My first visit to Hot Springs, North Carolina was two days ago on Saturday May 2, 2015. I had never gone to the city hidden so far up in North Carolina, but its allure had always called to me, far away in my Knoxville home. I was 34 then and had a family I wouldn’t trade for the world. My lovely wife, Cyndi, played navigator and got me a good 2 hours around what should have been a 45 minute trip. The children were in the back seat and were pretty complacent, having gamed all day and still having their minds buzzing with video game heros and villians, singing songs of defeat and victory, into the day and through the countryside.
You see, no one ever told me that Hot Springs isn’t very close to the Interstate I 40. As a matter of fact, it is pretty far away, whether or not you take Newport Highway from 40 before crossing over the North Carolina Line going towards Asheville, or you take the Lake Junaluska/Hot Springs exit in North Carolina, right over the state line. Thing is: from Knoxville, the quickest way is going up the Newport Highway. We came back that way.
I imagined Hot Springs as something of a frontier town: ripe with bearded young hipsters fresh off the Appalachian Trail. I was right, but only partially. The trail walkers, or “Thru Hikers” as they’re called, were around, but there was also a festival going on. It had been going on since Thursday and it was Saturday. We walked part of the Appalachian trail but the music was too loud for too far, so we returned to see what was happening. The tickets were $50 a piece, but the kids could get in free. We didn’t go, but we did stop and eat at the tavern on the river. The beer was good and so was the food. We listened to live music and the weather was perfect.
The trail was rife with tents and personal effects, strewn across the river shoreline, haphazardly. People were sleeping everywhere and I’m guessing a lot of them had been there a few days. The festival was in full swing, but we were somehow immune to its lure, vaccinated to its charm. The music was too loud, but too far in the distant. The call of its tune was muffled and unappealing, like so many smothered bass speakers, rattling the surroundings and miffing the locals. The drive back was quiet and faster than the way up. I would go back to the little city in the mountains, but I’d want to camp myself. It was too bad we had to leave without seeing the night life.
I didn’t get a chance to see the actual Hot Springs the city is named after, but I did see the resort that harbored the water pools, heated with geological activity far below the earth’s crust. It used to be a German Internment camp during World War 1 in the 1910’s. That hot water sure must have relaxed those sore muscles, aching after the trails’ way. I got none of it.