Last Sunday, when we were kidless, my husband proposed a three-part day trip. At my suggestion, he'd recently read the Catherine Marshall book, "Christy," a fictionalized account of the author's mother who was a mission teacher in Tennessee in 1912. He wanted to see the setting for the book, so we drove up through the mountains to Del Rio (El Pano in the book).
Del Rio is one of those pure Appalachia towns. Poor and uneducated and set in the midst of often breath-taking beauty.
But this tiny town, connected to the outside world by a railroad, was quite civilized compared to where the mission was located.
We got out a couple of times to explore around the community.
Then on up a narrow winding road to the community of Chapel Hollow (the book's Cutter Gap). The buildings are mostly in ruins, often only a crude stone fireplace left standing sentry.
After we'd walked around, we started to head back past an occupied house and a woman came out to chat with us and give us a pamphlet about the mission. I wish I had a photo - she was in a fuzzy bathrobe and pink wool cap, with a cigarette in one hand and cup of coffee in the other. And just as friendly as she could be, as she told us about the area and invited us to come back in the spring for their homecoming dinner. "It's free," she said, "and y'all don't have to bring a thing - just come on and eat with us." I believe we will.
From there we drove on towards North Carolina.
We stopped once to let a big flock of wild turkeys amble across the road and up into the woods.
We hiked up to Max Patch, on the Appalachian Trail. It's a short, easy hike and with the recent drought, a little dry and dusty.
We settled in a clear spot on the top for a picnic. Thanksgiving leftovers (turkey sandwiches), of course.
It was such a gorgeous day that we expected more of a crowd. But we ended up having no one in our view for most of the picnic.
We still had a stop to go, so we headed back down to our car.
I love when the world is green, but there is an interesting beauty to the plants heading for their winter sleep.
We drove from Max Patch to Hot Springs, and after a walk around town, we went into this store for a raspberry-lemon sorbet and cup of coffee.
And then the best part - a soak in our favorite tub on the little spit of land where Spring Creek joins up with the French Broad River. I love this place - it's peaceful and private and soaking in the spring-fed tub is heavenly. We ended the day feeling relaxed and ready to plunge back into the work week.