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Hot Springs

December 4, 2012

Arkansas – Friday. November 30

Tula and I started the day off with a mile walk around the campground, then headed to the visitor’s center for Hot Springs National Park, which is right in the middle of downtown Hot Springs. This national park preserves 8 large bathhouses from the early 1900s in addition to some if the hot springs. The bathhouses are all lined up along one side of Main Street and most have an elegant Spanish sort of style. Only a couple buildings are still used – one is the visitor’s center, and 2 still offer hot baths and other spa services. The 1920s were kind of the heyday of coming to town to take the baths, and there are still some grand hotels in town. A mile long Grand Promenade was built along the side of the mountain behind the bathhouses – it was a place to see and be seen, so visitors would dress in all their finery and the latest fashions from St. Louis to stroll along and take in the fresh air between soaks. Most of the springs are covered now to keep them clean and pure, but there were a few open springs in town, which were easy to find because of the steam. The water is 140 degrees, and I stuck my fingers in and it’s definitely hot! One kind of algae can tolerate the heat and it’s kind of a bright green. The water in these springs is clear and odorless and clean. There was a park ranger at one of the springs helping some kids with their Junior Ranger activities, and I listened to her tell the kids that the water that was trickling down into the spring was 4000 years old – it fell as rain around the time the Egyptians were building the pyramids, and then slowly (about a foot a year) seeped downward about 2 miles into the earth’s crust where it was heated, then ultimately pushed back to the surface by the arrival of more rain. It’s hard for me to comprehend that the water I was touching was 4000 years old. The video I watched talked about this cycle too, and also showed pictures of the valley before the springs were covered – the whole valley was full of steam, and was called the Valley of Vapors. It’s fascinating! Tula and I walked 5 miles – down Main Street past all the old bathhouses; walked the Grand Promenade from end to end; walked along the other trails off the Grand Promenade; and then walked over a mile and a half along the one-way auto route up to the top of Hot Springs Mountain, where there was an observation tower. Then we walked back down the mountain, and got a couple jugs out of the van to fill with spring water at one of the “faucet” areas in town. People would pull up and fill up crates of water jugs with pure spring water, and most of the souvenir shops sold empty bottles to fill up in case you didn’t have any of your own. The water that comes out of the faucet is still hot – and it stayed warm for quite a while! At this point, I was ready to sit in the car and continue heading east across Arkansas.

I didn’t make a donation today – the only one left is my military-related one, and I will take care of that in the morning.

After a short stop in Sheridan to walk our last mile of the day, I headed to Pine Bluff for the night.

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