Hot Springs, TN
Hot Springs, Tennessee has been our favorite town along the trail so far. For one thing, the AT goes right through it–so no hitching in, arranging a shuttle or walking extra miles to get to town (which is by far the worst scenario!) Also, the town is pretty compact, so all the things you need are within a half mile–Dollar General for resupply (great selection), Post Office, hotels and restaurants (the Smoky Mountain Diner had ridiculously good food for a great price).
We got to Hot Springs around 8pm after 18.6 LONG miles. We couldn’t stand to sleep in a shelter 3 miles away when town was so close! We were both so tired we just decided on the first place that looked good. We choose the Rock Bottom Grill and Inn since they had a sign posted advertising their price AND it was a very short walk (a flight of stairs to be exact) from our room to get food. The Inn was a renovated historic building with quaint rooms filled with antique furniture. We were a little disappointed to see that we had to share the bathroom with the other boarders, but after a hot shower and some food, all was right with the world again.
The next day, we were convinced (rather easily) by the locals that we should stay for another night because some really nasty weather was expected that evening. So to make it more affordable, we recruited 4 friends to stay with us in the same room. It was a double room, so another married couple (Speedy Gonzales and Supa Chef) got the second bed and Mean Gene and Stretch took the floor. We got all settled in for the night and the promised storm did indeed come in and everyone agreed we were so glad we sprung for the extra night in town.
Around 2:30am I was awakened with water splashing in my face. I just assumed it was the window, so I closed it. Unfortunately, water was still hitting me in the face. Then after a few minutes, every person in the room said that they were also getting splashed with water–even Stretch who had moved UNDER a table. So we turned on the light and found a pretty decent sized leak just over the ceiling fan which was slinging water all over the room. Since this is an inn where you check in at the bar and no one is on duty at a front desk, we just found an ice bucket to collect the rain water and went back to bed. After a rather sleepless night, we left early the next morning, leaving a message about the leak through a co-worker of a friend of the owner. Hope that message got through.
We hit the town at the same time as a lot of other hikers, so the entire place felt like a small town where we had all grown up together. Walking down the street to the Dollar General (affectionately known as “DG” to us thru-hikers), you would see and call out to other folks you knew heading wherever they were heading. It was a trip hearing “Hey Crazy Goose, where you heading tonight?” “Oh man, hey there Mean Gene, what’s up? Yeah I’m stealth camping on the river tonight. I hear you’re staying up in the Rock Bottom?” “Yep. Hey, did you see The Professor come through? I heard he was in town…”
Ps. We also ate at the Iron Horse Station which had excellent food and even better rooms. While we didn’t stay there, we did look over the rooms and think it would have been well worth the extra $10 to stay there. Also, we visited Bluff Mountain Outfitters which had an excellent selection of gear (we spent more money than intended), but we were not overly impressed with the service.