Monday, February 28, 2005

05-05 Hot Springs Arkansas

Week 5 of 52
Hot Springs Arkansas
May 8-15

Hot Springs Arkansas. I guess because I’ve lived in Florida so long, I’ve been attracted to springs. And Florida has a good share of them. So, here I am in Hot Springs, where they have really hot springs. Now at first glance when you tour the town Hot Springs, which by the way is the only town in the US that is part of a national park, you’re not going to see very many open springs. What you will see are green boxes along the sides of the hills around town, locked tighter than a bank vault. And the original stream that ran though the center of town and caused considerable flooding during the rainy season is now underground, under the main street.

Now don’t get me wrong, you will see some open springs and the Spas and water fountains are all spring fed. You can tell cause they have steam coming off of them. Oh, the town has a number of public fountains so you can fill your empty jugs for free with the great mineral laden water. And it does taste great. I can imagine what it must look like in the fall and winter, with all the steam coming up all over the mountains and around town.

Actually the first thing I noticed coming into Hot Springs, was the wonderful smell of jasmine and magnolia blossoms. The low lying range of mountains in the region are a nice change from mostly flat Fla. Bath House Row along Central Avenue are all owned by the Federal Government and are currently being restored. You could even lease one if you wanted to start a business. Two of them are open, one as a National Park museum, Fordyce. The other is Buckstaff Bathhouse which is the only original bathhouse on the main street that is still operating as a full health spa.

I was told to try The Hot Springs Health Spa on Spring Street and Laurel. For $12.00, that’s after a $1 coupon from the local tourist mags, I enjoyed a morning at the “common” mans spa. They have a complete exercise room, numerous hot tubs at various temperatures, steam rooms, a cooling waterfall and two larger pools on the lower level. All supplied by the hot springs which have been diverted to the various spas and hotels in the area.

The downtown area has a gorgeous streetscape and I couldn’t stop taking pictures. Hot Springs is a comfortable 35,000 strong. This is Clinton country so of course I was right at home. I know I’ll get grief from the few friends I have that are other political persuasions, but oh well. I even went to McClard’s, President Clintons favorite Bar-B-Q place. Hot Springs is the boyhood home of Bill Clinton. You really get a feeling of how much he loves this country and wanted to serve our country the best he could. He did a lot of good for this country and it all started here. His presidential Library is just up the road a way in Little Rock.

I’m staying on top of a mountain. Literally. At the Cloud Nine Campground. The owners, Anna and her husband opened it 3 years ago and it’s a stunning campground. Anna’s from Greece and is about 55. Her husband is 78. The drive up the side of the mountain was straight up except for the “generous” curves in the road. When it says Swing Wide, they mean it. No swimming pool, but everything is new and modern. From the bathrooms to the laundry mat and they just put in wi-fi. $2 extra per day. The views are stunning. Oh, and there are three cell towers on the mountain top so you should get great phone reception.

I also went up to Hot Springs National Park tower. $5.00 after another $1 senior discount.. Love those discounts. The National Park which surrounds and includes Hot Springs does have hiking trails. And I do mean hiking trails. They pretty much go up and down the mountains. Ok and around them too. I’m going to do a couple of them in the next day or two. The park includes a number of campgrounds, 4 state parks are in the area.
I was told to go to Garvan Woodland Gardens. A must. But, with all the natural beauty surrounding the area, it was a bit of a let down. All of the flowering plants had pretty much bloomed out and they didn’t have any plaques describing the many different trees. The self guided tour pamphlet did mention the Japanese maples, which were a gorgeous dark burgundy colored leafy tree. Smaller than our North American maples. The paths were well maintained and the stone bridges and artificial waterfalls all looked natural. The ride to the gardens was very interesting as the road wound up, down, around and the narrowest roads I’d been on in a long time. Do not drive this road quickly. You’ll run off the road in a heart beat. And no, I didn’t run off the road. But I sure was concerned I was going to.

By the way, I usually take well over 200 pictures at each location and condense them into one or two collage pics. If you are interested in anything in particular, I can send additional pictures upon request…. Assuming I have wi-fi or a good internet connection.

I did a bit of hiking today, along the Goat Rock trail in on top of Hot Springs Mountain. It was a gentle sloping trail that led to a rock outcropping called Goat Rock. Many switchbacks to make the trail gradual both going down and coming back on the return route. It got up to 90 today, so I was glad I had decided to hike in the morning. Most of the trail was well shaded so it wasn’t too bad. There are plenty of trails in the national park and you can even start right from the town of Hot Springs itself.

While on Goat Rock trail, I saw a bobcat. Now that was exciting. Now the bobcat around these parts is about the size of a small dog. He was walking ahead of me on the same path I was on and was startled by my arrival. No more so than I. I’ve seen everything from the usual deer, turkey, to a beaver while at Tishomingo State park doing a fine job making a rather large dam. And I keep a keen eye out for the recently discovered white headed wood pecker. Now that would be awesome if I saw one.

So from my perch on top of Cloud Nine campground, I wish all of you the best summer possible. And hope to see many of you on my return trip in the fall. Till the next report, remember, I’m thinking about you as I journey through the heart of this country and hope you enjoy my rambling reports. It’s nice knowing your along on my journey, if only through my words and pictures. And I sure do like hearing back from you. So thanks for all the great messages and updates.

PS other things in the area of interest: Hot Springs Horse racing, Diamond Mine State park, where you can hunt for and keep any diamonds you find. This is rock country so any rock hounds will go crazy here. Fishing in the many lakes in the area. Two music and comedy reviews. And the national park just started Duck rides. Vehicles that take you on tour on land and water.

No comments: