My body now runs on trail time, so I’m up and ready around 6 when breakfast first starts. I eat my fill, shower, repack, and wait for the others to get ready. They eat around 8 when I’m hungry again, so I joined for second breakfast. We jump back on trail at the park. We’ve been lucky to dodge most of the rain, but today we are expected to get 1/2-1″ this afternoon. A few hundred feet into our hike we crossed the Mason Dixon Line and entered into the Union.
The tail crosses dozens of roads in this section and wanders in some nice parks as well. For lunch we stopped at Antietam Shelter where I was hoping to use the privy. My plans were thwarted when I opened the door and saw this 4″ demon on the wall. I believe it’s a dark fishing spider, but I didn’t stick around long enough to confirm my suspicions.
I decided to hold it until the next shelter. Here is where I met Zebra, who is joining our group for the foreseeable future. At the next shelter, with a spider-free privy, I met a few aspiring 2019 thru-hikers. They had questions, and I was happy to answer them all. A few miles ahead, I met Rampage and Minisaurous where we decided to go six more miles to Quarry Gap Shelter. Shortly after setting off, the skies opened up and rain fell in full force until we arrived at the shelter.
Our walk was over some dangerous rocky areas that were tricky in nice weather, so the rain didn’t help. We moved very quickly down trail. I noticed I’ve pushed too hard when I arrived at the shelter a bit nauseated. The shelter here was wonderful and had a caretaker named “Inn Keeper.” It’s two structures that sleep four with a large, covered porch and picnic area. The shelter was fairly full, so I decided to sleep on the picnic table. The roof above me had a large skylight, which made nice for watching the rain.
Today we hiked 20.8 miles, making our new total 878/2199.7.
Sleeping on a picnic table really isn’t all that bad. I left the shelter at 7 a.m. and met Mustachio about 100 yards down trail. He said he liked my pace (around 3-3.5 mph) and wanted to hike together. He kept up with me for about 5 miles until I stopped for a break. He used to be an MMA fighter and sparred with a lot of older big name fighters.
The rocks were starting to chew up my feet. It’s reminiscent of Georgia and the rocky terrain I experienced there. As we got closer to the shelter for lunch, we decided to postpone lunch and hike to the store where they do the half-gallon challenge and eat there. Along the way I noticed a truck with a “trail magic” sign on the tailgate. I opened it up and discovered sodas, Powerade, and chips. It was left by Backwards Hat, a hiker I’ve crossed paths with a handful of times weeks prior. I crossed the halfway point about two miles farther!
We arrived around 2 p.m. and met up with Rampage, Backwards Hat, and a few other hikers. Backwards Hat was doing his half-gallon challenge and being filmed for his vlog followers. The challenge consists of eating a half-gallon of ice cream in one sitting. Many try and fail, more try and throw up. I decided to modify the challenge and do the “half-pound” challenge. I ordered a hiker burger with a half-pound patty, three strips of bacon, an egg, grilled onions, mushrooms, tomato, lettuce, pickles, ketchup, mayo, and a side of fries. I was successful! Backwards Hat also finished his half-gallon challenge.
Near the store here is another ATC museum, so we walked through and talked to the caretakers. With eight miles to go, I grabbed my pack and strolled back into the woods. Rain was forecast again today, but it held off until we made camp and ate supper. With the rain coming down, we all climbed into tents early and headed to bed. Today we walked 24.5 miles, now totaling 902.5/2199.7
We had a short day planned to Boiling Springs today. There is a free campsite right before town we are planning to stay at. The pool in town is our ultimate goal. I hiked through the rock maze this morning, which added a nice element of climbing into the typical monotonous plodding I generally do. There are a few parts that were over my head, and I had to throw my poles up and over to hoist myself up.
Today I had a pretty low level of morale and debated leaving and going back home. I’m not in pain, but I don’t feel like hiking anymore now that I’ve tasted the freedom and luxury my brain had long forgotten.
I ran into a trail runner who said it was “Foundry Day” in Boiling Springs, which is their small town fair. He promised good food, so my pace quickened. I walked through a few corn and wheat fields that reminded me of home. I found the campsite shortly after and discovered it was right next to the train tracks.
I set up and then walked the half-mile to town. The town was a buzz with hundreds of people in the streets checking out the local vendors, artists, and food. I walked up the street to the food area and found my group. I got a pulled pork sandwich and a s’more-flavored funnel cake.
After looking through some stands, we headed to the pool. The pool was larger than Olympic size and had three other pools around it of varying depths for smaller kids. We took the rest of the afternoon cooling off and getting sunburns near the water.
After swimming we took a quick shower at the pool and went to the local tavern.
I arrived a little early, so I went to the bar to order a drink. The bartender was very nice and asked me to have a seat. I took a chair next to a couple who immediately turned to me and asked if I was hiking. I ended up chatting with them and half the bar for the next half hour. I mentioned I was possibly moving, so they spent some time selling me on central Pennsylvania. I saw my group enter, so I grabbed them and brought them in so they could meet them all.
I’ve found many locals enjoy the hikers and love to hear the stories. We spent another 15 minutes chatting before our waitress got us our table. After supper we went back to the campsite and noticed the fireflies were out in swarms. I’ve not seen them yet this year, so it was a pleasant surprise. In the distance, there was a huge outdoor concert going on with spotlights racing across the sky. It started to rain as we arrived at camp, so we all jumped into our tents and tried to sleep. The train tracks next to my tent were heavily traveled, and four trains stormed passed overnight. They were incredibly loud and shook my tent.
Today I walked 11.6 miles, now totaling 914.1/2199.7.