There’s a lot of wonderful stuff $1 can still buy you these days. Sure a solitary dollar bill won’t get you into a movie theater or a gallon of gas anymore, but it can still afford you some of the worlds greatest luxuries, like a cold and tasty ice cream sandwich. I’m not one to buy sugary, unhealthy snacks too often, but let me tell you how $1 bought me the world’s greatest ice cream sandwich after hiking 40 miles of the Appalachian Trail.
My first Trip To The Great Smokey Mountains
We’d been on the trail for 4 days hiking up and down magnificent tree-coated mountains having a grand old time. I don’t know if I’ve ever had a better vacation experience. I hung out with some cool family members, got an amazing workout, learned a lot about backpacking, and explored the hundreds of individual ecosystems that exist within the Smokey mountains.
Hiking food tastes pretty ok, but it’s never quite as good as cooking in a real kitchen. For breakfast we’d make oatmeal and coffee, lunch was pitas and peanut butter, and dinners were some sort of noodle dish that always tasted 70% like what it was supposed to taste like. The snacks were mostly jerky and of course trail mix with plenty of chocolate. I made sure that we carried enough food, which always made for a good reward each evening.
I guess the one aspect I wasn’t quite prepared for was the exhaustion. 10 miles doesn’t sound like all that far to walk on flat ground, but lugging a pack up thousands of feet, and then back down a few times a day really starts to wear on your muscles. I’ve done plenty of endurance races (marathons, triathlons, mud races), but they never lasted 12 hours+. It was grueling while I was at the bottom of the mountain looking up, but you can’t beat the pride of having taken in on and come out victorious.
The Last Day
Anyway, the last day, we had to descend about 3,000 feet over 12 miles, which actually sounded pretty easy compared the previous day’s hike. It sounded easy, that is, until it started down pouring. Maybe it’s because I don’t spend most of my time outdoors, but I guess I don’t get totally soaked to the core too often. The skies opened up and it really felt like being in a shower. Even with all my rain gear, I got unbelievably wet. Although it did stop raining once for us to see the most amazing view from a rocky outcropping.
By the time we made it down to the bottom of the trail, my pack weighed about 30% more and I was ready to finish up. The trail then took us about a mile along a road, and then to finish up we walked across Fontana Dam (which is worth seeing on it’s own… It’s gigantic!). As soon as I stepped onto the Dam, the rain cleared away and the sun came out as we made our way to our car. And that’s when I spotted the worlds greatest $1 ice cream sandwich.
The Dam visitor center sold postcards, tee shirts, and pre-made $1 ice cream. We each selected one, stripped off our soaking, stinking clothing, and bit into ice cream sandwiches as the warm sun warmed our bodies. We must have looked a little odd to all the Dam tourists that wondered by, but it ranks among the greatest desserts I’ve ever experienced.
Challenging Yourself Is Always Worth It
That’s the great thing about challenging yourself, and accomplishing meaty goals. It makes the rest of life that much sweeter when you succeed. Most Americans have decided the opposite. They sit in their air conditioned homes, drive their luxury vehicles, and eat massive amounts of unhealthy delicacies each day. The point I’m trying to make is that sometimes it’s worth doing something the old fashioned way just to appreciate what we’ve already got. Because if you can’t take extreme pleasure in something as simple as a $1 ice cream sandwich, I think it’s time to reexamine your priorities.
What do you appreciate more after a challenge? How do you reward yourself after a victory?