A lovely drive through the southern Virginia countryside, with the mountains in the background. The trees down here are bursting with spring colors; white, yellow, pink, green, even red and purple blooms. And I love the random clusters of daffodils along the highway, reminding me of the bluebonnets in Texas.
I arrived in Hot Springs, North Carolina, around 2 pm. I knew Chris had camped the night before at mile 253, so he’d have to hike 20 miles to get to Hot Springs. I figured he’d get in around 5. So that gave me a couple of hours to walk around town, check out the Trailfest Weekend going on in town, and explore the crazy 170 year old inn we were staying at. It’s a beautiful house with crazy rooms, sweeping staircases, slanting floors, and wrap around porches on both floors. Owned by a 3-time thru-hiker, it’s $20 a night for hikers. What a deal.
The inn, built in 1840, was later used during World War I as a boarding house for wives of the German officers who were being held as prisoners of war across town (three blocks away) at the Mountain Park Hotel, next to the mineral springs. Later, the house was a boardinghouse for teachers who worked at the Dorland-Bell Institute, a school for Appalachian girls.
Chris came limping into town at 5:20 and after showering and changing, we walked through the town. He was so happy to grab a beer, some salad greens, and hot wings and sit on the patio of the Quarter House Tavern, overlooking the French Broad River. He told me about his hike- some rain, some wind, ice chunks and heavy frost, but no snow. One bear north of Clingmans Dome and some cool birds, two deer, and lots of hikers. In town we ran into Indiana, Rhode Island Red, and Admiral Caboose, all thru-hikers he had met on the trail in the past two weeks. After dinner a band played on the patio and it was a very relaxing evening.
On Sunday we walked around Hot Springs, had a yummy pancake breakfast with a bunch of hikers, and visited the Hot Springs spa. On the banks of the French Broad River, the spa has a dozen outdoor hot tubs, enclosed on 3 sides by a gazebo, fed by the hot mineral springs themselves. The open side looks out over the river and it was a lovely long soak and a pleasant way to spend an hour. In fact, we enjoyed it so much we went back the next day for another. After a “Hungry Hiker skillet” breakfast and a long soak, Chris got back on the AT to make his way 120 miles to Elk Park NC, where I will see him next Sunday.
My dear sweetheart is hiking the Appalachian Trail for the next few months. For the past month he’s been reading all about the trail and what to pack and what food to buy. He’s a pretty experienced camper and hiker already, so he pretty much knows what to do. Last week he purchased all his food for the first month and got it all measured out and packed away. And finally this weekend we drove down to Georgia to get him started.
We stayed at Amicalola Falls State Park lodge, one of the two main places that people start the trail. The AT actually starts at Springer Mountain, GA, but there is an 8 mile approach trail that leads from Amicalola Falls to the trailhead. While we were at Amicalola, of course, we visited the waterfall, a bit of a tradition with us (no arrests this time!). Long story, from our travels in Africa.
On Saturday morning we drove to Springer Mountain and parked. From the parking lot, it is .9 miles to the southern terminus, so I hiked that part with him. He signed in at the registry, put on his pack, and off he went. I drove back to Virginia, stopping at Nantahala Outdoor Center in North Carolina, to deliver his first resupply package, and I also drove through Hot Springs NC, where I will connect with him in two weeks, along with a Trail Days festival there.
A little trail history: the trail officially began in 1935, after the US government purchases bits and pieces of land to make one long continuous trail/park. About 2,000 people try to hike the whole thing each year. About 17% succeed. The trail is 2, 108.5 miles long.
Good luck to all the hikers this year! You can do it!