Today we were excited about entering Hot Springs, North Carolina, and had about 3 miles of uphill and about 10 miles of downhill before we got there. Normally that may sound great, but 10 miles of downhill can really do a number on your feet. Ouch! Of course, as we hiked we practiced our orders: "Yes, I'd like a cheeseburger with bacon, and fries, and A LARGE COKE, please." Keith predicted that if we kept a steady pace, we could be there by 3. Sure enough, we left the woods and stepped onto a road at 2:59. We felt like we'd never get there, however, because we came down the mountain on switchback after switchback, within view of the town for a very long time before actually reaching it.
When we entered the town, we started going on the road the wrong way, and a nice elderly man yelled from his front porch, 'Are you looking for the trail?" We nodded yes, and he pointed us towards town. We never could find any blazes, was the problem, but soon noticed that the AT symbol was stamped in the sidewalk that led all the way to town. Sweet!
We passed Blue Fox on the way to our hotel. Hadn't seen him in about a week. He was getting on the trail today, however, so we would have to hike with him another day. We reached our hotel, The Iron Horse Station, and got the coolest room - it's a historic building, and the rooms are very quaint, charming, but with all of the modern amenties. Very cool! And with a huge claw foot tub for soaking. We grabbed a big carton of Epsom salt at the local Dollar General, and later soaked in the tub eating ice cream.
We met Stingray and Weatherman at the local Spring Creek Tavern for a really great supper, and exchanged trail stories. Stingray told me about hiking in the Whites (New Hampshire), and about how fast the weather there can change, as he almost got hypothermia. Good to know. Weatherman had received a food supply from home, but no money, so we bought his dinner, and he was going to camp on the trail for the night. We tried to set him up in the hostel, but he was happy to stay on the trail. Since he grew up in the Smokies, I enjoyed hiking with him and he would point out a lot of the local plants that I had never seen before.
When I made reservations, it never occurred to me that the Iron Horse Station had something to do with trains, but we began noticing that a train came through every hour on the railroad tracks just across the street from the hotel. Uh-oh. The scenes from My Cousin Vinnie began creeping into my mind. The trains finally quit running around 10, and they didn't start up again until 5 a.m.!
Location:Hot Springs, NC