The town of hot springs, what can be said, it is this little oasis of comfort and refuge from the woods. We’ll at first glance it is, exactly what it seems. Allow me to paint a picture for a moment. There is just one main street that runs through town, stores occupying either side of it as with most small towns. The first thing we hit on the way in was the diner, which just so happens to be at the edge of town, as if to grab any and all travelers at first. The small town diner smells of freshly grilled food and delicious meals. On the weekends there is a huge BBQ outside which fills the town with the smell of summer, food, bbq, chicken, beef, pork, and every other smell you miss.
Walking down the street you are greeted by the townsfolk in thier vehicles slowly driving by to look at the hikers. The street is lined with small homes that blend into small stores and restaurants. There are a few places to go in town, the tavern, the Mexican restaurant, the gear store, Hot Springs Resort, an ice cream parlor, and a river guide. Now they may be more stores and things to do but I wasn’t aware of them. We stayed in a small hotel that was built off the side of a house. The owners were lovely and very friendly taking care of our every need.
One morning while I was at the Hikers Ridge Ministry, sitting on the deck writing, I was approached by a local man. His name was Bubba and he wanted to know if I had a light. I did not and , he sat down in the opposing rocking chair from mine, just rocking back and forth for a moment or two before asking me another question. I put my tablet away and rocked with him as I answered. We went back and forth Bubba and I, asking each other questions and taking. We sat there for a good while just rocking, talking, and watching the town come alive. There was no hurry on sunday for anyone to get moving.
Bad weather was imminent so we decided to take another day. From here on this is when we noticed things were weird in this town. You couldn’t leave, you had to stay, to go back, it called to you. Three of my friends had hiked out and returned with no real reason why. One of them hiked out twice and still returned. Nate had been waiting on a sleeping pad that never shipped and when he decided to leave, he was told they could overnight it to him. Snapshot had hiked out that morning and reappeared in town when the weather literally drove him back into down. We watched droves of hikers come back off the mountain with the threat of weather. It was like you couldn’t leave if you tried. There were a few hikers that never left town and stayed. When I talked to my friends about it they too had gotten the vibe.
The next morning we couldn’t get out of bed. We all stayed in till 10 or 11 just going back to sleep, we had no motivation, the town had its grips on us. I fought desperately to get out, the others wanted to go to breakfast and get some real food. That’s how they get you, the food and drinks, you get doped in to leaving I told them. Some of us ate our food and others went for breakfast. Kevin had left already and I finally was walking out of town. I got as far as the rail road tracks when I was met by Lauren and her parents again. They were picking up Ultra Notlight and taking him to Damascus. I returned to town and talked with them before heading out. I got as far as the bridge this time and I realized Kevin may have not grabbed the fuel and had to go back for that. On my third way out of town I noticed a peculiar sight, there was this lone house way up on the mountainside to the left.
This dark brown wood house, with huge windows, overlooked the entire town. There wasn’t a place that couldn’t be seen from there. It’s as if this house was up there watching the town, no one hidden from the view. I though to myself if this town is truly creepy then Steven King lives in that house. Just as I crossed the bridge for the final time, I was met by my brother. He had decided to come back to town and was done with the trail. He had decided that he wasn’t going to continue and he was done. We talked for over an hour about him and I hiked out, or so I thought.
This town reminds me of a song I hear as a kid, Hotel California. You can check out but you can’t ever leave. The town really has nothing in it, no nightlife, no breweries, no attractions, it’s just a small town. This small town takes a hold of you and you find yourself not wanting to leave or looking for reasons to stay. It was uncanny to feel it for yourself but even more to see others encountering the same feelings and emotions.