After our fun night out, we packed up the next morning and hit the road. Off to Hot Springs, NC! Friends told us about this campground, and we are glad they did. Hot Springs is a cute tiny town on the French Broad River and the Appalachian Trail goes right through the town. The campground is on the river nestled back in the woods. We arrived on Friday afternoon and settled in. We went downtown and had a late lunch, checked out the hardware store and outfitter before heading back to the campground.
We gathered up a few things and then headed out on a Jeep Drive up to the Rich Mountain Fire Tower. After a winding uphill drive, we reached the top of the mountain. We climbed the tower and were able to enjoy the view all to ourselves. It was super cool being up there looking out over the vast forest. We stayed up there quite a while before heading back down the mountain to our campground.
Saturday morning Austin went on a 40 mile bike ride so he was gone for almost 3 hours. I took the morning to tidy up around the RV. Once he got back, we set out to do the popular Lover’s Leap hike. It was a nice hike on the AT and it took us about an hour to complete. When we finished the hike, the Clemson game was about to start so we walked straight to a restaurant downtown so we wouldn’t miss kickoff. There was absolutely no cell phone service or internet in the area so a restaurant was our only shot at watching the game. Clemson pulled out the victory and we had a great afternoon cheering them on.
Sunday morning Austin left to go on another 40 mile ride. Our plans were to do another hike that afternoon after his ride. He left around 9:30 so I knew to expect him back around 12:00 or 12:30. He texted at the one point on his ride where he had service that it was taking longer than anticipated so I adjusted my expectations – I thought he would likely be back around 1:00 or 1:30 as a result. Well, 1:00 came and went. So did 2:00. I am absolutely freaking out. Not only are we in bear country, but Austin also told me about two huge German Shepherds that got after him on his ride the previous morning. Not to mention, he only had one tiny water bottle with him and no food. He had been gone entirely too long for my comfort.
Thankfully, he left his route with me. I decided to go try to find him in the Jeep. Now is a good time to point out that I am very much a beginner when it comes to driving a stick shift. This was daunting in itself. Never mind the stress of having Austin gone so long.
I start driving on the route he left for me in the opposite direction of his original plan. I left a note before I left so he wouldn’t worry about me if he got back before I did. In that note I said I would be back at 3:00. So, I drove for about 30 minutes and didn’t see any sign of him. By this point, my mind is in all of the wrong places imagining the absolute worst. I head back to the RV trying to calm myself as I’m sure I’m overreacting and certain he will be back. However, he wasn’t. At this point he had been gone 5.5 hours. I’m beyond freaking out at this point.
I walk to the guardhouse and the poor youngster working that day didn’t know what to do with me. He luckily had internet and I was able to look more closely at a map to try to figure out where he might be. I told the guard my plan – I was going to drive out again to look for him and if I couldn’t find him I would head to the police station. It would be getting dark before too much longer.
I drove out for another 30 minutes and still no sign of him. I was driving back down the mountain when I approached a car and saw his high-visibility jersey in the passenger seat and both the driver and passenger were flagging me down. A Jeep with a bright orange tandem kayak is hard to miss! I can’t even tell you how happy I was to see him. I had been so worried and it was such a helpless feeling! I honestly did not know what I would have done if he hadn’t been able to convince a stranger to give him a ride back to the campground being in a tiny town with no cell phone service where I knew no one.
Turns out, the route he had planned was a lot steeper than he thought and took a bit longer. Then, the road that he planned to take back ended abruptly and turned into ATV trails. So, he had to get back up the mountain. He ended up climbing over 5,800 feet. He passed a campground and went back to it and there was a fellow full-time RVer that (after a lot of hesitation since she was a female traveling alone, which we understand) kindly gave him a ride back to the campground. When he got to the campground, the guy manning the guardhouse told them my plan and they set out to find me. Luckily I thought to leave my plan with the guard.
After I was able to regain composure we went downtown for a fun dinner out. Thank goodness he was ok and luckily he has been ok since given the fact he was drinking creek water!