“My feet hurt,” I said. “And it makes no sense. This is flat!”
Indeed, flatter than everywhere else we’ve hiked on this journey. The trail makes its way through the small town of Boiling Springs, where it follows the edge of the spring basin to pop out at the ATC Regional Headquarters. It’s Sunday, so the doors are locked, but we still peek in the hiker box, read the register, and top off our water bottles. The promise of a parade is in the air. Veterans gather beneath banners in red, white, and blue at the town clock; families find a parking space and take their lawn chairs to set up and await the festivities. But we’re slackpacking, and we only have so many hours in the day to get to Scott Farm, so we move on.
Flatness is relative when your feet hurt. The trail follows a narrow corridor between the farms, sticking to the shade for blissful long stretches on this sweltering day. Clambering over a stile, we stay ahead of a tractor making hay while the sun shines. At a trailhead with a toilet – never pass one! – I call Jim & Ginny to let them know we’re behind schedule. No dallying today, but I can’t handle the pace. My feet just hurt too much. Thinking about them clouds my enjoyment of our small finds: an 1800s cemetery behind an elaborate iron fence, a snake – perhaps a copperhead – hidden in leafy branches dangling over a stream, worrying a bird’s nest. And then I slip on a rock. The pain gets worse. I slow down even more.
In one of the canopied corridors, we find Timex and Domino in the shade. They were trying to cross the whole valley in one go, and Timex was very sore. At age 73, she’s back to finish a thru-hike she had to abandon several years ago – “Doctor’s orders,” she said. Seeing how tired and sore she was took my mind off my own soreness. We told them we’d see about getting them a ride with our friends to a motel. And took off with a renewed sense of urgency.
More farms. More hills. More stiles. Sixteen miles today, and more, and it feels it. I keep thinking Scott Farm is just around the corner, but no. A long boardwalk gives me hope. Sure enough, it leads to the bridge that leads to the parking area, and here are Jim and Ginny, waiting. We kept looking behind us, but no sign of Timex or Domino. John left his pack.
“I’ll go back,” he said, clearly worried. Fifteen minutes pass. Jim decides to follow up and find John. The men return, neither having seen the two ladies. We scout the road crossings as we ride back towards Carlisle, hoping they caught the ride they needed.