What’ s So Hot About Hot Springs?

Hot Springs NP, Arkansas

The View From Bathhouse Row

Before we wind up falling further behind in posting than we already are, here’s a post on our time in Hot Springs. Arkansas from January-March 2017. Our first visit to this area was in 2010 before we were full time RVers. Still dazzled by the splendor of the western parks we were very unimpressed with Hot Springs and left wondering why this was a National Park. A National Historic Site or even a Monument but a National Park? We are so glad that we had the opportunity to return, spend time and learn about both the national park and the city. We really had missed the boat the first time around! So if you come here be sure and take the time to do tours and come prepared to learn. Both the park and the city have lots to offer but you can’t do it by whizzing through in a day or less. It is like an iceberg. There’s what you see above the water but when you start looking deeper there’s more and more.

A Tub In The Fordyce

Fordyce Music Room

The Quapaw Bathhouse

Us At Work In The Fordyce

 

 

Chari’s Reflection In The Hale Bathhouse Window

 

 

Monument To The First NPS Ranger Killed On Duty

 

We were working at the Fordyce Bathhouse Visitor Center, the museum and information center for Hot Springs National Park on Central Avenue in the historic district. There are 8 remaining bathhouses along what is known as Bathhouse Row in the national park and 6 of them are open to the public: the Fordyce visitor center, the Lamar gift shop and the Ozark art museum for the park, 2 operating bathhouses (the Buckstaff and the Quapaw) and the Superior microbrewery. So here’s some of what we learned and shared during our tours.

The Buckstaff, The Lamar and The Former Army-Navy Hospital (now ACTI)

Hot Springs National Park is the smallest of the 59 National Parks and the only one with a city completely within its borders. The geology of the hot springs is special because it is one of only 2 in North America not heated by volcanic activity. The rainwater takes 4,400 yrs. to travel over a mile and a half into the earth reaching 150 degrees but returns to the surface in about a year thus retaining its heat (139-143 degrees). So when you drink from the springs you are drinking water that fell as rain at the time the Egyptians were building the pyramids! That’s another big difference. Most national parks warn you to not take anything while Hot Springs NP encourages you to drink the water and take some with you by having drinking and jug fountains all around. In fact the original legislation protecting the hot springs states that the water will forever be free to the people.

Historic Hot Springs, Arkansas

 

It Is Always Spring Time In Hot Springs

 

Filling Up At The Jug Fountain

 

The Stevens Fountain

Old Hot Springs Artwork At The Ozark

The springs yield, on average, 700,000 gallons per day. Of that the park collects and distributes about 250,000 gallons. People come from hours away to fill pickup trucks full of bottles with the mineral rich water. Don’t want to drink hot water? There are two cold springs from another source as well. However, don’t expect to dip in the springs outside. They’ve been covered up for over a century to protect them from man-made and natural contamination. We occasionally had the opportunity to assist the water technicians as they tested the springs each week. The park contains the oldest land in the world ever set aside by a government to protect a natural resource. That was in 1832. If they had named it a national park back then, Hot Springs rather than Yellowstone would have been our first national park. Instead it was called Hot Springs Reservation and did not come under the NPS until 1921 as the 18th national park.

Volunteers Help With Water Testing

Recording Water Quality Data

So what is a bathhouse? In the days before modern medicine (post WWII) as we know it, people had few medications and surgery was very risky. So they depended upon the curative properties of heat, light, water, exercise and later electricity. The bathhouses were the rehabilitation facilities of the day. We told visitors that coming to Hot Springs was coming to the Mayo Clinic on one side of the street (Bathhouse Row) and Las Vegas before Las Vegas existed in the city. Hot Springs was also the primary spring training area for major league baseball before it relocated to Florida. Other sports stars like Jack Dempsey trained here. Babe Ruth hit his longest home run here (over 500′). Follow the signs on the Baseball trail to learn more.The museum is filled with interesting old equipment.The Fordyce featured the best appointed gym in Arkansas when it opened in 1915. A few items like the Hubbard tank from the 30s and the Hoyer lift from the 50s I used during my career as a physical therapist. Well, not those models but a generation later. Once again I’m seeing my life in a museum! Make sure to take the guided tour and hear some stories. When that’s done, take a hike or drive and check out the view from the observation tower. Steve was reading in preparation for our next volunteer job about some of the ways Lewis and Clark handled medical issues using Indian sweat lodges and alternate heat and cold. Equipment may change but principles stay the same.

Fordyce Gym

Indian Clubs

The Hubbard Tank Room

Chari and Steve Hiking On Hot Springs Mountain

The city is just as interesting. Gambling, bootlegging and other carnal activities were the main business. While never legal it flourished d/t payoffs to police and government official until the mid 1960s. When Winthrop Rockefeller was elected he vowed to clean up corruption and gambling. He did. Learn more at the Ganster Museum. We enjoyed the tour there and as you can see hammed it up a bit with some pics. At the same time the golden age of the bathhouse was declining. Hot Springs fell on hard times. In the late 1980s the NPS remodeled the Fordyce Bathhouse into the Visitor Center and repurposed others. This was no small task. Today you can visit the Fordyce and see the most opulent of bathhouses restored to its former beauty. Don’t miss the beautiful stained glass on three of the four floors or ride the original elevator car. Only the Buckstaff never closed its doors. Today you can experience treatment as if it were one hundred years ago at the Buckstaff or enjoy the mineral rich spring water at the Quapaw Baths spa pools. We did both and came out feeling like a piece of cooked spaghetti each time! I (Steve) had a bad cold and went to the Quapaw. Almost immediately I could feel the congestion in my chest lessening. I do believe soaking in the water cut the length of my cold in half. 

Make My Day! Steve At The Gangster Museum

This Lady Is Serious!

 

Stained Glass In The Fordyce Women’s Bath Hall

Skylight In The Music Room

Neptune’s Daughter

The architecture of the town from the 1890s-1940s is terrific and makes for some great photos. Like to shop? Only your credit card limit will dictate where and how much. Hungry? We enjoyed numerous good restaurants in Hot Springs. A few of our favorites were McClard’s for BBQ (also Bill Clinton’s), Colorado Grill for Mexican, Rolando’s for Ecuadorian, buffets at the Arlington Hotel, a Southern Living best breakfast winner Colonial Cafe and the Ohio Club where you can rub elbows with Al Capone (or at least his statue). For fun in the evening catch the monthly free performances of the Jazz Society, attend a show at the Five Star Dinner Theatre or feel like a kid at the Maxwell Blade Magic Show. Garvin Gardens was just as magical in the Spring as it had been at Christmas with a sea of tulips at peak bloom. We didn’t go to the horserace at Oaklawn but it is a big attraction from late winter through April. In summer there is the Magic Springs amusement park and all the water sports of lakes Hamilton, Catherine and Ouachita plus the Belle of Hot Springs riverboat.

Exterior Window At The Fordyce

The Arlington Hotel Lobby

 

Stairway At The Ozark

Volunteers And Ranger Touring The Archives

Ranger Leading A Guided Tour

Best Breakfast In Town

The Name Says It All

Tasting A Flight At Superior Brewery

When all is said and done it is the people from Hot Springs National Park we will remember. We made new friends with several volunteers. The Rangers were fantastic. They coached us and taught us so that we could hone our interpretive skills. They made it possible for us to visit places not open to the public such as the water distribution system, the Hale and Maurice Bathhouses and the museum archives. They thanked us for our time volunteering at least once a day. While we enjoy new experiences by volunteering at different parks or for different agencies, if we ever do repeat a job this will rank high on the list. Thank You Hot Springs National Park for a fabulous three months!

The End!

Where Next #9

Laguna Atascosa NWR, Flaming Gorge NRA, Texas, Utah, New Mexico, Colorado

From LANWR To Flaming Gorge NRA

It’s been a long time since we’ve posted on the blog. Guess we needed a vacation from having so much fun! Before we get too much further behind here are our travel plans when we leave Laguna Atascosa NWR and head for our summer volunteer position at Flaming Gorge National Recreation Area.

When we head out we will go north to the piney woods of northeastern Texas to see Big Thicket National Preserve, Cane River Creole National Historic Park in Louisiana and the area should be in bloom with azaleas and dogwoods. Now add local BBQ joints and fried catfish to the mix. We’ll be staying at Alley Creek Camp, a USACE campground on a lake with water and electric hookups. We bought fishing licenses but haven’t been able to use them. Maybe we will here.

Then we drop back south a bit where we’ll be 75 miles NW of Houston. Lots of small towns, Spring blossoms, the Texas Painted Church tour and hopefully getting to Galveston and sightseeing in Houston too. We’ll stay at Cagle Recreation Area, a USFS campground with full hookups.

On to the Hill Country where there is so much to do I know we won’t scatch the surface. We’ll be staying at Cranes Mill CG on Canyon Lake, a  USACE campground with electric and water hookups. We plan to visit Fredricksburg,  New Braunfels and San Antonio. There will be many drives through the famous blue bonnets and we’ll meet up with friends volunteering at the LBJ NHP.

On to west Texas via Amistead NRA (a reservoir on the Rio Grande), Guadalupe Mountains NP and El Paso. From there we turn north to New Mexico and hope to stay at Elephant Butte Lake SP. Using this as a base we will visit White Sands NP, Gila Cliff Dwellings, Salinas Pueblo Missions and Pecos NHP. If there is time we will stop to see fellow volunteers at Sevilleta NWR.

Hoping to make up for our missed visit last Fall, we will drive north to see friends in Los Alamos, NM. Other points of interest will be Santa Fe and possibly 5 more NPS sites. We haven’t camped that much in Colorado so we look forward to staying at Cheyenne Mountain SP near Colorado Springs. Our last leg will turn west toward Dinosaur NM and Fossil Butte NM. If we see all 17 planned NPS sites we will have seen 42% of all the parks.

We’ll put down roots (or as close as we come to it these days) for 3.5 months in NE Utah. Home is where you park it.

How Green Is My Valley: Arizona’s Verde Valley, Sedona and Cottonwood

Sedona, Arizona, red rock country

Sedona Panorama

When we left Petrified Forest NP on 2/3/15 I was promising to keep the blog current during our Spring wanderings as for the past two years I’ve fallen off the blog wagon and still haven’t made up for the lapses! Someday maybe I’ll learn not to make promises I can’t keep. We are now settled in for the Summer on San Juan Island with great Wifi and hopefully time to catch up. We hope you won’t get whiplash as we jump back and forth from the cool, green, watery northwest to the desert southwest.

Stop number one as we left PEFO was to get a new tire for the trailer in Show Low, AZ. Rather than back track up to I 40 we then followed AZ 260 over to Cottonwood, AZ and our campground at Dead Horse Ranch SP. AZ 260 is a scenic route that winds through the Sitgreaves National Forest and along the Mogollon Rim (pronounced Mug- ee-yon). This is where the Colorado Plateau ends and drops 3,000 feet into the Tonto NF and Phoenix valley. Dead Horse Ranch SP is a wonderful place to stay and one loop is set up for larger rigs with drive-thru sites, electric and water hook-ups and a central gray water dump. The name comes from the previous owners who when looking for a ranch to buy had viewed several. They asked their children “which should we buy? The kids answered, the one with the dead horse!” The name stuck. The town of Cottonwood and nearby Jerome were mining boom towns that flourished and failed but are now retirement meccas and tourist destinations. With Sedona about 20 miles away it is a very popular spot.

We could have subtitled this entry “What Happens When Things Don’t Turn Out The Way You Expect”. We had made arrangements with a mobile RV repair to come as our washer dryer combo and oven weren’t working. The dryer needed to be man handled out of its small cabinet by both Steve and the repairman and have the filter flushed. Unfortunately the park water pressure was low so the machine had to be loaded onto the back of the truck and taken to the fairgrounds. The repairman couldn’t wait for this so when Steve returned he was able to slide it off the truck onto the picnic table. Now we had to wait 2 days until the repairman came back. We’ve kidded about “rednecks” living in trailer parks with old cars and washers outside. Now we had one! The stove just needed a new pilot light assembly and that was ordered. Just an hour before the repairman returned our electric system went down. The diagnosis was we needed a new converter. That was ordered and arrived the next day. The repairman made trip number three, installed the part, tested it and the part was defective!! OK, so now we are due to leave the following day. We check with the park and we can have the spot for two more days. We cancel two days at our next park. A rush order, yet another visit by the mobile repairman who by this time felt like family and we are finally back in one piece. All of these unplanned incidents had cut into our sightseeing. We know we will return to explore the area again. We did enjoy what we got to see and people we met.

One night while sitting in camp we met a couple who have very interesting hobbies. He plays in a 1860 baseball league which plays by the original rules, uses authentic equipment and wears period uniforms. She is active in a women’s group called Sisters On The Fly. The group began for women who enjoyed fly fishing. Quickly it expanded to many other activities. Several of the women (our acquaintance included) travel in vintage RVs. She had just finished refurbishing a 1970s era trailer. This Summer the group will caravan from Chicago to Santa Monica along Rt. 66. They will start with 50 trailers and end with over 300. The other couple we first met at a gas station and later visited at our campsite. They now live in Cottonwood after losing both their home and their RV park business near San Diego to wildfires in 2001. Along the way they had lived in Anacortes, WA where we would take the ferry to San Juan Island. After visiting with us they reciprocated by inviting us to their home for dinner. Many times you meet people and know it is one of the “for a reason” friendships and you might not ever see them again. Travel isn’t always about the places you go but the people you meet along the way.

Arizona, Jerome, old mining town

Scenery From Near Jerome, Arizona

ancestral puebloan, national monument

Montezuma’s Castle NM… now that’s a real high rise building!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

restaurant, BBQ, Jerome

English Kitchen Restaurant With Original Bar Stools

We did get to Sedona and Red Rock Country on two drives, visited Prescott Valley for a Costco stop but saw beautiful scenery along the way, visited Montezuma’s Castle NM and Tuzigoot NM and had dinner in Jerome. There is so much to explore in the Coconino National Forest and trails around Sedona. We wanted to take one of the Pink Jeep off road trips and a railroad trip but these fell by the way. The dinner in Jerome was at an excellent BBQ spot called The English Kitchen. The history of the building included being established by a Chinese man during the mining boom and at one point the basement was an opium den. So enjoy the few pictures we took. We will be back!

Sedona, Arizona, sunset, photography

Sunset In Sedona

national park, national monument, Tuzigoot, Arizona

Tuzigoot National Monument