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Michael Rubinkam, Associated Press
In this June 2, 2011 photo Appalachian Trail thru-hiker Alan "Lemur" Downs displays the commemorative wooden spoon he got for completing the Half-Gallon Challenge 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.

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

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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.