Monday, March 12, 2012

Hot Springs, NC

Saturday, 3.3.2012, was the day I had the privilege of walking the AT through Hot Springs. For me, Hot Springs is more of a purely Appalachian Trail town than Damascus. Damascus gets more business from users of the Virginia Creeper rail trail than it does from AT hikers. Rail trail users rent bikes and want their bikes shuttled to more distant points. They come in cars, and generally have more money to spend. In Hot Springs the undivided focus is on the AT, and you can see it right on the sidewalk of Bridge Street, the main street through this compact little village. There are 35 of these granite flagstones embedded in sidewalk concrete through town, plus two 'official' white painted AT logos mid-street at crossings.

Somehow the size of Hot Springs (considerably smaller than Damascus) also suited me. I felt as though everyone I met or casually passed was a trail angel or a long lost friend. They greeted me, asked about my hike, seemed genuinely interested. I felt welcome. I felt appreciated!

Of course there was the business of hiking more trail than just the town. The view at the top is from Lovers Leap, a steep rocky ascent the trail negotiates after taking you for a pleasant stroll right beside the French Broad River for half a mile.

Then the northbound hiker delves into more 'normal' trail along the ridge, eventually emerging at this wonderfully pleasant woodland pond just below my turn-around point at Mill Ridge. The pond is impounded by a unique vertical concrete dam that looks hand-poured by amateurs. Yet it stands the test of time.

I also did a leg southbound from Hot Springs, turning around at the second of the rustic 1938 vintage log shelters that I've encountered - Deer Park Shelter. This one has sleeping planks that are as polished as fine furniture, purely by long use. I found this iconic logo carved into one of the planks - it instantly became one of my favorites. I couldn't stop running my hands over the seemingly lacquered 'finish' on the wood, yet it was nothing but pure hiker blood, sweat and tears.

Thank you for being there, Hot Springs. I hope to return.


Here's a map of today's route as recorded by my trusty GPS. Click the title, which is a link to lots more photos.

AT Day 57 - Hot Springs, NC at EveryTrail
EveryTrail - Find the best Hiking in Kentucky

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