Hot Springs, North Carolina –> Spring Mountain Shelter: 11 miles
Total AT Miles: 284.7
Morning in the Laughing Heart Hostel on our final day in Hot Springs is a depressing, stressful time. At least before the walking begins. But I always feel like this during the transition between stationary and moving. And it always passes once my pack is swung onto my back or my leg over the bar of my bike.
I cook breakfast for myself, Orion, and Bahala Nah whose birthday is today. I scramble another dozen eggs while the spaghetti ingredients – onion, sausage, and tomato – cook. I fry the eggs and add the filling. To top the omelettes, I add leftover spaghetti sauce made by Orion last night and as much parmigiana as I dare. Delicious, filling, and fun to make. I miss cooking on a “real” stove.
Orion leaves heading up the trail. I spend a while longer working on the blog then walk out of town myself ending the anxiety of the morning. My pack is heavy and the walk is a bit of an uphill slog. We make it to camp before dark just in time for snow to fall.
Today begins like yesterday: breakfast followed by hostel work. This morning, we change things up. I whip up omelettes with help from Mountain Goat who makes potato pancakes, “hashies” as she calls ’em, on the second burner of the hotplate. The real kicker is she is cooking in a full panda onesie. Most would just wear an apron!
After breakfast, I clean the bathrooms and Orion takes care of the rooms. We help Tie load a car full of stuff to go to a garage. Then, with work complete we play. I found a rock climbing harness in the hiker box and, with 50ft of rope purchased from the outfitter, I climb a tree forgetting where I am for quite some time. I climb to the top advancing my rope as I climb and then I swing. I walk out limbs leaping to the next and I hang, upside down of course. I’m a tree guy by trade you see so my behavior is not as abnormal as it would seem. Here’s a link for photo’s of tree climbing and chainsaws: Pittsburgh, Pa: Three Seasons in the Hometown
While I’m climbing the tree, Orion is in a chapel next to the hostel playing the piano. I walk over when I’m good and tired and I sit and listen. He’s fantastic. Seriously. Mountain Goat and Finch join in the merry music making. Mountain Goat plays the piano just as well as Orion. I’m taking aback watching her lose herself in her music.
A man whose name I’ve forgotten (sorry!) hears us playing and joins in on his guitar. To think people pay for shows such as this! When he’s done, Finch barrows the guitar and plays for a while herself losing herself as much as Mountain Goat.
When the music dies we wander into town for dinner at the bar. Dinner turns silly as salad is stuffed into a mouth. I have a photo of the ordeal but am not posting out of kindness… Orion and I split an appetizer. We have spaghetti to be cooked at the hostel. Fun and affordable.
In a soft squishy bed I wake ready to tackle the day. First order of business? Breakfast! I turn the dial of the two-burner hotplate to high adding a stick of butter to sauté onion and tomato. While they cook, I crack a dozen eggs over the compost bin scrambling them with a bit of milk from the fridge leftover from a previous days hiker. When the veg is ready the eggs are added along with a bit of fresh, steamed broccoli donated by Jenga. Then, we feast!
Our next order of business is hostel work. Tie takes me into the first of three bathrooms and demonstrates the cleaning procedure: toilets bleached, scrubbed, and wiped down with paper towels. Wash hands. Shower bleached, scrubbed, and sprayed clean. Sinks washed, floor swept, and all surfaces commonly touched thoroughly bleached as well. No Norovirus here!
While I’m taking care of bathrooms, Orion is cleaning and preparing the rooms for the next visitors. In all, our work takes about 45 minutes before we are free to enjoy the rest of our stay. More than fair I’d say. Thanks Tie!
The highlight of the day is definitely the hot springs for which the town is named. For around $15, Dr. Kool-Aid, Orion, and me, Kodak, soak for an hour in warm, mineral springs. For the highlight it is, you’d think I’d have more to say besides wonderful and relaxing! But that they were. The warm spring water – I wished it were hotter – relieved our bodies of the weeks of tension caused by the lives we carry on our backs.
For dinner we splurge again eating at the towns finest restaurant: Iron Horse Station. The Iron Horse used to be the towns train station and still bears the high ceilings and brick walls. I order fried chicken that comes cooked to perfection. I’m not kidding when I say it’s the best meal I’ve eaten in months. And I’m not just saying that because I’ve been eating ramen and mac ‘n cheese every night!
To top off our already wonderful day, we join friends at their rented house for a bonfire. Someone tosses in a packet of powder that turns the fire blue and green. Beers are pulled from the fridge and a bottle of moonshine fresh from the hills is passed ’round the circle.
Deer Park Mountain Shelter –> Hot Springs, NC: 3.2 miles
Total AT miles: 273.7
A cold morning in the shelter keeps us snuggled, but not for long. Town calls and a famous one at that. We quickly pack our belongings and walk, sometimes run, into town. We satiate our hunger at the local bar where we run into Moonboots and the crew. They’ve been in town a while and filling their bellies before heading out. It is good to see everyone.
Next, we search for lodging. We tried contacting a woman about a cabin but with little reception in the woods were unable. We called when we arrived, but she went hiking! Oh well. Across the street is the Laughing Heart Hostel. We laid in the grass snacking on a bowl of apples and strawberries, generously donated by a local church, while we tried to decide.
The decision was made for us when Solo asked for two work-stay volunteers. He and his friend were heading out of town and his partner, Tie, needed some hands. Orion and I gladly accepted the position. We set up home in the warm and friendly hostel then got busy with chores before relaxing the night away.