Appalachian Trail: Trailfest at Hot Springs North Carolina

AT North Carolina Appalachian Trail

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.

We return to the US- and get married!

Deah in April in DC tulips

One of the great things about coming back to visit the US is the chance to be a tourist in your own country.  Some of the local or near-by sights that others take for granted have a new-ness to them that is refreshing.  And the ease of public transportation and the efficiency of the US National Parks Services is a great thing.

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Great Falls National Park
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Chris on the C&O Canal

After leaving Chad, we stayed in the Washington DC for a month, looking for a house.  During that time, we explored a lot of the hot-spots of DC, visiting monuments, museums, and restaurants.  My parents came to visit, so it was great to see them and celebrate with them.  We visited the Washington and Lincoln monuments on a beautiful April day when the kites were flying, the trees were blooming, and the flowers were at their most colorful.  It was great to see my parents again- it had been almost a year since our last visit- and Dad and I enjoyed the Smithsonian together, while both my parents got to meet my new husband. (We also took advantage of a rare time when we were both in the US to get married!).

We got hitched!

In June, between Chris’s training and his deployment, we had an unexpected free week, so we split the distance between us and met in Charlotte, North Carolina.  We spent a week exploring the city, as well as nearby battlefields, the US National White Water center, the Speedway, the Biltmore House in Asheville, and the Great Smokey Mountains National Park.  The views were amazing and we learned so much about the area while we were there.  Plus, it was nice to spend some quality time together before a lengthy time apart.

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Chris and Deah in Asheville

Now Chris is on a nine month deployment, and Deah is job hunting for a librarian job in the local schools. Hopefully Chris’s work schedule will allow for us to meet for a long weekend in the early fall, or for a week at Christmas. Meanwhile, I’ve got some adjusting to the US to do! Reverse culture shock is a real thing.