That made the guys feel pretty good about themselves as hikers.
I remember way back in Georgia, when we first met Bman, he had told us that the trail was a lot like baseball - from Springer Mountain, Georgia to Damascus was spring training; from Damascus to the White Mountains of New Hampshire, was regular season, and from the Whites to Mt. Katahdin was the playoffs. We are definitely feeling like we have been pretty well conditioned to this sport, yet, when we peek ahead in the AT Guidebook at the White Mountains, those elevation profiles look pretty intimidating!
When we left camp this morning, we knew we would have two small hills to get over before we entered the Cumberland Valley, and would have it mostly flat the rest of the day, except for a good-sized mountain at the end of the day. It seems like the shelters are always at the tops of mountains. After just a couple of miles, we reached a sign posted welcoming us to the Cumberland Valley, and also warning us there was no camping allowed in the valley - which went on for the nexty 17 miles. Our plan was to hike 18 for the day to the Darlington Shelter on the north end of the valley. I am still amazed that Spider can handle these miles.
We left the forest and entered a huge cornfield. It was actually really pretty. The corn was so very deep green, and glossy, and the farms that we saw were so picturesque, we really enjoyed the change of scenery. We never really saw anyone in the fields. Most of the day, we skirted fields, occasionally passing right through the middle of them. When we would skirt them, at least the trail routed us through the edge of the woods, so we were in the shade. It's amazing what a difference in temperature the shade can make! We also passed through beautiful wheatfields, but mainly the corn seemed to make up the majority of the fields we saw. I finally had to stop myself from taking so many pictures of corn and farms!
About 4 miles before our intended campsite, we entered the town of Boiling Springs, Pennsylvania, which none of us knew a thing about. The first thing Spider spotted was the city pool. He wanted to go swimming. Unfortunately, we reached there at 9 in the morning, and it didn't open til 11. If we would have timed it better, they let hikers take a hot shower here for $1 - what a deal! When we first hit the town , Keith spotted a truck just like his, except it was red parked in the road. He was anxious to show the guys in our group where his trail name came from, so they all gathered around the old pickup. Unfortunately, when we did this, we walked right past a white blaze that would have led us into the woods to the right. Oops! We walked right on up the street, and right away noticed that we had run out of blazes. A lady saw us, obviously looking lost, and pointed us up a side street, saying, 'Are you looking for the trail? It's up there." We walked that way a bit, and spotted a blaze way up the street, but knew that somehow we had missed a section. We backtracked, and eventually saw the trail that we had missed, and went back and backtracked through the woods. Along the way, we kept passing trout fishermen. Apparently, Boiling Springs is named after 30 springs that bubble up at the surface, and feed the beautiful lake that runs through their very scenic city park. The water pumps about 22 million gallons of crystal clear water a day at 53 degrees - perfect for trout. There were people fishing everywhere! This water apparently enabled the iron industry to do well here in the 1800's, and once again, we saw the stone remnants of an old rock furnace nearby.
The trail led us right beside that beautiful lake right up through the middle of their city park. They had planters everywhere, and a gazebo, and historic homes along the water on the opposite shore. It could not have been any prettier! We soon reached the Atlantic Region ATC office, which was not open yet, and decided to check out a cafe that was one block over. We had heard it had a great breakfast. It was called Cafe 101, and was just the coolest cafe, located in a historic home. These people really did breakfast up right. You could eat inside, or outside on the shady patio. When we walked in, there was Yosemite and Jaybird, eating their breakfasts. Yosemite's was gone, but Jaybird was eating eggs benedict and blueberry pancakes! Most of us ordered Backpacker Platters, and we had the most wonderful food to fuel us up the trail. I enjoyed a large omelette with everything in it, bacon, and homefries, and then a large latte that was served up in a beautiful, large mug. I was one happy camper! They also had an in-house bakery, and after breakfast, Keith had chocolate mousse for dessert! As I said, this was a great stop! After a breakfast like that, I always feel great, full of energy, and hike like Super Woman! lol!
We hiked on north (sad to leave Cafe 101, as they also serve lunch and dinner!), and soon discovered that we were given incorrect information about our day ahead. Someone had told Shadow that we would hike all day through a residential area, and since this was Saturday, there had been talk about Yogi'ing food from people grilling in their yards. Instead, "residential" should have been "agricultural." All we saw all day was cornfield after cornfield, and farm after farm. We did not see any other people the rest of the day, except a few dayhikers. I was happy with this turn of events, as I was not excited about hiking through a residential area.
We had a break, and Swamprat and I got left behind, because we had to use the restroom. We are used to catching up, if we need to take a break like this. As he and I hiked, trying to catch up, we spotted the coolest graveyard just a few feet from the trail, kind of hidden in the woods. It had a rock wall around it, topped by some rusty iron fencing. The headstones were all from the 1800's, and it was overgrown, but the coolest thing, was it was overgrown with orange lilies. Since this was in the shade of the forest, the lilies were reaching high for sunlight, and it was just a gorgeous setting. We went in and investigated the dates on the headstones, and took pictures. This was obviously a family plot for the Chambers family.
We hiked on, passing farm after farm, still not caught up, because we had stopped to look at the graveyard (and we figured the others probably had not). We also kept stopping to take pictures of the beautiful farms, and once again, I don't think the others were stopping for all of the Kodak moments. As we approached the bridge over I-81, we lost the blazes, and were standing there, trying to figure out if the trail went over the interstate, when a lady and 3 little girls came out of the neighboring farm. The farm was huge, and from the look of the family, I'm guessing they were Amish. The mom was hauling a big ice chest! We got our hopes up, and Swamprat went to meet them, and offered to carry the ice chest. The mom told him it was their first attempt to trail magic! Inside were iced down Pepsis and Mountain Dews. It was a really warm day, and we had left the shade of the forest a while back, so we were so happy to get a cold drink. The girls were really shy and didn't say much. They all had on long dresses, and the mom had on the little white hat that you normally see Amish women where. We thanked them, and they also pointed us in the right direction. She said there used to be a blaze on the utility pole on the bridge, but it had faded. We passed over I-81, just as Mit Romney's tour bus passed under us.
In about another 1/2 mile we found F100, Shadow and Spider resting in the shade by a footbridge. They were so excited (not) to find out that we had been given trail magic! lol. We all took a nice long break in the shade, looked at the AT Guide, and decided that we only had 2 more miles to go to reach camp. We passed the ATC Work Center (for trail maintenance), and filled up our water bottles there. It was on the banks of the beautiful Conodoquinet Creek, and if we would have seen a rope swing, we all would have been in the water. There were people canoeing and kayaking down it.
We hiked on, and passed through a small pedestrian tunnel under Hwy 944. After spending all day on flat trail, we finally reached the final climb of the day - about 1000 feet. For some reason, it felt good to be going uphill again. Not sure why. Near the top, someone had built a large rock bench, and it was right where you had a perfect view of the valley in the distance. We sat there a while and caught our breath, and enjoyed the view before the final push to the top.
When we reached the top, and Darlington Shelter, there were some Boy Scouts camped there also, and we found Jaybird and Kindle Ninja. Jaybird is a bird watcher, and he taught me about pishing. I had never heard of this, but he had this repetitive sound he would use to call birds in near him, so he could see them. It sounds kind of like static to me. I'm definitely going to try this someday. I told him about my bird encounter a couple of days ago, and he said it was most likely a tanager - which is exactly what my father-in-law had e-mailed me as well. If you are curious about pishing, see this: http://birding.about.com/od/birdingbasics/a/Pishing.htm
That night, we played Uno at the shelter picnic table with Kindle, Spider and Shadow. F100 won the last game, and he claims, that's the only one that counts. His rules, I guess! We all turned in about 8:00.
Camped at Darlington Shelter, mile 1129.5.