the romance of the appalachian trail

recently i read the book wild by cheryl strayed… a memoir about a woman searching for a reset button on her life. she decided the way that she would do that was by walking the pacific crest trail, a wilderness trail that runs from southern california to the canadian border, through the sierra nevada mountains. and while she had been a fairly outdoorsy person growing up, she was in no way a couple of thousand miles hiker/trekker. however, she set off anyway, on her own, without any training, to hike the trail alone. crazy? yes. inspiring? totally.

but, hers isn’t the first long hiking, trekking story that i have read. years and years ago i picked up bill bryson’s a walk in the woods – his own account of his long walk… 2,200 miles to be exact… on the appalachian trail. i read bryson’s memoir because i grew up being near and criss-crossing the appalachian trail, so it made sense to me. and as i read it all those years ago, i found myself yearning to follow in his footsteps.

a map of the appalachian trail from 1974: covering part of the north carolina section. you can see hot springs there on the map. and the big river… that’s the french broad. the F M T W are marking food, motel, telephone, water availability.

appalachian trail in north carolina

look at this vintage 1974 awesomeness i found in my brother’s home. gaaaahhh. 

AT map 1974

ok. to continue with my bill bryson comments… i have not actually followed in his footsteps, but i have read others’ accounts of their own journey on the AT (appalachain trail), each one making my dreams wilder and my desire to walk from georgia to maine even stronger.

the AT is, as i’ve mentioned now, a 2,200 mile trail through the entire appalachain mountain range. it runs from northern georgia through north carolina, virginia, maryland, pennsylvania, new jersey, new york, connecticut, massachusettes, vermont, new hampshire, and ends at the top of mt. katahdin in maine. phew. i get exhausted just typing it all… and yet, i still have this urge to do it. to take off for 4 months (or however long it would take me) with my backpack, my gear, my camera, and a journal to walk through the woods. confronting nature, myself, and whatever else would pop up along the way. i’m not sure if i will ever do it, but it is something that stays in the back of my mind. as a possibility. not quite a bucket list item, but not not a bucket list item either. get my drift?

at-map

i actually think of the AT quite often, seeing as it passes right close to asheville, but my interest was piqued even more last weekend while i was camping in hot springs. you see, the AT passes right freaking through hot springs, crossing the french broad river, and continuing onward and upward toward maine. so, when i walked into the town of hot springs from my campsite, i was walking on the AT. cool, huh? in fact, lina and i got so into it, we walked from our tent on one side of town, through town, and then right on out of town, following the AT up and into the woods. we just had to. i even heard her say that she might want to try and walk the entire 2,200 miles ones day. now, tell me, how unbelievably amazing would that be?! walking the AT with my love!

since the AT passed right through the town of hot springs, they mark the trail on the sidewalks with the emblem in my photo below. how cool is that? so, if you are ever there, and you walk downtown, you’ve walked a teeny, tiny part of the AT. think of all of the people who have passed through there on foot? walking for freedom, for themselves, to heal their souls, for charity, to get back to nature… so amazing.

hot springs Appalachian Trail

i mean, my heart skips a beat every time i see one of these signs…

hot springs Appalachian Trail

the AT community (those who walk the trail) are a special community. most people walk by themselves or with one other person, but one always meets people along the way, walking in the same direction. sometimes walking together, or sometimes meeting up in the next little town. one thing i have learned is that hikers support in other in many ways, by leaving notes and other things are various points all along the trail. here, lina and i ran across 2 different walking sticks that hikers had left for others to pick up and use. i read of the same thing happening on the pacific crest trail (PCT) as well. a truly amazing community spirit.

hot springs Appalachian Trail

the entire 2,200 miles is marked with these white dashes on trees. usually there is only one dash. when you see two, you know that you will be in for some tough terrain ahead.

hot springs Appalachian Trail

standing on the trail. ahhhhh…. such excitement and humility.

DSC_0082

i met a hiker headed towards hot springs. i am certain that he was so thankful to walk into the little town, just to see civilization again, refuel, rest, pick up a package at the tiny post office, and have a good, hot meal.

hot springs Appalachian Trail

he did leave the trail in town, most likely headed to a little hostel. see him there in the photo below? yep. that’s the trail. i told you it goes right straight through the town. then it crosses the river  and continues on up in those mountains in the background. my campsite lay just at the base of those mountains.

hot springs

so, we will see if anything ever comes of my dream of hiking the entire AT. maybe i will, or maybe i won’t. who knows? what i do know is that i love the romance of it. i will eat up any books/memoirs/etc. that people write about it. and i will always, always find myself making time whenever i am in these mountains near asheville to take a few steps on it every now and then. what an amazing place to connect with nature, with others, + with one’s self.

here’s to journeying on in life…

light + love. xx

the ancient french broad

before you enter hot springs from the east/north, you gotta cross the ancient french broad river – winding and cutting through the mountains all the way from rosman, nc to tennessee. it flows directly beside the town, just a few hundred feet away from main street. people say that this river is magical – and have been saying it for years… and i agree. there is just something about it that calms and stirs my soul all at the same time.

the french broad is known to be about the 3rd oldest river in the entire world. like… for real. here’s why people say that: it is devoid of any ancient fossils that newer rivers have, and has been in existence since before the appalachain mountain range (blue ridge mountains) was formed. the waters of the french broad flowed through the land when it was flat. and when the mountains were formed, the river kept on flowing through them, cutting through the hills and mountains. and these mountains are ancient in themselves… the third oldest mountain range in the world.

so, these are historical, beautiful, important mountains. there simply must be magical, healing powers in them, don’t you think? i believe it. just imagine of all of the people + animals who have lived and used these waters. the stories. the memories. the experiences. i feel connected to the world, to history, to nature, just being near the power and beauty of this river.

hot springs camping french broad river

hot springs camping french broad river

hot springs camping french broad river

my view of the river from our campsite.

hot springs camping french broad river

each morning, i walked across the path from my tent and down to the bank of the river… just to breathe and soak it all in. the water rushed past me. powerful. mighty. relentless. strong. determined. and yet, peaceful. staying true to its course.

hot springs camping french broad river

hot springs camping french broad river

hot springs camping french broad river

hot springs camping french broad river

hot springs camping french broad river

hot springs camping french broad river

 let the magic flow…

love + light. xx

hot springs: a place to heal your soul

nestled way back in the mountains of madison county, deep in the pisgah national forest, lies a tiny, little mountain town named hot springs. there’s not much there. a railroad track – which is still in use multiple times throughout the day and night (as experienced while camping at night when the low, rumbling, clacking of the train over the tracks woke me from my slumber in my cozy tent). a few restaurants. a small library. a church. an outfitters store and a vintage/used store. and a post office. a creek runs under the main street, creating two separate blocks. and a few homes lie on some small streets just off of the main road. but, that’s about it. even with a population of only about 600, though, it’s a friendly place, bustling with movement + people – most of who have come to stay at the campground/resort or who are passing through, needing a little break from their trek in the woods or their ride through the mountains. of course, the real draw for hot springs is just that… its hot springs.

hot springs

hot springs has been a destination spot for years, since the 1800s to be exact. of course, the land has been used much longer than that. native americans gathered in the area to use the healing powers of the hot springs, conducting ceremonies and rituals. some time int he 1700s colonists began coming to the area to heal the ailments and sicknesses. at the tun of the century, a white colonist had purchased the land (from whom, i don’t know?! hopefully he didn’t just “take” it and claim it his), and began making money from visitors coming to experience the healing powers of the area.

soon there were hotels and people flocked there for resort vacations. a place catering to the rich in the midst of a poor, rural part of north carolina. big money at work, capitalism at its best, in the 1800s. somehow, as i type this, i find myself feeling more and more irritated at the way the people claim and use the land for their own profit, instead of keeping it wild + free.

then, the history takes an even darker turn, in my opinion. in 1917. the hotel was leased to the federal government where it became internment camp for hundreds of german merchant sailors captured in u.s. harbors when war was declared. according to the hot springs website, “the internees were treated well by the townspeople, and several returned to visit after the war.” let’s hope so. i will say that while were there camping, each night we talked about the old german prisoners of wars’ souls… are they still around? haunting and wandering?

after the war, things weren’t the same. the hotel never regained its glory (good!), and hot springs was almost forgotten way back there in those magical, healing mountains.

today, as people seek to get back in touch with nature + with the mystical, healing waters that flow through the area, hot springs is again a tourist destination. but, it without that upper-class feel. yes, there is a resort with a spa and some mineral baths, places to get in the 100 degree springs, but it is not over-the-top. the town is simple and cozy. and the campground keeps those seeking a real, wild, natural experience coming back. hiker walk through the town on their 2100 mile hike from georgia to maine on the appalachain trail. rafters shoot the rapids and float in the river. and people seeking a few days of rest, peace, simplicity + grounding come here to renew their spirit + tap into their inner wild side.

and that is exactly what i experienced.

DSC_0095hot springs train tracks

hot springs

hot springs

hot springs post office

hot springs

hot springs

hot springs

hot springs

hot springs

hot springs

 if you are in the mountains of north carolina, i most definitely recommend dropping by this quaint little town, surrounded by mountains, which offers a little peace + calm for your soul. stay a few hours, soak in the springs, or camp by the river. but, give yourself a chance to just be and breathe.

love + light. xx