04-01-2018 Day 26. Hot Springs, N.C. To Little Paint Creek Trail. 12.9 miles (287.3 + 8.8 = 296.1 Miles)

Beginning again after zero is …. well …. er…..difficult. It’s like building a pyramid of blocks for the fifteenth time because they keep falling down. After awhile you just think that you might not try that again. Then you think well maybe they won’t fall this time. Ha!!! Not likely. You’ve just got to take the first step. Actually you have to take a pile of them before you feel the groove return. I imagine it’s what a writer feels when he writes down his first word of a 400 page book.

Me Taking My First Step After Zero.

Hot Springs appeared to be a ghost town on Easter morning. Silver and No Name had already high tailed it out of town having evidently either robbed a bank or anxious to hike a pile of miles. The word was that Spoons, Sunshine, and Kylo were hanging back in town. The word was out…. a local church was going to feed the thru hikers real food for Easter dinner. That was like feeding a starving man a steak or Wayne a Twizzler.

Ghost Town

Shockingly the outfitter was open. I bought a few of those itty bitty oranges. They are light and I can hide a bunch of them in the cracks and crevices of my pack.

I met Fanny Panther with his father. His name came from the fact that he wore a fanny pack on his front along with his backpack. That would concern me. If they call it a fanny pack because you normally wear it on your fanny think of what they could call it if you wore it in the front. He needs to get rid of that thing. His father was just beginning to hike with him on a section hike today. He seemed unaware of the pitfalls he could be facing.

Buck, Robin (England and Scotland) Headwig and another guy showed up. They were moving out with me.

A walk through town provided our first truly flat hiking in 275 miles. Past the post office, city hall ( which appeared to be a store front), across the railroad tracks, and then the French Broad River.

The river was huge and high on its banks. All along both sides campers had their tents up. Among the thru hikers were families set up for the weekend. Cars and pickups were next to the tents and even at this early hour children were running after one another as Dads were lighting fires. It brought back memories of days long gone by when we we camped in New England.

Off in the distance I could hear the sound of a train approaching. I’ve always liked that. My cousin Kathy and I would often wait in Framingham, Massachusetts outside the store our mothers would be shopping in. It was right on the railroad tracks and when a train would come by we would both jump around like two crazed psychos.

The walk along the river was pleasant but too short. It soon turned up for a rocky ascent to Lovers Leap. There must be a lot of Lovers Leaping around the world. It seems like I just visited a Leaping site in Guam. Hot Springs advertises itself as a romantic getaway because of its hot Springs and quiet environment. This combo is not working for me. Come with your love, soak in the hot Springs in this beautiful valley, enjoy a weekend in the sweet embrace of your lover’s arms, climb a mountain together, and leap to your death to the rocky shores of the French Broad River below. Who wouldn’t want to do that?

I was passed by Fanny Panther and Dad as I was taking pictures but I soon overtook them as Dad was struggling. It was great to see them together. It was the third father-son combo I had seen and I’ve seen two mother-daughter teams. The last one wasn’t so happy…. a young lady was scurrying back from where we had already hiked to find a thick heavy cloth. She asked me about it. I told her her I had seen it. “My mother….. she looses everything!!!! Half a mile up the mountain I found Mom. “Thank goodness for daughters! She has to retrieve everything I lose. I need that to pad my back.

As Fanny Panther (I hate that name), Dad and I talked five women with no equipment struggled up to us. Obviously out of breath and not in great shape they were wearing an assortment of neon colors which made them stand out on this mountain. “We’re not in the best shape for old ladies,” the lead woman exclaimed. “We are all in our early 50’s.” I smiled at her acknowledging the dread she felt at surviving her advanced age.

I moved on back into my solo hike. At a point between 5 and 6 miles I reached Highway 25 and as I descended toward the bridge there stood Martha Roberts wearing a pair of bunny ears. What a joyful moment! It was great to see her. She had walked all the way across the bridge using only a legged cane. Such massive progress since the accident! We walked across the bridge to Melvin and Trail Magic. A cold drink was inhaled. They had seen about twenty hikers including Silver and No Name. While we talked Tall Boy and Hoot arrived. We talked awhile and then it was time to move on. Hoot was gone but Talk Boy opted to stay when a second magic appeared with beer.

From that point on it was Hike until you drop. The up and down miles piled up. At 11.3 I reached the Shelter. It was the very same one that Debbie Monet and I had nearly frozen in several years before. I had no intention of staying there. Everyone was preparing supper. Miles and Sawyer were new. “Oh, you’re Defib. We met your friends. Great trail magic!” In tents I found Robin and Buck (England and Scotland) as well as Headwig. When Robin saw me she lit up. “Oh Defib! Today we met your lovely friends!” Very British Isle!

Tallboy of San Francisco

I moved on and hiked another 2 miles. I was short of my desired mileage but I’d had a good day with positive interaction. I came upon a single camper sitting alone eating supper. I was going to move on but spied a perfectly flat tent site about 200 feet beyond him. I couldn’t pass it by. I hadn’t camped flat on the entire trip! I set up and we talked a moment as he smoked a cigarette. His name was Baloo. He asked my name. When I told him he smiled(his first). “Oh you’re Defib! I heard about you back at a great trail magic I came upon today!” Martha and Melvin had certainly made an impression!

Hoot

It was a perfect night! A large supper and good tent site. The pictures would not load so that will have to wait. But for me…. quiet…. thoughts of Easter and the meaning of this day for those who believe… and deep flat sleep.

Tomorrow I will hike on.

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