Ice cream's on menu at Appalachian Trail midpoint

By MICHAEL RUBINKAM | June 4, 2011 | 12:28 PM EDT

In this June 2, 2011 photo Josiah "Mehap" Cilladi of Parkesburg, Pa., left, and Tim "Grasshopper" Trickel of Raleigh, N.C., eat half-gallons of Hershey's ice cream at Pine Grove Furnace State Park in Gardners, Pa. For decades, Appalachian Trail thru-hikers arriving at the midway point of the Georgia-to-Maine footpath have made it a tradition to stop at the park in southcentral Pennsylvania and eat an entire brick of ice cream. (AP Photo/Michael Rubinkam)

GARDNERS, Pa. (AP) — A gastronomic challenge awaits hikers who make it to the midway point of the 2,180-mile Appalachian Trail.

For the past three decades, long-distance hikers arriving at Pine Grove Furnace State Park in south-central Pennsylvania have made it a tradition to eat an entire half-gallon of ice cream. The reward: bragging rights, a small commemorative spoon — and quite likely an upset stomach.

About 350 thru-hikers successfully complete the Half-Gallon Challenge each year. But it's not easy, even for trail-hardened hikers who can burn 4,000 to 6,000 calories a day and still lose weight while consuming vast quantities of food.