July 22, 2020
THANKS FOR FOLLOWING ALONG WITH US ON THE CELEBRATE AMERICA TOUR! IF YOU ARE JUST TUNING IN, BE SURE TO CATCH DAY 1 OF MY TIME IN HOT SPRINGS.
THE Hot Springs…Not Quite What I Expected
The thermal springs still draw loads of visitors each year, but if you’ve envisioned bathing in the springs beneath a water fall amidst lush foliage and scenery, you will be disappointed. I guess I figured on an oddly romantic scene from a jungle movie when I thought of the Hot Springs bubbling out of the ground into pools for local bathers, but there are no opportunities to soak in the springs outdoors. To do that you have to go to one of the two bathhouses that pipe in the spring water directly- the Buckstaff, built in 1912 or the Quapaw, a modern day spa with all the amenities. One of these days I’ll make it back here and get the full treatment, but I was just too short on time to squeeze it in this trip.
There are a couple of pools where you can touch the thermal springs. A quick google search led me to the Display Spring, which is just behind Bathhouse Row. I was so excited to experience the spring I let my brain completely ignore the fact that even on this hot summer day (the temps were hovering in the mid 90s) there was a good amount of steam floating over the pool. The National Park Service site says that the water coming out of this spring is at a toasty 147 degrees, but “cools enough to touch before it makes it to the pool.” I suppose if I no longer had fingertips, that would be true, but the water is still pretty stinking hot! It was nice at the Display Spring though, and maybe Luna and I were tired, but I definitely felt myself dozing as I sat next to the pool taking in the gentle sounds of moving water and the beauty of the natural surroundings.
One of the things Don and Judy told me I “had to” do was bottle and drink the Hot Springs mineral water from one of the fountains found all throughout the park. There are ten fountains that pump water from a hot spring and two that come from cold springs and people come from all over just to bottle and drink from these fountains. The park offers its mineral water as a free resource from its fountains. Again, giant disclaimer, the water from the HOT springs is…well…HOT -so be prepared. I was not, and got quite a few smirks as I unleashed a quiet but passionate string of colorful terminology as I tried to gingerly shift my grasp on the bottle while I filled it. Drinking from the spring or taking time to “quaff the elixir” as they called it in times past is definitely a new experience. Did you know that water has flavor?! I also learned that the higher the mineral content, the healthier the water is for you. I guess I just always thought that water was…well…it was all just water. Now I know that not all water is created equal.
Finally Hitting the Trail…
Hot Springs National Park is one of the most dog friendly parks in the nation. All of the park, most of the town, and many of the restaurants invite four legged friends to join their humans and I was super thankful for that. As we headed out this morning for our first day on the trails, I couldn’t help but feel a little giddy with all the anticipation of finally making it to the hiking trails. This tour has a lot of moving pieces- some I don’t fully have a grasp on yet- but I feel like the hikes Luna and I have under control.
There are tons of trails in and through the National Park, but chose to start us out (slowly?) on the Goat Rock Trail. To reach the Goat Rock Trail is a climb, littered with spots to the side for hikes that sprawl all over the mountain. Hikers of all groups come up here and explore the scenic hilltop. It’s also a great hike for families who want a good spot to park and check out the mountain top view. This trail was a great natural hike to kick off this part of our journey!
Starting out on the peak, we were met with pockets of cliff side views that kept us chasing each window that the trail laid out for us. The scenery was just breathtaking! It reminded me that even though this tour will take me all across the country exploring all different kinds of parks, I live in the “Natural State,” and gorgeous views are just a stone’s throw away.
Getting All Stove Up…
Traveling hundreds of miles hauling a camper can definitely cause the ole legs and back to stiffen up, and I realized pretty quickly that while this wasn’t a difficult hike, it definitely left me more sore than expected. The day was super hot and muggy, and I ended up looking like I’d jumped in the campground pool with my clothes on. I definitely need to watch our fluid intake start a regular stretching routine if I’m gonna make it through some of the tougher hikes coming up. Overall the ancient thermal springs, breathtaking mountain views and forested hikes, and incredible geology- all in the middle of town- made Hot Springs National Park a unique and beautiful destination.