So long to the Blue Ridge Mountains. I passed the northern terminus of the
chain today a few miles before reaching the charming little town of Boiling
Springs, PA. The southern terminus of the Blue Ridge is in Georgia and the
chain goes very near our home in Roanoke, VA.
The Appalachian Mountains continue, of course, all the way to Maine. But next
I have to cross the Cumberland Valley to reach them, another fifteen miles or so
I got a taste of the valley today. Fortunately the temps have cooled a bit
(low 80s instead of 90s), the humidity was down today, and there was a nice
breeze by the time I popped out of the woods and onto the Trail shown in the
photo above. The AT winds around several fields for over a mile before reaching
I miss my mountains already!
"KNEES," "BUFFET," & "GOAT"
Jim and I both started running from Pine Grove Furnace State Park this
morning about 8 AM. He went about eight miles south on the part of the AT I ran
yesterday afternoon (and back) and I continued north. The Trail follows flat,
smooth roads in the park for about a mile before climbing about 750 feet to the
ridge of Piney Mountain (still part of South Mountain, which began back at
I could see a hiker ahead of me going up the mountain but we were going the
same pace and I didn't catch up until the top. It was "Knees," the 30-something fella
from Michigan that I talked to on Thursday. He'd stopped to talk with a retired
couple from New Hampshire, "Buffet" and "Goat." We all walked on together for a
bit. The back of my right knee hurt all night and this morning and I decided to
walk most of the day.
I asked "Goat" how he got his name. Another hiker named him that for his fast
climbing ability, especially on rocks - like a mountain goat. He said it can
also mean "old goat" and "Go AT." I forgot to ask his wife how she got her trail
name. She climbs fast but has to take the descents slowly because of a bad
knee. I can relate!
Knees and I got ahead of Buffet and Goat and got to talk a little more. He's
in kind of a career flux, trying to decide if he wants to continue being a
computer consultant. The timing was right for him to do the hike now, before he
makes any decisions. He has his wife's blessings to be gone for six months.
I left Knees when we came to a really runnable cinder-type groomed trail near
a railroad track. I just couldn't walk on it, I had to run. By then my knee hurt
less either because it was warmed up or the pain meds kicked in.
"GYPSY LULU" & "TOUK"
The Trail alternated from smooth to rocky, as usual. There were several
runnable spots today but I took it pretty easy and just hiked fast most of the
time. Some of the younger hikers can walk faster than I can, especially the ones
with light packs in the 25-30 pound range like "Gypsy Lulu," pictured above.
I was climbing up a steep, rocky hill about twelve miles into the section
when I heard a voice say, "Hello, didn't mean to scare you."
A dark-haired young
woman was sitting on a rock next to the Trail, blending in nicely with the
environment in her gray-greenish top and hiking skirt. I remembered seeing her
at the "ice cream social" yesterday at Pine Grove Furnace. She introduced
herself as "Gypsy Lulu," and thus began about three miles of hiking together,
including through The Maze, our last major boulder dance in the Blue Ridge.
(That's not to be confused with the last rocks we'll encounter, just
the last rocky summit in the Blue Ridge chain where the AT designers just have
to take hikers up and over the gnarliest rocks they can possibly find on a
ridge top. No, there are still plenty of rocks ahead. In fact, some of the most
notorious ones are just ahead near Duncannon.)
"Lulu" is really her family nickname. She's the oldest of numerous siblings
and the younger ones had trouble pronouncing "Laura." The "gypsy" part came
about because of her wanderlust and her mother's teasing about the kids raiding
the refrigerator "like a band of gypsies" when they were younger. Lulu hails
from northern Michigan.
Now 23, she has wanted to hike the AT since she was 15 but kept putting it
off as she continued her education and found work. Then her sister, who is 19,
graduated from high school and asked when Lulu was ever going to hike the Trail.
They decided they'd both do it, and here they are. I haven't met "Touk"
yet, however. She sleeps in later each morning and the sisters hike separately.
They end up at the same place each afternoon. Hopefully I'll meet Touk soon.
The sisters are having a grand time and have formed a loose group with about
ten hikers who often end up camping together. Although other people often
question her safety as a woman on the Trail, Lulu doesn't let it bother her. She
and Touk have already dealt with bears, poisonous snakes, scary things that go
bump in the night, and creeps. They'll be fine. They have less to worry about in
the woods than at home.
I didn't go to either shelter today because the two I passed on this section
were too far off the Trail to see. Don't need the bonus mileage, especially when
my knee hurts! The only reason I'd have gone would be to read and sign the Trail
registers. I had just seen the one at Pine Grove Furnace and signed one at the
end of the day in Boiling Springs.
One of the names I've been seeing is "Apple Pie." She often puts bright
stickers next to her comments in the trail registers and she bubbles over with
enthusiasm in her notations. Lulu had asked me if I'd met her yet and
told me about her trail savvy. Although still young she's already hiked the
entire Continental Divide Trail (difficult to even find parts of it, let
alone hike above treeline so much) and the whole Pacific Crest Trail. Now she's
doing the AT.
Oh, and she's from Holland!
No, I told Lulu, I hadn't had the pleasure of meeting her yet. Turns out, Jim
got to meet her first. She was sprawled out on a sheet on the lawn in front of
the regional AT office where I ended today in Boiling Springs. I was supposed to
go on another four miles but called Jim a few miles from Boiling Springs and
asked him to pick me up there. I'm so glad I did because it's a beautiful
little town. And if Jim hadn't introduced me to Apple Pie I might not have met
Jim got there a few minutes before I did. He talked with Apple Pie, browsed
the AT store/office, and walked the dogs to greet me on the wide, sandy path
where the AT follows beautiful, clear Children's Lake through town:
This has got to be one of the prettiest sections of the Trail!
After leaving the corn fields I crossed an arched stone bridge over Yellow
Breeches Creek at the edge of town. (The creek has good trout fishing.) I passed
a 1762 restored iron blast furnace; the historical marker indicated it signifies
the beginning of industrial development in the Cumberland Valley.
Boiling Springs has many old buildings from the 18th and 19th centuries.
Then I got on
the path above and followed it around the large lake to the AT office.
What a pleasant ending to a nice day of hiking (with a little running thrown
in)! I managed a 21-minute pace; I've done worse. My knee still hurts so I'm
icing it tonight and hope it holds up through the valley tomorrow. I'm not
looking forward to the next seventeen miles in the sun, crossing many major
highways (like the PA turnpike and I-81).