Random campsite: 1106.2 Buck-Off Farm: 1121.1 Total miles: 14.9 Since we didn't have a particular deadline anymore we slept in a bit before heading off on our 15 mile day. After about an hour we met the local ridge runner, PJ. We talked to him for a bit about the upcoming rocks in PA. He said that the real pain begins after Hamburg, PA. However, he also said during his thru hike in 2012, he managed (somehow) to hike the second half of the trail, from about where we are now to Katahdin, in just over a month (after recovering from a stress fracture early in the trail and missing six weeks). That would mean he would have had to average about 30 miles a day to keep that pace. We aren't planning for that, but it did give us confidence that we'd be able to make it by September 7. We pushed a bit to fill up on water and a snack. Grant, being a hiking robot (hence the pistons for calves), kept hiking without a snack or water. In the end, it may have gotten him to town earlier, but he did get caught in the afternoon weather.
Right at the junction of the 0.1 mile side trail to the Alec Kennedy Shelter and the AT, we notice huge dark clouds moving in. We had heard from PJ that there might be an afternoon storm (at around 3, and it was 2:45). We started to double check the weather on the phone. All morning the temperature had held at around 90F, and the internet said a real feel of just over 100. Suddenly, the temperature plummeted and 20 mph winds started up and Tyler looked up from the phone and yelled, "Run!" We ran, full packs and all, down the side trail and made it to the shelter just as the sky opened up. We stayed unelectrocuted and dry (at least from rain). The downpour flooded the ground around the shelter in no time, and we decided it was probably a good time for lunch since the rain should blow over in just thirty minutes. We chatted with some section hikers in the shelter, ate lunch, and sure enough, about forty minutes later the rain had completely stop. Thebsun even came out! We continued on our way as if nothing had happened.
After a couple miles in the woods, the last miles were over the flattest terrain we have encountered on the trail. The Cumberland Valley, PJ had said, is actually flat. We were skeptical, since we had been burned a few times before, but he was right. It was two miles over farmland into Boiling Springs. When we made it to the adorable town of Boiling Springs, complete with a manmade, fish stocked lake, with a healthy population of adult and baby ducks, we met up with Rabbit who we hadn't seen since Hot Springs (mile 270). Apparently he tore up his feet pretty good, so he was taking a couple weeks off (he had been two weeks ahead of us). We met his wife, Autumn, and caught up on his hike. He should catch us again in a week or so, so hopefully we'll get to hang with the two of them again soon. They are definitely people we'd like to hike with.
We made it to the classy Boiling Springs Tavern at 5, where Peregrine and Grant were enjoying a couple beers. Chopper, Bagheera, and Savior were also there and about to head out to a locals house for the night. The local man, a classic car collector and retired helicopter pilot, is an unlisted trail angel who's been putting up a lot of hikers this season. We heard he recently had quite the party with 21 hikers camping all over his lawn.
Peregrine bought us a couple of ciders, and we chatted for a while before ordering food. It seems like, suddenly, the quality of food is increasing (and we don't think it's because we're just more hungry). We think we might be getting actual nutrition, rather than just calories, from the food we're ordering now. Tyler had a delicious veal and polenta and Emily had spaghetti and meatballs with an elegant marinara sauce. Peregrine hit the road at 6 to get another ten miles so he'd be able to meet his father in Duncannon tomorrow afternoon. He'll soon be visiting friends in Philadelphia for a couple of days though, so we'll catch him again soon.
While at the bar, the bartender told us about a new hostel run by a woman named Lisa. We didn't want to impose any more hikers on the local guy, so we gave Lisa a call. She came to pick us up and drove us on down to Buck Off Hostel. The bunk room was a little shed (cute, well furnished, with comfortable beds, and two lean mean grilling machines to enjoy the all you can eat pressed grilled cheeses and hot dogs). Twenty bucks got us a bunk, laundry, and a beer (of which we got a few more). The hostel was also home to three dogs (Max, Kimber, and Patriot), four roosters, a number of chickens, two horses, and two cats (Mr. Buttons, and a more evil cat that seems to only like hikers due to their weird smells). They have five acres, so it's a spacious property, but the backyard woods make it feel private and comfortable.
After getting clean, we hung around the little firepit with Lisa and her husband, Sean. Sean used to hike, mountaineer, and backpack a lot when he was younger. One of his trips even brought him to the North Pole, and one of his close friends he did a lot of mountaineering with, was the first diabetic to complete the seven summits. We shared stories from the trail with them. Lisa, who may be one of the most energetic and lively people we've met on our trip so far (she does work in the ER), showed us the incredible range of tricks she's taught Kimber, an Australian shephard dog.
Before heading to bed, we watched Tommy Boy on the little VCR TV in the bunkhouse, in particular since Grant had never seen it. Despite being tired, we stayed up for the entire movie. Grant and Tyler headed to bed afterwards, but Emily may have had a little more trouble since the little evil cat took a particular interest in her. Guess that means she smelled the weirdest out of the three of us.