Our descent into Hot Springs was a bit of a tease. We could see the town from about 2500 feet but we still had an hour or more of hiking before we actually arrived on Main St. Because we had camped in separate sites, Thunderfoot, Rooster and I arrived into Hot Springs first and promptly found ourselves catching up with other hikers we have met who were lounging outsideI the hostel which lies at the southern trail head. The clothes line out front was crowded with tents and sleeping bags, socks and boots. It looked like a roadside sale of cheap Persian rugs. The grill had plumes of greasy smoke billowing out the sides and there appeared to be an old bath tub filled with ice and beer. We've arrived. First order of business is to find the closest diner and eat til we're sick. Check. The Old Smokey Mountain Diner is one of those places dedicated to puting heart stopping portions of fried meat and gravy in hiker's bellies. And they're seasoned veterans. The team of waitresses who run the restaurant like an assembly line (one brings water, one takes orders, one runs food, etc) had three 16oz burgers in front of us in a matter of minutes. To be truthful, we all over ordered and all felt at least moderately uncomfortable afterward. After phones were turned on and the onslaught of dinging and buzzing had finished, we made tracks for the laundromat.
Laundry is tricky when everything you own is dirty. At home you can toss on different clothes or if not you can freely roam your space ass naked. Here at "The Wash Tub" in Hot Springs NC, these options don't exist. Your solution is usually to stay IN the laundromat while you do your wash/dry wearing as little as legally possible and hope the local Brownies troop doesn't come walking through the door. In our case, "as little as legally possible" consisted of a pair of the shortest running shorts I have ever seen on a 6'5" man (Thunderfoot), a pair of less-than-spotless compression briefs (rooster) and a mildly translucent nylon hiking kilt (yours truly). These items and a pair of crocks each equalled our combined wardrobe. People stared. They had a right.
The Hot Springs Resort and Spa (a campground by the river with a couple jacuzzis) is used to the routine of passing hikers and their nonsense. They keep a hiker box that is perpetually empty due to the amount of people pillaging its contents, they sell individual zip lock bags for $0.25 a piece and you can buy a shower (wooden stall with a spigot) for $2.50 without stay, towel included. Showers are free for campground guests and the tent pad only cost us $5.00 each. By the end of the day we had 9 tents and 2 hammocks draped across 3 camp sites (4 to a site). Since birthday celebrations had been dampened by the rain (yuk yuk yuk) we decided to pick up where we left off. The Spring Creek Tavern is the only game in town for a bite to eat and a bar, but it just so happens they're doing things right so we were just peachy. They had one of the waiters on the deck with his guitar (actually pretty good for an impromptu performance) and about 35 hikers looking fairly out of place with all the bright colored, glossy hiking gear.
Due to the overload of enjoyment that comes from lounging by the French Broad River with cold beer and hot food, we decided another zero day wouldn't kill us. We also had a few people needing onto lick their wounds a bit longer and catch up on a little R&R. We decided to pay a visit to the Spa side of the resort which is located across the road from the campground. The town of Hot Springs is known for its naturally occurring thermal pools in the river. We envisioned a quarry like pool that is truly a natural feature of the water-way. Instead what we found was essentially a series of hot tubs along the river with the naturally heated water piped into them. Not a bad time, but the water could have been a lot hotter considering the rates were $8 per person per hour. We went with 12 people so our total was $96 for 1 hour of tub use. It was made clear that the spring water has a mineral content which is great for your skin, one of my top priorities of course, but I can't help but feel like we received this very same service from the Clarion in Gatlinburg for free. It was just a hot tub.
To mend the disappointment of the hot spring experience, a few of the boys (the lost boys) invested in some entertainment in the form of high velocity sling shots. Effectively making me into a chaperone/voice of reason on what is appropriate to fire steal ball bearings at. Cans? Yes. Milk carton? You betcha. Road signs? Don't get caught. Inflatable whitewater raft with people in it?.... Luckily, so far, Rob has been the only person hit with a projectile. Inevitably someone was going to be pinned down between two trees with an outstreched elastic band threatening them. Rob was this lucky contestant. Unfortunately he wasnt fast enough. To discourage additional misuse, there has been a contract drafted stating that anyone who decides to kill a small animal with their slingshot must clean, cook and eat said animal. I think this will be an effective deterrent from people killing forest critters since most of these people have never even seen an animal be processed. Rob however, scares me a bit. He might actually scratch his hunting itch with that slingshot. And I know he won't hesitate to eat a squirrel.
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