It was a dark and stormy day on Sunday, March 30, 2014 -- the second day the Pine Grove Furnace General Store had been open for the season.
The store's manager, Tony Paliometros, is possibly the world's most friendly and likeable man.
My guess is Tony could be successful at almost anything that required a smile and a friendly welcome.
This general store is famous among Appalachian Trail (AT) thru-hikers because it is virtually halfway between Georgia's Springer Mountain and Maine's Mount Katahdin -- the terminal points of the AT.
From either direction, hiking almost 1,100 miles to hit this point on the Trail is worth celebrating.
The best way? To slug down a half-gallon of ice cream, of course.
Please Note: Sorry, purists, the "half-gallons" of ice cream are now 1.5 quarts. Please do not blame Tony for the ice cream syndicate's decision. Thank you.
Snow, sleet, freezing rain and other frigid precipitation were blowing across the General Store's porch. There was simply no way Tony and I were going to see a thru-hiker take The Challenge.
Just then ... seriously ... in walked Toe Jam (alias "Tyler Standage" from Silver Spring, MD) who had been hiking northbound for 55 days to join our little party.
Sadly, Toe Jam had never even heard of The Challenge. Besides, he was so cold that he ignored us as we described it to him. He stopped listening altogether when he heard the words "ice cream."
As Toe Jam's ears began to thaw, he realized we were serious. The snow kept him from fleeing and his toes were still frozen, so he accepted The Challenge.
A better writer than I (me?) could describe the transformation Toe Jam underwent. This popsicle of a man actually scraped the sides to scoop every vestige of Moose Tracks ice cream -- "It's my favorite!" -- from the container.
In the time it took me to take a picture of the Snickers rack, Toe Jam won The Challenge!
Three thru-hikers visited the General Store in its first weekend of the 2014 season. Only Toe Jam accepted The Challenge. And. He. Crushed. It!
Tony awarded Toe Jam the priceless Victory Spoon and we captured the event for posterity.
When you're faced with The Half-Gallon (almost) Challenge, what will you do?
You're welcome to try. If you don't choose to compete, at least spread a bit of Trail Magic and urge a random thru-hiker to take The Challenge! (At your expense.)
While you're at Pine Grove Furnace General Store, stop by the Appalachian Trail Museum. It's right next door.
Tags: Attractions, Appalachian Trail, Hiking, News, Appalachian Trail Museum, and Robert Sutherland Travel Writer
Forget Walmart. To resupply for your Appalachian Trail hike, head for Teago General Store in South Pomfret, VT. Great cheese & sammiches. Pizza on Fridays!
Published Nov 6, 2014. Since opening in 2010, the Appalachian Trail Museum has displayed precious artifacts from the builders of the Trail. The AT Museum is an AT treasure house.
Published Mar 26, 2012.
Published Apr 24, 2014.
When you attend the Appalachian Trail Museum Festival, be sure to save time for the Half-Gallon Challenge at the General Store.
One thing wrong with the Appalachian Trail is there's too much to see in one lifetime. Big Creek Country Store in Mount Sterling, NC, is an example.