After a waffle breakfast at the hostel, I stopped by the general store to pick up a soda to drink at my first break, and continued along the trail.
Also in Pine Grove Furnace park is the Appalachian Trail Museum, which itself has a halfway point sign dedicated to the 50th anniversary of the AT (1069 miles in 1987).
The first mile and a half of the trail was flat, following along a stream in the park before turning into a relatively gentle uphill. Due to the easy terrain, I was making exceptional time, and skipped my first break, pushing nine miles at about 3 mph to my first stop, a deli on the road about a quarter mile off trail.
I had a nice turkey sandwich there, as well as a snickers bar, Gatorade, and a soda. Although this was a relatively large lunch, I still essentially skipped a meal, which caused me to run out of steam later in the day.
After noon brought me to a pair of rock mazes, requiring navigating a twisty path through huge boulders, and involving some rock scrambling. The mazes themselves were actually quite well marked (or it could have gone very poorly), and wasn't terribly difficult, except for two climbs.
The first involved climbing up a rock about 6 feet tall, so I had to take my pack off, lift it up and put it on the top of the rock, and then climb up myself using some other rocks for leverage. This took several minutes, mostly because I was trying to make it up without having to take my pack off.
The second involved a similar climb, but at a lower height. I was able to get halfway up, and then became stuck: tired from fewer calories than I normally would have eaten by this point (as well as the stress caused from going three hours without a break), I didn't have the energy available to actually stand up, and had to get a rock climber who was hanging out in that area to give me a push up.
Three miles later brought me to the (now) inaccurately named "Center Point Knob"), once the center of the AT long ago. It has a small monument, but no indication of mileage or year.
After descending the knob, the trail reached a corn field. Being relatively warm out, and directly exposed to the sun, this made for a miserable (if easy on the feet) hike to my stopping point for the evening, the backpackers campground just south of Boiling Springs.
This campground, really just a mowed area behind the cornfield, a thin line of trees on either side to separate from the railroad tracks and the cornfield, feels very much like an afterthought, a concession to the restriction against camping for the next 15 miles. (For people doing a 50 mile day through this area, this is the last bail-out point, unless they can get picked up at a road crossing.)
I set up my tent, and went into town, for dinner at the Boiling Springs Tavern. My lack of research again came back to bite me (because, you know, a "tavern" is just going to have beer and cheap food, right?). The tavern, it turned out, was a relatively nice restaurant (so I felt somewhat conspicuous in my smelly hiker clothes with prominent salt deposits on my chest from sweat), but the staff, and waiter David in particular, put up with me and my incessant demands for more water and more rolls. (The rolls were really very good, oven fresh, except for the last one, which arrived slightly overcooked and somewhat burnt.) I had the "chicken and crab", chicken stuffed with veggies, and garnished with crab. (I asked Dave how it was before ordering, and trying to steer me to the other specials, he said it was merely "okay". I thought it was fantastic.) Another rarity, I ordered dessert, raspberry cheesecake, which was also fantastic, despite being the only desert on the menu that isn't prepared on the premises. (I also had three new-to-me beers.)
I returned to the campground and attempted to go to sleep. We'll see how well this goes. The campground is right next to train tracks, and the guidebook calls out that they can be "noisy".