May 12, 2009

Hot Springs & Max Patch

Kim found a fabulous setting just outside of Hot Springs, Rocky Bluffs Campground. The solitude of the area coupled with the fresh colors of Spring were a delight! Our site overlooked an open hollow, with beautiful tent spots below. If you're ever here, this small out of the way park is a must stop.

We also took a morning hike along Spring Creek, which runs through one side of the campground----

The town of Hot Springs has a couple of attractions. First of all the Appalachian Trail goes right through the quaint old downtown, following Main Street through a row of shops, including a great outfitter that caters to through hikers on the trail. Check out their website for some great pix of the many hikers that vist this place every year.

The other major attraction is a natural hot spring located here, the only such spring known in North Carolina and in much of the southeastern United States. Thus, this area has long since been a destination for those looking for therapeutic relief from their ailments. Native Americans were the first to discover the 100+ degree mineral waters, and European immigrants settled the area over 200 years ago. It is reported that people were visiting the springs by 1778 for the waters' reported healing properties.

Lucky for us, the Spring wasn't crowded, and we were able to reserve the most sought after jacuzzi (#5) for an hour's pleasure that afternoon. The bath, fed by the warm spring waters, overlooked the conjunction of Spring Creek & the French Broad River. What a great way to relax!

After the soothing jacuzzi, we had a terrific panini sandwich along with some great acoustic music at the Iron Horse Station, another nice surprise from this quaint community.

While in the area, we took a day to drive east on Hwy 209 and managed to find Max Patch. This unique hilltop has quite a history, as you can read here....
The view from the parking lot was quite impressive,

as was looking out from about midway up,
at the top one can clearly see what was the old airfield, stretching out towards the west, plenty of room to land an old barnstormer!
and, those beautiful spring colors were so apparent on the other side! as we start our descent to the truck, glancing westward again, we can see how the AT rounds the crest of the giant hill, and, in the distance, a nice view of those colors again with a few AT hikers just cresting the far edge....what a nice view to finish our visit to "the top of the world"!