Day 75. I got a late start out of Boiling Springs today, expecting to do a short 14 mile stroll to Darlington Shelter before today’s forecasted rain arrives. Spoiler alert for the week, it’s supposed to rain and storm nonstop, so this will probably be a common thought each morning. However, after just a few miles, I ran into old friends Scutch and Apollo, who were planning to go 15 more after that into the town of Duncannon.
I didn’t really want to do 25 miles, but they made it sound like a challenge. And a challenge, whether intentional or not, is pretty much all my competitive spirit needed to decide I could do that too. In looking at my weather app, the forecast had also shifted to clear skies until later at night … and that was all it took.
It also helped that today was another mostly flat one, as the trail wound through more pastures and farmlands. One landmark early on was called Scott’s Farm, which is actually an ATC regional office. There wasn’t much to it, besides a couple picnic benches and water spigots, but it was a friendly place to rest. The farmhouse was off limits and the water contaminated, but it was a good snack stop regardless.
I reached Darlington Shelter around 2pm and realized I could easily get to town by 7pm at my current speed. I had lunch their with a couple flip-floppers (who thought I was a bit crazy to go on), then headed north again. Noodle, one of the flip-flop hikers told me to keep a lookout for Field Trip, a friend of hers I’d soon pass ahead.
About an hour later I found him, crouching a couple feet off trail. Thinking I may have stumbled upon an emergency #2 in progress, I announced my presence and approached slowly. Thankfully, my assessment of the situation was wrong and he was instead admiring something on the ground. When I got near, he excitedly pointed out a very rare and beautiful wild flower hidden in the grass. I immediately recognized it as the official flower to my home state of Minnesota – The Pink Lady’s Slipper! I have not seen one in bloom since I was a young child, so shared in his excitement and took a few photos for myself. A beautiful find to see this rare orchid along the trail!
Later on, I had another neat sighting, as a trail crossing was marked with orange blazes for the Darlington Trail. This is probably only interesting to me, but “Orange Blaze” was stupidly the name I wanted to give myself in my pre-trip planning. I know, it’s dumb. I soon tossed that idea out and let the trail name me in it’s own way (Hello Sharkbait!). But it was neat to see the idea represented in real life.
The last 5 miles were pretty rough terrain, as my favorite rocks were back again to mock and torment me. It started to drizzle as well, which didn’t help the spirits much either. But I was hiking alongside Scutch and Apollo now, so the time passed quickly as we chatted in stride. They are a newly engaged couple from Ohio, hiking the trail together before relocating to their hometown for work. Really nice people and very strong hikers. They average 25+ miles a day! I’m actually surprised to see them, as it had been a long time since we met back in North Carolina. Apparently a bad case of food poisoning pushed them off trail for a few days, which is how I was able to catch up. Ironically, my sister and her family saw them twice over the past couple weeks, though I kept just missing them.
Around 7:15, I made it down the last mountain and into Duncannon. I somehow missed a turn about 1 mile back though, and ended up on a side trail down from Hawk Rock. It emptied in the same place, but means I missed that official mile of the AT. If I were a purist, I would have turned around and climbed back up to the junction … but I’m not a purist and consider that mile done with an asterisk.
Walking into town, I straddled the road for another couple miles until I reached the famous and historic Doyle Hotel (pictured above). I’m not sure I can justly describe this place accurately, but I’ll try. The Doyle is an institution on the AT. It is an old 3-story hotel originally built in the 1770s, and hasn’t been upgraded much since. It burned down in the early 1800s, was rebuilt and bought (then sold) by Budweiser at the turn of the 20th century, and has hosted hundreds of hikers since Jack Doyle bought it with his Irish Lottery winnings in 1944. The current owners acquired it in 2001 and are old but sweet, caring greatly for this building and the hiker community that now supports it. The bar has good food and drink as well, and the atmosphere is very friendly.
The accommodations are another story though. I enjoyed it, but anyone with TripAdvisor standards above 2-stars should pass this place up. My room has just enough space for a bed and dresser, both which could be original 18th century furniture. The carpet is at least 40 years old, and the mattress and linens could easily be as well. A bucket exists in the corner, which I assume is to collect water from the ceiling if it rains. The hotel has one communal bathroom/shower on each floor, which was riddled with water damage. As I took a shower, water dripped down on me from the shower being used above through a hole in the ceiling.
I say all this not to scare you away or defame the place, but to set the expectations of hikers who make it to Duncannon in the future. Like I said, this place is an institution and worthy of everyone’s visit. I actually like it quite a bit and plan to Nero here tomorrow while I do laundry down the street. I don’t think I could stay another night though, everyone has their limits…
Hello Neiman (Sharkbait)!
- Start Mile: 1122.7
- Start Time: 09:15
- End Mile: 1148.3
- End Time: 19:15
- Miles Hiked: 25.6
- Miles to Go: 1042.6
- Lodging: The Doyle Hotel