Yesterday I drove north from Waynesville to Hot Springs on NC 209 and passed through the unincorporated communities of Luck (elev. 2556′) and Trust (elev. 2398′). You know when you are in Luck (hah!) because you pass the long-closed Plemmons grocery store with the rusting sign that says “LUCK, N.C.” On the other hand, you can easily pass through Trust without realizing it. But yesterday I felt that luck and trust were gifts bestowed on me.
Yesterday was a day that turned out to be excellent for no obvious practical reason. I’ve had some setbacks to deal with lately, and I started the day feeling oppressed by my list of phone calls to make and errands to run. Late in the morning I drove to Waynesville to get a copy of my book to Blue Ridge Books, but rather than coming home right away, I had the impulse to drive to Hot Springs. I’ve decided I want to live there, you see, and I just felt like taking another look at the place.
Route 209 is one of the most beautiful roads in western NC. It runs fast and straight from Iron Duff (otherwise known as Exit 24 on I-40) through a wide rolling valley where cattle have traced a spidery network of paths on the steep green pastures. At Fines Creek, 209 veers east and takes on the winding climb to Betsy Gap (elev. 3895′), which marks the French Broad – Pigeon divide and the border of Madison County.
Then you swoop down into another broad green valley where the highway runs beside a silvery stream, passing through Luck and Trust before tackling the twists and turns of the Spring Creek gorge. This last stretch is strenuous driving, off-limits to tractor trailers and not recommended for anyone prone to carsickness. You climb up and up, hoping you won’t end up testing the guard rail. Every now and then a small gravel turnout offers the chance to stop and peer deep down into big forests of pine that cling to rock outcrops.
Somewhere north of Trust I passed a little church with a sign that said, “The Lord Is Great. Let Us Greatly Praise Him.” At that moment I rounded a curve and saw a bank of shining white clouds pouring silently over the backs of the mountains. And at that moment a feeling of praise flooded into me. I thank God for all the good things I have in my life.