Day 98 – June 13 -23.1 miles – Mt. Holly Springs to Darlington Shelter
We got back on the trail a little after 8 and it was already hot and humid. It looked like it may be a long day.
About 2 miles into the day the Tramily came to an area with large boulders called The Rock Maze. After a little bit of climbing we made it through just fine.
Four miles after the rock maze we came to the original AT midpoint. Because of many trail reroutes over the years, the original midpoint was located 23.7 miles away from 2017’s midpoint.
The sad thing about passing all the midpoints was that we realized that we had fewer miles to the finish than from the start. While that may sound great to someone who was having a miserable time, to us it was bittersweet. Getting past the midpoint was a major accomplishment, but we were having such a great time that we didn’t want to be reminded that it would eventually come to an end.
Not long after leaving the original midpoint we found ourselves in farm country.
In all my research on the AT all anyone talked about was how rocky Pennsylvania was. They always made a point to say that the rocks were only in the northern part of the state, but no one mentioned how beautiful the southern part of the state was. It was a pleasant surprise.
After walking through the fields far a while, we came to the town of Boiling Springs. On the way in, we passed an old blast furnace from the 1700’s.
The AT passed right through a nice little park in the center of town. The clear water in the pond looked very inviting.
After passing through the park we stopped at the ATC mid-Atlantic office. We asked the woman working there if we were allowed to swim in the pond. She said that the pond was fed from several springs and that the water was very cold. If we really wanted to swim we could go to a certain area of the pond to do so.
We dropped our packs at the ATC so we could walk around town unencumbered. It was a strange feeling to leave our packs somewhere. They had became such an integral part of our lives we didn’t feel complete without them.
Stoat and I grabbed lunch at a pizza place where we saw Rocket, Hamilton, Cash, and Songbird.
After lunch we got back on trail. We never did go for a swim.
After we left Boiling Springs the Tramily was back in farm country.
Somewhere along the way we bumped into Hobo Joe and Kim. We wound up hiking with them for a little bit. Hobo Joe was up front and as he walked, a trail of small white butterflies / moths arose behind him.
There was a short road walk when the trail went over a bridge that spanned a major highway. During the road walk the temperature seem to spike. For most of the day the heat didn’t bother us too much but all of a sudden it hit us. As soon as the trail left the road we headed for the nearest shady spot. As it happened, the locals had same idea.
Stoat and I got there first, Hobo Joe and Kim came next, followed by Zeus and Flashfire. We sat there, drank some water, and waited for our bodies to cool off a little. After 10-15 minutes we were good to go.
Walking through the farmland was a nice change of pace. Despite the high temperatures, I still found the area to be beautiful.
With about four miles left to hike the Tramily came across a barn owned by the ATC. They had a picnic table and a water pump there. As we were filling up on water we decided that we would eat our dinner there. It was getting late so we figured we would eat, hike four miles, then go straight to bed.
Near the barn was a calm river that people on inner tubes would float down. As we were eating, two women in bikinis walked into the parking lot adjacent to the barn. Flashfire was saying something to us but no one was listening. After a few seconds she looked at us an snapped her fingers. “Boys? Hello?”, she said while looking around. When she finally saw what we were looking at she said “Oh, Come on! Really?” Then after a moment she said,”Ok, not bad….”
A mile or two after we left the barn I had a problem. I really had to use the bathroom. To our left was a dense thicket of thorn bushes. To our right was a river. There was no place to go. I unbuckled all the straps on my backpack to relieve any pressure on my abdomen. Then I unbuckled the belt on my pants. Soon even that wasn’t enough, so I resorted to doing some sort of lamaze breathing. I absolutely did not want to soil myself on trail but time was running out. Finally, after what felt like an eternity, the trail led us into a sparsely wooded area. It would have to do. I said ” Stoat! Watch for any hikers!” and shuffled (running would have spelled disaster) off trail as fast I could. Stoat shouted after me, “What am I going to say to them?” I didn’t know or care at that point.
Thankfully no hikers came by and I averted disaster.
At the end of the day there was a 800 foot climb that, for some reason, I was a little nervous about. Somehow the thought got into my head that, since we hadn’t had any real climbs in the past few days, I had lost any ability to get to the top. Maybe the heat was affecting me more than I realized.
I was all by myself as I approached the climb. To psyche my self up, I screamed inside my head, “I am a thru hiker! And I am not afraid!” It’s super cheesy, I know, but it worked. I absolutely attacked that hill. I was practically running and it felt effortless. I broke out into a smile as I flew up the mountain.
Its funny what makes a person go from loving someone to being in love with someone. When I think about it, its not usually one big thing but the culmination of many smaller things.
It was during my ascent of some no name hill, in the farm lands of Pennsylvania, that I went from loving the Appalachian trail to being in love with it. It now had my heart and I knew right then and there, that I’d be with it to the end.
Near the top of the climb was a throne made out of rough hewn stone. Stoat was sitting there waiting for me. When I got there he mentioned that he saw me flying up the hill. I nodded and took a seat beside him. As we sat there watching the colors fade in the sky, I thought about how lucky I was to be hiking the AT, and how special it was to be able to experience it all with my brother by my side.