Our State: Celebrating North Carolina

APPALACHIAN OASIS

ONE SPRING NIGHT in Hot Springs, I drank a couple of beers at the Spring Creek Tavern, meandered back to my room at the Sunnybank Inn, and slept soundly until 8 a.m., when I creaked down the stairs to the kitchen in search of coffee. There, I met a gentle young man with large, clear eyes who had hiked 34.9 miles the day before and who planned to keep up a similar pace every day for the next two months, in an attempt to finish the 2,190-mile Appalachian Trail in a punishing 70 days.

On one hand, this man’s journey made me feel lazy. On the other, it made me feel sane. Suitably conflicted, I headed out after breakfast to walk a few miles of the Appalachian Trail myself.

“Hike your own hike” — meaning go at your own pace, and if you disapprove of the pace of others, keep it to yourself — is the quasi-official slogan of the AT, and not a bad philosophy of life. It’s an approach that Hot Springs residents have taken to heart, in part because they don’t have much choice:

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