AT Day 18 – No Miles, Hot Food
Zero day in Hot Springs, NC
This Old House Camp night #2
AT miles: 0
Total miles: still 283.1
Elevation change: 0
My first true zero day of this journey sure was a good one. I managed to spread out my chores so that nothing felt rushed or stressful, and spent plenty of time just sitting and observing. Hot Springs has plenty of good places to sit and I took full advantage. The spring flowers were blooming and the warm breeze blowing. Throw in a constant flow of yummy and nutritious food, and you have the ingredients for an amazing break from hiking.
Despite my late bedtime, I woke up at the usual time, first light. I tried to snooze as best I could, remembering the lesson that I keep relearning, ‘go to bed early, dammit’. May I remember it for good this time.
At 8:30am I headed down the old wooden stairs to the kitchen for breakfast. Matt and Elmer had put together a modest feast of granola, thick oatmeal, various fruits, juice, and tea. My stomach leapt when I saw the fresh mango, always a treat and one of my favorite foods. Digging in, the conversation flowed to many interesting places, from how the town and hikers have changed over the years, to how Harley’s are, in Elmer’s opinion, the worst human invention ever. It really was a treat to have an in-depth, intelligent conversation about subjects besides gear, miles, and weather. I slowly filled myself to the point of bursting. At 10:30am, we called it, and parted ways to take care of whatever needed taking care of.
The rest of my morning was spent in town, picking up resupply items for the next 70 miles to Erwin, TN. I stopped in at the always entertaining Dollar General, then back to the outfitter for some finishing touches. While working up my appetite for lunch, I sat on the bench outside the library, watching the Sunday, small-town vibe unfold. A lot of breakfast being consumed, a lot of rumbling motorcycles rolling through. The spring flowers were springing forth. Yellow daffodils owned the grassy verges thus far, and a few snowy dogwoods sat like giant bonbons covered in coconut shreds.
My hunger lurched back into place, so I wandered back home to put something together. I devoured two hummus, avocado, and bell pepper sandwiches while sitting on the upper porch, gaining an appreciation for Elmer’s disdain for Harley’s. They ripped through town, farting violently, shattering any illusion of peace with frustrating regularity. I longed for the quiet of trail.
The lack of sleep had me feeling lethargic, so I got up to wander down to the taqueria for a burrito. That usually wakes me up. What they put together for me was suitably dank and nutritious, perfectly balanced between glutinous and healthy. Cauliflower, tinted yellow with tumeric, peaked out at me from a conglomeration of beans, rice, and pickled veggies. Absolutely devine and easily the best burrito of the AT so far (sorry, Taco Bell). I sat alone at a picnic bench, surrounded by groups of friends and families on their own benches. The day was beautiful and the setting perfect for enjoying a lazy Sunday with loved ones. It was no wonder that I felt lonely. It seemed like I was even the only hiker around. The burrito was excellent, but I got out of there before I could get too melancholy.
As the pink rays of the sun made their final stand on the adjacent hillside, I walked back to Sunnybank through the side streets, searching for the soul of Hot Springs. Matt rolled up on his electric OneWheel and let me give it a try. It was fun, but I didn’t push my luck. Balance, speed, pavement: ot a recipe for a healthy thru-hike. I rejoined the AT and swung back to Sunnybank, just as headlights started becoming useful.
I spent the evening stretching and talking with SpiceRack. It was so good to hear her voice after a relaxing and lonely day. Downstairs, I joined Matt and Elmer for the conclusion of a 1959 French film, that was both sad and funny. It fit the scene of Sunnybank so perfectly. Of course I would end up watching a black and white movie in this ancient victorian house, on a couch next to this old dog, with these two interesting dudes. Honestly, you can’t make this stuff up. This unpredictably is what makes travel and thru-hiking so worth it. Not in a million years could I have imagined this scene, yet here I was, living it.
The conversation drifted to vans, then bed as midnight approached. Droopy eyed and fading, I wandered up to my big comfy bed, surrounded by an impossibly large pile of gear. How did it get so late? I guess I hadn’t learned my lesson after all.
This post was originally published on my blog hikefordays.com. Check it out for trip reports from my other hikes including the CDT and Sierra High Route.
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