After leaving Davenport Gap just past the river there’s a hostel called Standing Bear. It was a really nice piece of property filled with interesting people, flowers hanging everywhere, and a creek running through the property with a bridge lined with broken pottery and glass laid in a mosaic pattern. In the middle sat a fire pit with benches all around. We sat and played music and talked about our journeys through the Smokies. A few of the women at the hostel made a big dinner for everyone with green bean casserole, sugar ham, mashed potatoes (which to my surprise the hikers demolished even after loading our bags with potatoes the last month), some kind of cream cheese chicken dish, and cake..the best part. It was Easter, unlike any I had experienced before, but one to remember for sure. We were a bunch of happy, full hikers jamming and laughing by the fireside; I wish Elan had been there, he would have smiled so big and so real.
That night Dirty J was shuttled by Ms. Janet back to Fontana to trek through the Smokies while Bones and I walked ahead with the dogs. I took on the role of temporary mom for Kira and had a blast doing so. She is an incredibly smart blue heeler, an Australian cattle dog, which made it far from a chore but more so a great learning experience. I tied her to my hip belt, and she walked right next to me the whole time. It was great being greeted by her in the mornings too because she would wake up so happy and want to be rubbed down. She was always up for a hike; even after fifteen miles she would grab a stick and bark at me to throw it for her. She’d catch it everytime. It made me smile. She was my heater at night and my walking pal through the day.
From Standing Bear hostel to Hot Springs was about thirty-five miles away. The terrain wasn’t too bad, but the humidity was thick. By the end of the day my clothes were drenched in sweat. It took me three days to get to Hot Springs mid morning on the third day. It rained on and off everyday since heading out, so having a shower and washing my rotten clothes brought more excitement to me than it ever would have on a normal day back home.
Bones and I pitched tents by the French Broad River that ran right through town when we arrived. Fun fact: the French Broad River I was camping on the bank of is the third oldest river in the whole world, how cool!! The river was so soothing, as one of my close friends and inspirations Nancy once said to me- the sound of the waves and the current can be more therapeutic than anything. It’s true; listening to the earth’s natural energy, pulling and pushing the water from the coast can ground you. Not to mention it was a great “front yard” for a bit. All day we watched rafters float down the river.
That evening while sitting by the fire, another hiker from Asheville Wild Woman grabbed Bones and I and to join her and Widesky in one of the hot mineral baths pumped from the natural hot springs on the outskirts of town. We walked through a field on a path lined by tea lights to our wooden bungalow. For an hour we sat and soaked while listening to music and conversing about the mystery and brilliance of life here on Earth. This night will always hold a special place in my heart. At that moment I couldn’t think of one place I would have rather been. Great souls and great times surround me, I am truly blessed with this opportunity on the trail and I realize how lucky I am more and more each day.
The next morning came and the blisters lining the tops of my toes showed little improvement so I decided to stay one another day. I bought a cheap motel room and showered, charged my batteries, and let my feet heal while I chilled in the room. I jumped in bed around noon and watched Tom and Jerry until about four, only stopping to run across the street for hamburger helper ingredients. I cooked dinner on my camp stove on the small table next to the bed I sat in. I enjoyed sitting in bed all day watching cartoons, but simultaneously hated how much joy it brought me. That’s when I realized I needed to leave town quick before I became stuck.
The last night I stayed in town Govnah, Bones, and I sat and watched the river when Govnah walked back to his tent and saw a few baby water moccasins in the water a couple feet from both of our tents. I sat out under the tarp we had set up while the boys looked for trouble with the snakes. They pestered them about ten minutes with big rocks and lights when I was summoned by them yelling my name to hurry. So many thoughts ran through my head at that moment but to summarize them all, I thought, “Why are they calling me? One of them is bit I’m sure, and I am too small to carry them to town. All I can do is run the mile to town for service to call an ambulance because Hot Springs doesn’t even have their own medical center!” I ran over only for them to shine their light on the bush three feet from me where a three foot moccasin hung. The entire time messing with its babies they stood right next to it; we all were thankful no one was bitten that night. They then proceeded to use one of MY trekking poles to smack it out of the bush and stab it. After that, all of us had what my mom would call the heebie jeebies and none of us had the desire to jump in the river. Govnah then escorted me kindly to my tent while checking every tree, bush, and root along the way.
That next morning I began feeling anxious from being still, so I left town and began walking up Lover’s Leap mountain. Hot Springs- you were everything everyone told me you’d be; I enjoyed my time but the woods are calling my name, Rainbow.
(p.s. I gained my trailname, Rainbow, from a girl named Raisin in Fontana. She was the third to call my name by rainbow, so she decided for me that it would stick. And it has.)