Day 31: Goodbye Hot Springs


Appalachian Trail: Day #31

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.

Orion made spaghetti dinner for us last night so I cooked breakfast.
Orion enjoying his omelette.
Appalachian Trail: Maine to Georgia!
The hallway of the Laughing Heart Hostel.
Tie of the Laughing Heart Hostel and her touring bike that a tired tourer practically gave to her. Somebody was tired of bike touring 😦
These guys are stocking the stream in Hot Springs with trout.
Flying fish!
Lindsay and Patrice are filming for a documentary on female thru-hikers. www,
Linsay and Patrice interviewing Lady Catherine.
The river flowing through Hot Springs.
Leaving Hot Springs, the trail turns off the road and follows the river.
Then climbs a rocky mountain.
Someone drew this on a tree. Art or Graffiti?
Little flowers along the trail.
Dr. Kool-Aid taking in the serenity of this pond on a lunch break.


A bridge crosses the highway. I
“Love all. Exclude none.”
Squeezing water through a Sawyer water filter into the bladder of his pack.
And time for a back-flush. Water filters clog over time. To clear them out, Dr. Kool-AId simply allows water to flow from the bladder in his pack back through the filter into the dirty water bag.
This mouse looks so peaceful in his little grave: a hollow of a tree.
The hollow where the mouse lies to rest.
The view from a tower on top of a mountain.
Descending in the wet, windy conditions felt a little sketchy.
Cherokee Nation Forest.

Day 30: Merry Music Making and a Panda

Appalachian Trail: Day #30

Hot Springs, North Carolina: Zero Miles

Total AT Miles: 273.2

??!!!! Mountain Goat found a panda onesie in the hiker box. Of course she had to wear it!

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.

My Shadow posing with the Goat turned Panda.
Add a morning Finch to the mix!
Orion and I helped Tie move a few things. This was hanging in the garage. Y’all know I like bicycles A LOT, right?!
My Shadow and Mountain Goat bought me a bag of coffee they ground themselves in the store. Thank you 🙂
A banner hanging in a store in Hot Springs. I have a soft spot for kind words.
The coffee they gave me! One of the best coffees I’ve ever had.
Orion was told of this piano in the chapel next door to the hostel. He and Mountain Goat spent a while serenading us.
Mama Finch!
And Mountain Goat both sitting in the window of the chapel while we listen to someone strum a guitar.
That someone a strummin’ said guitar.
Mountain Goat taking a photo of Finch and myself.
Finch picks up the guitar and plays some tunes as well.
Mountain Goat and Finch goofing around. Everyone is so musical!
A decoration at the Laughing Heart Hostel in Hot Springs, NC.

Day 29: Soaking in a Hot Springs Zero

Appalachian Trail: Day #29

Hot Springs, North Carolina: Zero Miles

Total AT Miles: 273.7

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.

Finch and Orion updating their blogs in the Laughing Heart Hostel.
Breakfast of Champions!
A soak in the hot springs in Hot Springs, NC.
Welcome to the hot Spring! One hour of soaking for sore bodies.
A Goat riding Finch’s Shadow.


Walking through the clean cropped grass of the hot springs spa.
Dinner at the Iron Horse with the family.
Licking plates clean! The thru-hiker way.
The Iron Horse Station is a restaurant converted from the old train station.
A fire to finish the night.


Dr. Kool-Aid found a stray cat.

Day 28: Skipping Into Hot Springs, North Carolina

Appalachian Trail: Day #28

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.

Cuddled up on a cold morning in the Deer Park Mountain Shelter before braving the cold to hike into Hot Springs.
Packing up at the shelter.
A frog in a crystal clear mountain stream.
Reflection in the stream.
Hot Springs, here we come!
Mountain Goat skipping down the trail excited by the prospect of “chicken in bag.” Rotisserie chicken.
All we talk about on run into towns is food.


Good ol’ Appalachian Trail marker.
A child’s guide to the Appalachian Trail.
Make sure to take a picture of your family to keep the loneliness at bay!
We made it to Hot Springs!
AT blaze in the side.
The sidewalk is the trail in this town.
A man gives a tour of his tiny house on the outskirts of Hot Springs.


Moonboots sporting his fresh cut.
Clutch sporting a mohawk as well.
And, the guy behind the mohawk trend. Cool Dad bought a pair of clippers. Said he cut more than twenty people’s hair!
Would I like one? Hell no!
My burger at the bar in downtown Hot Springs. SOO good!!
Our packs lining the bench in front of the outfitters with Savage, Canuck, and Shaggy in the background.