When I’ve section hiked on the AT with my good friend Alton, we have often talked about the sameness of the trail at times. Alton has said on such occasions, “If you didn’t know what state you were in, what state would you say you were in?” Today was one of those days when the trail was a path through the woods of ups and downs with not much variety until the town of Hot Springs first came into view. Still, the sun shone throughout the day, a cool breeze appeared just when it was needed, and the difficulty level of today’s 14.4 mile section would probably be classified as a 2 or 3 on the old 1-10 scale, with 10 being the most challenging.
It was tough to say goodbye to my good friend Brad when he dropped me back at Lemon Gap around 8:30. I will be forever grateful for the time we had to spend together over the last two days. Parting, however, was a little less sad because just as I was embarking from Brad’s SUV, who should be hiking up the trail toward us but Rocket and Whiskers. I had not seen my two Cambridge friends since the night before Newfound Gap. They had begun their hike early today from near Max Patch in order to log big miles with a slack pack. The timing could not have been more perfect because Whiskers was able to take a couple of pics of Brad and me.
Brad wished me well as I headed up the trail in the footsteps of the two. Within a mile, however, they began to pull away, hiking at a faster pace than I was able to maintain. So again for the remainder of the day I hiked solo. But unlike yesterday, I saw few thru hikers today. I did notice Waffles and Enoch, that I had seen late yesterday, breaking down their campsite. Just before I stopped for lunch, I paused to chat with an older gentleman, Where’d He Go, from Baltimore. After that I only saw three other hikers all afternoon. For some reason I didn’t feel very social today, so I didn’t even ask their trail names.
I’m not sure why, but early in today’s hike I reminisced about watching Saturday morning television with my brother when we were little. Donald and I would rise early enough to watch Roy Rogers on Western Theater and follow up the cowboys with cartoons. Somewhere in between we would join our parents at the dining room table for a large country breakfast. Then we would head to the backyard for an afternoon of play. Times were so simple then.
As the afternoon waned, I finally spotted Hot Springs from the ridge line. When towns are first sited, however, it’s usually at least an hour before the trail winds down to the road. Hot Springs is the first trail town where the trail actually goes down Main St., or in the case of Hot Springs, Bridge St. As I walked into the town I headed straight to Elmer’s Sunnybank Inn, built in 1840 and the oldest house in town, according to Elmer. A thru hiker back in 1976, Elmer returned to Hot Springs in 1978. A B &B of sorts, the inn caters to thru hikers, offering clean accommodations at a nominal cost. Elmer even offers work for stay options.
So once again I’ll be sleeping in a bed tonight. I’ve showered and plan to go out in a short while for a meal at Smokey Mountain Diner, which is located across the street. I had originally planned to take a zero day tomorrow; however, I think I’m going to wait for Erwin, which I should reach in four or five days. Someone is playing the piano in the music room, so I think I’ll mosey on down the stairs and share some camaraderie with others who each day take another stride toward Maine on their journeys along the Appalachian Trail.