet!  The sign was mobbed as people rushed to get their picture with the view.  We settled for a picture of the view a few feet away from the sign.

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Nature’s glory below us!

And then it was time to descend.  Five miles, retracing the route we had so laboriously just climbed.  But now I could see our route!  It was amazing, looking at what I had climbed in blind ignorance.  The last piece of re-bar completely did me in.  As my toes felt for a hold on the rock, my eyes were inexorably drawn to the empty air between my legs.  I froze, shaking, as I clutched that piece of iron with a death grip.  Jay soothingly talked me down, helping me to focus on the problem of where to place each part of my body, instead of all the uninhabited expanse around my body!

We reached the ranger station just as the day succumbed to darkness, having spent 12 hours climbing up and plunging down this mountain.  I couldn’t have completed Katahdin without Jay’s help.  I was tired, sore, and so glad to be on real dirt, not bare granite!  My sleeping bag had never felt so luxurious as we settled into our reserved campsite at Katahdin Stream Campground.  Aaaaah!

Shaking the Mile Monkey

June 28, 2017

We have a mile monkey riding Jay’s shoulder.  Dressed in jockey attire, this little guy constantly urges Jay forward, ready to ignore all distractions such as gorgeous views, side trips to ice cream, bird songs, beautiful flowers, or even intimidating thunderheads.  A mile monkey has tunnel vision, choosing the straight and narrow of the trail over all diversions.  At the end of the day, his only interest is the number of miles completed.

My job is to frustrate this mile monkey.  I’m pretty good at this duty!  I’ve had many tiny imaginary monkey expletives hurled at my head during the past four months, as we stopped to swing on a vine, climb a boulder, take in a view, or … go off trail to attend a family reunion!

From Pine Grove Furnace State Park, near the halfway point of the AT, Jay and I rented a car and drove to Tennessee for a yearly gathering of parents, siblings, aunts, uncles, and cousins.  I’m afraid my motives for this trip were not purely based on family loyalty.  After hiking 1,102 miles, the thought of clean sheets and daily showers for a week were nearly as big an attraction to me as seeing loved kinfolk!

“No!” the mile monkey howled.  “How can you do this?  What kind of a thru-hiker are you?  Stop!  Go back!  Stay on the trail!”

The Appalachian Trail Conservancy defines a thru-hike as completion of the whole 2,196 miles of trail within one year.  Traditionally, hikers head either northbound from Georgia or southbound from Maine.  However, a hiker’s itinerary can begin anywhere along the trail.  Whether one “flip-flops”, “leapfrogs”, or does a “wrap-around”, the thru-hike challenge is to finish within a year.

“That’s not good enough!” the mile monkey chittered as it jumped up and down upon Jay’s shoulder.  “You started out northbound!  You’ve got to keep going!  You’ll never get to Mt. Katahdin at this rate!”

“Perhaps you’re right,” I addressed the mile monkey seriously.  “I began this hike as a bit of a pilgrimage, walking through spring like Earl Schaffer (first AT thru-hiker).  But with all our delays, most notably the month on and off trail, healing my broken collarbone, I’m not sure we can get to the end before Baxter State Park closes Mt. Katahdin on October 15.”

“Do you want to quit?” Jay entered the conversation.

“No way!”  My response was immediate, from my gut.  “We committed to a thru-hike!  I want to complete it!”

“What if we do a flip-flop?”  Jay mused.  “We could use the family reunion as a natural break.  Instead of getting back on the trail in Pennsylvania, we could drive to Maine, climb Katahdin, then hike south!”

“That’s it!”  I hugged Jay ecstatically.  “We hiked Georgia in winter, walked in awe through spring in North Carolina, Tennessee, and Virginia, now we can have summer in the north woods!  There will be no time limit on our finish as we hike south through the fall!”  I eyed the monkey triumphantly.  “Oh boy, mile monkey, you’re gonna have a tough time, now!”

“Agh!”  the mile monkey stomped in frustration.  “You haven’t heard the last from me!  I’ll find some way to keep nagging you!”

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This rock was found on a cairn near the Mason-Dixon Line on the Appalachian Trail.

 

The Half-gallon Challenge

June 20, 2017

Hikers enter Pine Grove Furnace State Park just a few miles past the halfway point on the Appalachian Trail.  This beautiful setting is home to the Appalachian Trail Museum (a museum dedicated solely to hiking!), a self-guided historical trail (Pine Grove Iron Furnace built in 1764!), Fuller Lake (swimming and showers!), and incredible bird habitat (160 species of birds!).

But the one feature of the park that occupies the thoughts of many AT hikers is the Pine Grove Furnace General Store, home of the half-gallon challenge.  Here, time honored tradition compels scores of hikers to gladly pay $10 for the privilege of making themselves half sick from eating a half-gallon of ice cream.  If successful, the sugar-bloated hiker wins a tiny wooden spoon with the half-gallon challenge logo stamped upon it.

I must admit, Jay and I talked and dreamed of this indulgence for many miles.  On those hot, humid days, I was convinced I could demolish a half-gallon of ice cream with ease.  Fortunately for my blood sugar, the thunderstorm the previous day had broken the heat, and drowned my dreams of sweet indulgence.  By the time we arrived at Pine Grove Furnace General Store, the hiker burger held more attraction than two quarts of frozen confection.  (The hiker burger consists of a quarter pound beef topped with double cheese, egg, avocado, mushroom, grilled onion, tomato, and lettuce.  Yum!)

Another hiker, Dundee, had dreams made of sterner fiber.  Jay and I enjoyed watching him attack the half-gallon challenge.

Dundee chose vanilla for the first quart and a half.  He told us it was easier to eat ice cream without extra fillers such as nuts or fruit.  The first quart went down pretty fast, but his rate of consumption slowed during the next pint.  “This is beginning to affect my brain,” he told us.

“Oh boy,” we teased.  “The moment of truth has arrived.  We could ask you anything, and you’d reply.  You’re ready to reveal your deepest, darkest fear!”

“Ice cream,” Dundee mumbled.  “I’m scared of ice cream.  I can see it now, the torturer bringing me a pint.  I’d be moaning, ‘No, no!  I’ll tell all!  Just don’t make me eat that!’  Anything but this stuff!”  He dug out another reluctant spoonful and looked at it mournfully.

Dundee got to choose different flavors for the last pint.  By now, thoroughly sick of vanilla, he choose chocolate, topped with a dollop of moose tracks.  The first few spoonfuls were obviously delicious, then the tempo of ingestion slowed to a snail’s pace.  “Oh man,” Dundee whimpered, “chocolate was a mistake.”

“What’s wrong?” we asked.  “Don’t you like the taste?”

“Oh yeah, it’s good and all.  Just rich.  Way.  Too. Rich.”  Dundee grimly scooped another blob of the umber confection.

With a great deal of determination, the cup of chocolate was finally emptied.  Dundee threw it away, then waddled off to claim his tiny wooden spoon.  He returned to proudly show us his trophy, then collapsed into a chair as sugar took free rein over his body.

Another hiker, Blue Deer, arrived with ice cream on his mind.   He paid his $10, and brought the first quart and a half outside on the front porch.  “Hey, Dundee, I’ve got Neapolitan!  I won’t get sick of the vanilla taste this way,” Blue Deer gloated.

“Take my recommendation.  Eat the chocolate first,” Dundee groaned.

“I’ve hiked one thousand one hundred miles without your counsel.  What makes you think I need your advice now?” Blue Deer teased.

“Experience,” Dundee sighed as his head went down to the table.

 

 From beginning to end!  Half-gallon challenge!!