The man in the uniform approached us briskly. We hesitated, thinking surely he wasn’t looking for us! But apparently he was……
“Hey, are you the slowcarfasthouse people? I’ve read some of your blog and when I saw the van I said, drop me off here!”
And that is how we met John a museum curator and Park Ranger at Smoky Mountain National Park. After a bit of talking and looking over the van, it was decided that we would camp in the driveway of his home nearby. He and his wife Maggie had recently purchased their first Vanagon and had read about ours. We spent a wonderful evening with them, enjoying Maggie’s good food and relaxing from the many miles we had done recently. Maggie is a math teacher, so I told her stories from Northpoint. The dogs ran around the hillside yard and relished the off-leash romping.
From these beautiful Appalachian hills we headed to Hot Springs, North Carolina. This town is the first city that the Appalachian Trail hikers pass through since they started the trail in Georgia. It is a mountain town, with a laid back vibe and some great, small restaurants. It also has two train tracks and a couple of rivers running through it. Oh, and hot springs! We grabbed an hour of a riverfront hot tub. We did laundry. We watched the trains chug by our tree-shaded campsite We ate yummy restaurant food and used the public library internet. And we watched the hikers from the AT stream through town with heavy packs, sore feet and soggy boots. I really fell in love with this small town!
The Parkway is along the highest ridge of the mountain range so the views on both sides are stunning. But it is also above the cloud line on a cloudy day. Clouds become fog and fog slows down travel, so we jumped off the Blue Ridge Parkway and resumed our pace along the back roads and small highways of North Carolina and right into Virginia.