Following a nice breakfast at the Ironmaster’s Mansion Hostel that included scrambled eggs, waffles, and real coffee, I packed up and went outside to chat with Fancy Pants before leaving. I learned that she was in the USA on a three month tourist visa and planned to walk as much of the A.T. as she could in that amount of time. When I complimented her on her excellent English, the told me that she had worried about that because she hadn’t spoken English in years and had learned most of it from movies and TV. I was going to tell her that was quite a coincidence since I had learned most of my Swedish from the Swedish Chef on The Muppet Show, but somehow I held back. I did, however, wish her luck on her journey and told her I was glad to meet her. She said, “I’m so happy that you didn’t say “See you down the trail” like all the other hikers say. I hike so slowly that once I meet someone, I never again see them down the trail.” I thought that was so sad, but I could totally relate to what she must be feeling.
The rain had finally been replaced by blue skies and warmer temperatures. On this beautiful morning, the trail continued through Pine Grove Furnace State Park past a lake with a small beach, alongside a nice stream until it lead back into the wood. After climbing back to the ridge line, I was once again surrounded by blooming mountain laurel.
The trail was relatively flat, so the miles passed quickly. About ten miles into my day, the trail designers decided to have a little fun and routed the trail through a rock maze. Although it slowed down my forward progress for a while, it was actually a lot of fun to follow the blazes through nature’s jungle gym. A few miles later I reached Center Point Knob, the original half way point on the A.T. The A.T. was apparently a lot shorter back in the day.
Since I started my thru-hike, I have walked through leafless winter forests, forests filled with spring wildflowers, and green summer forests. On a day to day basis, it is all starting to look the same to me and has become a little monotonous. Until today. After descending from Center Point Knob, the A.T. runs through miles of farm land in the Cumberland Valley. Valley Forge and I had been leap frogging each other all day and ended up entering this agricultural landscape together. Although it was a little hot while being exposed to direct sunlight, the views were amazing.
After a couple of miles of walking through the fields, we arrived at the lovely little village of Boiling Springs, PA. Boiling Springs is built around a crystal clear spring fed lake and dozens of folks were out fishing or just enjoying the beautiful weather. The ATC Mid-Atlantic Regional Office is also located here, so we stopped by to visit and fill up on water. More importantly, there were several food serving establishments nearby so we went to the pizzeria where Valley Forge ordered a Stromboli and I got an Italian sub.
Now it was decision time. By now Many Names had arrived and we sat around eating and discussing whether to stay here at the local hostel or press on an additional eight miles to Carlisle, PA and get a room at the Days Inn. About then the hostel owner drove up to pick up another hiker and Many Names went over to talk to her. Seeing that the hostel owner was cute and that there was a bar across the street, Many Names decided to stay put. Even though it was now getting close to 6:00 pm, Valley Forge and I decided to continue hiking.
From Boiling Springs to Carlisle, the A.T. follows a narrow strip of land that passes between the farm fields and occasionally through pastures. It was a flat and smooth track and we were pressing hard trying to get to Carlisle before dark. Valley Forge got ahead of me when I stopped to take pictures of the sunset, but I just couldn’t resist the urge.
After hiking 27.3 miles, I arrived after dark at the Days Inn where Valley Forge had already secured us a room. It was late and I was beat, but I was also hungry. Scar had stayed here a few nights earlier and had sent me a text about a diner next door where he had eaten something like six meals. So after taking a shower, I headed to the diner while Valley Forge decided to call it a night.
Since it was so late, all I planned to eat was a salad and dessert, so I ordered the Chefs Salad to start. I kid you not, the salad came out in a bowl the size of the one I use to toss salad for a dinner party and was topped with at least two pounds of cold cuts and cheese with a big cup of salad dressing on the side. Now I understood why Scar liked this place! I tried the best I could, but I couldn’t finish it and dessert was out of the question. By the time I returned to the hotel room it was after 11:00 pm. As I was falling asleep, I remember thinking, “I wonder what breakfast will be like at that diner?”