I was so excited at Christmas, because I had planned the perfect gift for my sweet husband: a weekend away in Hot Springs, NC. I made reservations at the Duckett House Inn and the Hot Springs Spa for the weekend after Christmas. And then the weather came.
So we rescheduled for Valentine’s Day, reasoning that by then the weather would have settled down. This was, as we all know now, a foolish asessment, but we’ve also adapted to the weather, to a certain extent, and went anyway.
We were so lucky that the bed & breakfast had a cancellation, because apparently there had been a miscommunication between J and the innkeepers about the necessary procedure to procure a reservation, and thus we had none. This was our only luck of the evening.
The sky was sputtering flurries in a romantic sort of way, and so after we got settled in we decided to take a tiny trek on the Appalachian Trail, which runs straight through the tiny town of Hot Springs. The Duckett House is only one hundred yards from the Trail. So we walked down the sidewalk, across the street, and up a long stretch of rock stairs. Then we were in the forest, gaining elevation at a steady pace. It felt delicious to have the heart pumping again, the air crisp with snow, the forest a study of monochrome. We did not get very far, though, because the winter storms had felled many trees, and we were not motivated enough to continue past the chaos of downed pines that blocked our path. We turned around, chatting about camping plans and other assorted adventures. When we reached the top of the rock stairs, I wished for a handrail, for the snow had begun to cover them.
I stepped down ever so carefully, trying to tap the snow out of the tread of my boots here and there. But my precautions were in vain! For slip and fall and roll down the slope I did. At some point in the long fall I thought my glasses had fallen off my face, and perhaps broken, so my first concern after my quick descent had ended was to try and find them. I saw my hat roll down some thirty feet from where I had landed.
“Where are my glasses! Oh, my hat…” I cried out.
“Are you OK? Are you OK?” my husband replied. “They’re on your face!” he added.
I apparently didn’t here this, because I called out again, “Where are my glasses!” Which left him thinking that I had hit my head really hard and couldn’t see straight.
“They. Are. On. Your! Face!” he said, trying very hard to be clear and in control.
I was sprawled out on the slope of the mountainside, almost upside down. One of my ankles was wedged between the stairs and a tree, and the angle of the slope was so steep I had no idea how to get up. J grabbed onto the tree with one arm and reached the other out to me.
“My leg is stuck, can you unstuck it for me?”
He pulled my ankle out of its trap, and then I was able to grab his hand and right myself. I sat down on the nearest step. J eyed me anxiously. “I’m OK,” I reassured him, “just really sore on my bum.”
He laughed nervously. “I thought you had lost your vision! You kept asking where your glasses were, and they were on your face!”
We laughed some more, and I stood up shakily. We continued slowly down the stairs. On the very last one, J slipped, and his elbow landed with a crack on the rock step. He got up quickly and grabbed his elbow, his face tense with pain.
“Are you OK? Did you break anything?” I asked. There was a certain humor in this situation, and I tried not to laugh, because it did seem quite possible that he had broken his elbow.
But he was alright. And we walked arm in arm back to the inn, sweeping off the bits of forest floor that we had gathered in our tumbles. Weary, but smiling.
Then we went to town to procure some dinner. Let me take a moment to describe Hot Springs. It is very small. There is no grocery store, just a Dollar General. There are several restaurants, however–more than fits the size of the town, because Hot Springs is a destination. They have hot springs! The Appalachian Trail! The French Broad River! And a nice handful of Inns.
So our first stop was to the most luxurious bed & breakfast in town, the Mountain Magnolia Inn, where they also serve dinner. The parking lot was tight, so we were they might not be able to fit us in. But as we walked up the wide porch I looked into the dining parlor. There were certainly plenty of empty tables, but there was a woman in a formal red dress, and over there, a woman in a tiny black dress and stiletto heels. Here we are in our earth-tumbled dress, brushed off but still browned in spots, and me in my rubber (muck) boots. We turned right back around, giggling.
We tried another restaurant, of the more home-grown flavor. They closed at seven, and the women in the windows eyed us suspiciously. We fumbled with a bottle of ibuprofen and took three each in the parking lot.
Next stop was the Iron Horse Restaurant. The hostess delivered her bad news to us with a smile. There were no openings, but if we wanted to wait upstairs she could seat us at the bar when an opening became available. She could not tell us how long the wait for that would be. We had a soak reserved at the hot springs for 9 pm, and decided to stop in after our soak for a bite to eat.
We had some time to kill. I suggested we drive across the river and down River Road, but J misses the turn and we start going up the mountain. “You have to turn around, or we will have to go all the way up the mountain!” I worried. So he pulled onto the opposite shoulder when it seemed wide enough to facilitate our turning around. We couldn’t make it in a U because there was lots of mud waiting to entrap us, so we were going to have to do a 3 point turn around. Write after we crossed onto the shoulder, a car appeared, making us angle our necks back to wait for it to pass. And then another, and another, and another. Some forty cars passed on what had been an absolutely desolate road only moments before. We did manage to see the humor in the situation, and also decided to go straight back to our room and gulp down some wine before some other mischief crossed our path.
At 10:14 (after a delightful soak) we walked back into the Iron Horse Station–now an empty restaurant. Kitchen was closed. J suggested we drink a stout beer for dinner. I tried that, and quickly found myself starving and just this side of drunk. We hit the sports bar, hoping for a plate of the nachos we saw being served as we walked into the smoky rockin’ establishment.
“Sorry, the kitchen is closed,” piped the waitress.
I began to feel desperate. I am, truly, an eater. I looked at my husband. Would he taste good? The people next to us got up to go, leaving a half-full plate of cheesy nachos with slices of olives. J looked at me, his eyebrows raised. “No,” I said. “No. No. No.”
We pleaded with the waitress. She offered to bring us a basket of chips along with our beer. I devoured the super salty chips, drank more beer, and decided that I while I would not succumb to general weakness due to lack of food, I would most certainly succumb to drunkenness. This actually made the general pain from my fall less…memorable…and the disasters of the evening more comic. It also blurred the disturbances of having a common bathroom right on the other side of your bedroom wall.
Fortunately the tide shifted the following day. We lucked into a two-hour soak instead of just one. The sky was blue. Lunch was extravagantly delicious. And when we got home later that afternoon, I curled into bed and had a delicious nap. There’s no place like home.