10-25-09 day 145
start: Little Laurel Shelter, TN/NC
end: The Sunnybank Inn @ Hot Springs, NC
daily mileage: 19.6
total mileage: 1906.5
We're headed into Hot Springs today (woot!) and got up pretty early and made good time in the morning. It was a gorgeous morning, which was really nice after a few days of crummy weather. We had a quick lunch and got done with all 19 miles by 4:00 or so, which was really nice. It was a really nice hiking day, and we had a few great views: Lover's Leap Rock in particular provided a gorgeous view off the side of the mountain over the French Broad River and into town.
Hot Springs is so named for its natural hot springs (which you can bathe in for the low low price of $19.99!), but is basically a tiny trail town. The AT goes straight through "downtown" and the sidewalk that it officially follows is denoted by stone AT symbols embedded in the pavement. Little trail towns like that are always nice... but this one had the very odd feature of TONS of traffic! The reason for this oddity came in the form of a scruffy looking fellow sitting on the bridge drinking some unidentified liquid out of a paper bag, who told us that there had been a huge rockslide on the nearby I-40 just that morning! All the enormous amounts of traffic that I-40 normally accomadates have had to find other routes around the closed highway, and much of it filtered through otherwise quiet Hot Springs. We're told by the residents that it will take as long as 3 months to totally clear this massive slide, as engineers have to start at the top of the nearby mountains and blast layer after layer with dynamite to make sure this won't happen again too soon.
Anyway, we met up with Fiddler and Star Trek in the local outfitter and ended up heading over to Elmer's hostel, the Sunnybank Inn. It's an old victorian house that he converted into a bed and breakfast, but with thru-hiker rates. I stayed in the old servant's quarters for a little less. The house was gorgeous and pretty cool, and we met up with Icarus and Buffalo there as well. We showered and wandered off to the Dollar General to do our grocery shopping (there's not really a real grocery in town) and ended up buying massive numbers of frozen gas station burritos with salsa for dinner. When we got back we met two vacationing couples that were also staying at Elmer's, and we had a good time playing Apples to Apples with them. Finally, we sat back and watched the South Park Movie and the Graduate. A good night, and a wonderfully comfortable, warm bed at the end of it...