On what was forecasted to be one of the first nice Sundays of the year—it turned out to be nice adjacent (warm but windy… though I still managed a light third-degree burn)—my friend Eric and I made plans to hike the Lover’s Leap in Hot Springs and grab lunch and drinks at Big Pillow Brewing afterward. We’d been to Hot Spring last June—and though I may disagree with Hot Springs being dubbed North Carolina’s coolest small town—it was a fun visit (we particularly enjoyed Big Pillow). Afterward, we planned on stopping in Marshall to grab a riverside drink at Mad Co.Brew House before returning to Asheville.
Lover’s Leap is a decent little hike. It’s short but gains elevation fast (I made the mistake of doing a rather big leg day at the gym the day before, which was…a mistake). While I found the “leap” itself a tad underwhelming view-wise, I’m not mad I did the hike and would happily do so again. We finished right around noon when it was getting particularly crowded—and before going to Big Pillow, I drove to a small general store where I remember getting dried cantaloupe last year (a delicacy that’s far too hard to find in these parts). When we got to the store, there was a crowd hanging around out front, and upon going inside and finding it pitch black, we learned Hot Springs had been out of power for the past 24 hours. Luckily, the general store had the dried cantaloupe and a battery-powered card reader, but unluckily, Big Pillow was closed, so we headed to Marshall ahead of schedule.
We hadn’t been parked for more than five minutes before we were thwarted for the second time. Eric’s dog Lou was with us, and I guess I just assumed Mad Co. Brew House was dog friendly because they had a porch and because some other friends had just told me they’d stopped there recently with a dog, but it turns out dogs are only allowed in what essentially amounts to their foyer, which would’ve been fine for an overcast day, but the sun called for the outdoors, so we wandered down to Zadie’s Market, where we’d seen people sitting outside earlier (we’d parked right in front of it).
Zadie’s Market is the small market and dining establishment arm of The Old Marshall Jail, a small boutique hotel, and bar that, you guessed it, lives in what was once the Marshall Jail (the longest operating town jail in North Carolina history!). I’ve checked out the hotel website before (I’ve played around with trying to stay there, but my fear of not having anything happen to make me believe in ghosts has kept me at bay), so wrongly assumed Zadie’s brunch would be a fancy affair. It wasn’t! I had a very reasonably-priced, delicious burger and salad and two very reasonably-priced beers on the patio. The river in Marshall is nice and relaxing to sit on, but the town itself is charming, with several very cool alleyway apartments facing the river that were lively and fun to watch.
In addition to the Old Marshall Jail, Zadie’s, and Mad Co. Brew House, Marshall also has a new bar called Mal’s, a great used bookstore, some bakeries, a cafe, and two diners. It’s also a short drive to the Laurel River Trail, which I think is one of the more underrated hikes in the area. I think Marshall should bear the Coolest-Small-Town-in-Western-North-Carolina mantel, and I’m leaning more towards returning for a stay at the jail, potential ghosts be damned.