Challenges (Virginia to Pennsylvania)

There are many standard challenges on the Appalachian Trail: cold, heat, rain, and poisonous snakes that look like leaf litter. Fun. However, some foolhardy thru-hikers like to participate in a collection of self-imposed challenges to make the hike a bit more interesting and fulfilling. Of course, Poppins and I happen to be a part of this group of fools. The adventures of Poppins and Stoat continue.

24-Hour Challenge: May 6-7, 2015 (VA)

The 24-Hour Challenge is simple; a hiker must hike for 24 hours straight. The only rule is the hiker cannot sleep. Poppins and I decided to attempt this challenge on a whim. It had been a hot day so we decided to night hike to cut off miles and avoid the heat for the next day. Nonetheless, after some good natured heckling passed between us we decided to shell out another 30 miles in one night, after already doing 26 miles earlier that same day.

We started out from Calf Mountain Hut on the May 6 at 6 a.m. We staggered into Big Meadows Wayside at 6:14 a.m. on May 7, totaling a 56 mile day. Upon finishing the challenge we collapsed onto the grass, our bodies relishing in the fact we were no longer moving forward. We ended up having to take the next day off to recover.

4-State Challenge: May 15, 2015 (VA-PA)

The 4-State Challenge is when a hiker has to physically be in four separate states within one calendar day. The only place on the Appalachian Trail where this is possible is from the VA/WV border to the MD/PA border; a total of 43.3 miles. We started out our trek in Virginia at 3 a.m. and finished at 9 p.m. in Pennsylvania. This specific challenge seemed to be easier than the 24-Hour Challenge; probably because we planned ahead this time.

The weird part of this story comes from the last four miles. Poppins and I were setting a determined pace when we passed two 14-year-old girls who called out to us, “Are you lost too?” Of course, we stopped and stared at them in mild disbelief replying, “No…are you?”

As it turned out, they were in fact lost. The girls were part of the track team that had come to run the trails. However, the coach had failed to explain how the blazing system worked and failed to point the girls in the right direction before running off. When we found them, they were heading south when they needed to be heading north. By this point, it was getting dark and the girls did not have flashlights.

We had to put the two kids between us so Poppins could shine her headlamp on the ground for them to walk, while I searched for the white blazes in front. Everyone got back in one piece. We passed them off to their frantic parents (with no coach in sight) and continued to the Mason Dixon Line.

Half-Gallon Challenge: May 18, 2015 (PA)

The Half-Gallon Challenge is probably the most famous of all Appalachian Trail challenges. Simply put a hiker has to eat a half-gallon of ice cream in celebration of passing the halfway point on the AT, without any outside help. Poppins had to sit this one out because we thought she was lactose intolerant, long story. I slogged through a full carton of raspberry, followed by a heaping cup of vanilla. Needless to say I was a very sick little Stoat. The three-hour stomach ache and raspberry flavored burps that followed were well worth it in the end. I am now officially a member of the Half-Gallon Club Class of 2015.

– “Stoat”GA-ME 2015

Ashley wrote for The Culpeper Times while thru-hiking the A.T. and you can find all her articles on or click here.