I arrived in Hot Springs, North Carolina, around 2 pm on a Saturday in April. 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. He saw 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 delightful 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.