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.

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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

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

off the grid + with the family

yesterday (sunday) was my dad’s 70th birthday, so my brother, lina + i decided that to celebrate his big day we’d head out to the woods to do a little family camping. of course, everyone else + their mother decided that it would be the perfect weekend for camping as well. why, you ask? this little thing called “leaf season”. up here, in the north carolina mountains, the leaves are just beginning to hit their peak beauty. needless to say, the campground we chose to visit was paaaa-acked! but, it was also beautiful.

on friday afternoon, lina + i packed up our car with food, a tent, sleeping bags, blankets, and cozy clothes. we headed just northwest of asheville, about 45 minutes, to the fabulous little town called hot springs – more on hot springs another day. my parents had already beaten us to the campground and had pulled their rv into their site by the time we arrived, so we went to our space and scouted out the best spot for our tent. we were not within sight distance of my parents’ site, but it was an easy 2 minute walk we went over to say hi to them and invited them over to our site (which is where we all hung out the entire weekend actually). then, we got to work setting up camp. let the coziness commence!

the weekend consisted of pure, quality family time. and food. yummy camp food. of course we sat by the fire practically the whole time (thanks to my brother’s mad fire-making skills + lina’s mad maintaining-the-fire skills). i read some + did a little walking. i took lots and lots of photos. and we all chatted and generally just spent time together. we were totally off the grid, so the only thing we focused on was each other. sadly, my brother had to travel back + forth to asheville a few times, but he slept in his tent at our campsite as well.

the whole weekend was just amazing. something that i will not soon forget, and will cherish in my heart for the rest of my life i am sure. it was an extremely special weekend for me – just the opportunity to be in the middle of nature, outside the whole entire weekend, living simply, being wild, and focusing on the things that are really important. the things that are the most important to me in my life.

day one:

lina me camping

all packed up!

hot springs camping

entering into hot springs campground. woo hoo!

hot springs camping

a few campsites were right on the river (lucky dogs). however, ours ended up being just across from it, and it was pretty much perfect.

hot springs camping

scouting out the best spot for the tent.

hot springs camping tent

our tent!! soooo cozy + perfect – a birthday present to me from my love last year. 

lina me beer pbr

a celebratory pbr (beer) ‘cuts we got the tent all set up!

hot springs camping

the fire is lit! and it stayed lit literally the entire weekend. soon awesome.

hot springs camping bread

darkness fell, and it was time to make some traditional campfire food – both swedish + american, of course. here, lina is baking bread on a stick over the fire. i devoured some s’mores.

hot springs camping campfire

dad warmed his hands by the fire for hours. clearly something silly was happening at this point too. 

hot springs camping campfire

the family is all gathered. xoxo

day two:hot springs camping morning tent

laying in my tent, early in the morning. just gazing the trees + listening to the silence. so peaceful.

hot springs camping lina morning

ready for the day!

hot springs camping morning me tent

mornin’!

hot springs camping nick coffee

first things first: hot camp coffee from a percolator. (that’s my brother!)

hot springs camping

hot springs camping

the morning fire is all lit.

hot springs camping

a little morning dog walking. these two are just the cutest. 

hot springs camping family

breakfast preparations are underway. can’t wait!

hot springs camping pancakes

hot springs camping coffee

hot springs camping gunny

hot springs camping camp food

hot springs camping me

hot springs camping lina pancake

trees hot springs camping

hot springs camping reading

passing time by doing a little reading after a little walk into town. (those photos coming up tomorrow!)

hot springs camping trees

the sun is setting…

hot springs camping campfire

evening arrives again. this one will be a special one.

hot springs camping dad

happy birthday to my dad! 

hot springs camping campfire

my last little peek out from the tent as i tucked myself in.

hot springs camping campfire morning

when i woke in the morning and unzipped my tent, this is what i saw. sooooo cozy.

hot springs camping

i climbed out of my tent early and walked over to the river for a few moments of solitude. amazing.

hot springs camping campfire me

camp liz!

hot springs camping coffee

more camp coffee to get the morning started!

hot springs camping

hot springs camping campfire me nick cooking

brother-sister breakfast cooking team. eggs + bacon… coming up!

hot springs camping

our cozy home for the weekend.

hot springs camping campfire family

family time ♥

hope you had a good weekend, too, dear friends. check back over the next few days and i’ll share with you some photos of hot springs, the french broad river, + a little walking on the appalachian trail!

love + light. xx