Friday, March 30, 2012


We camped at two locations in Arkansas, having absorbed through osmosis the notion that it was a nice place to spend time. First stop was at Lake Catharine State Park, near the resort & National Park city of Hot Springs. We backed up to within a dozen feet of the lake, and settled in to enjoy our stay. It was very warm with daytime temperatures in the mid-80's and around 60 at night. Paddling on the lake brought some relief from the heat, and we watched the banks for the scores of turtles basking in the sun. We collected them and made soup. (No we didn't)

A nice trail followed the lakeshore to a feeder stream with a very nice waterfall...

...with a nice clear pool into which Toby and I considered leaping. We both settled for wading in the cool waters.

One morning we drove to a trailhead north of Hot Springs, to go for a mountain-bike ride. The Cedar Glades trail network was marked up to show which trails were easiest, intermediate, and hardest. Nancy and I rode the easiest one, and Nancy got a taste of the relativity of these trail rating systems. An "easy" trail at one location might be more, or less, easy than an "easy" trail at another network. I think that this one was fairly rated, but it was certainly more challenging than several that Nancy has tackled. After we completed that loop I took off to check out the "most difficult" trail, which was a lot of fun. In keeping with the relativity theme, this one was not really technically harder than the "easy" trail, just longer and with a fairly long climb. Good trail system.

While getting geared up at the trailhead we were approached by a friendly lady who introduced herself as Janis Percefull, a local historian and author. She generously gave us three of her books: one a history of the Ouachita region of Arkansas, and the other two historical fiction about people living in Hot Springs. Check her out at

After the ride we went into Hot Springs to grab some lunch, then checked out Hot Springs National Park.

HSNP is unusual in that it is mostly an urban park. The federal government took control of the region to protect the resource as its popularity grew, and insure that anyone who wanted to enjoy the restorative waters could do so. It is in partnership with a number of bathhouses where patrons would go to soak their troubles away, rheumatism and the like. The bathing craze peaked in the 1940's, and has been declining since. I think just one of the big bathhouses is still operating as such. The park service occupies one of these, which it preserves as a museum. The bathhouses are all beautifully built and maintained structures:

Early bathhouses were wooden, but they found that this left something to be desired in terms of sanitation, rot resistance, and fire resistance. When they all got all skeevy, rotted away or turned to ash, they were replaced by the luxurious stone and tile structures that still stand today.

This stained glass lets light into one of the men's bathing areas:

More stained glass in this beautiful "music room":

This contraption is in the ladies bathing area. Any guesses as to its purpose? Remember, this is a family show...

Our next stop was the town of Ozark, on the Arkansas River, just south of the Ozark mountains. We stayed at Corps of Engineers park Aux Arc (pronounced "ozark"), which was a nice state-park-like facility, and a bargain at $18/night. We again scored a waterfront site...

...with a view of this attractive bridge:

It was even hotter during our stay in Ozark, getting up over 90 during the day, and barely under 70 at night. Our air conditioner got a workout. We went for a paddle on a tributary of the Arkansas, seeking out what little wind there was. I tried out paddleboarding the Frenzy:

We took a drive up into the Ozark mountains where the roads turned narrow and twisty, a challenge with Gigantor's Q.E.II-like handling. An abundance of motorcyclist were out enjoying the mountain roads, and we pulled over many times to let them pass.

It was pretty up there, and a couple degrees cooler. We found a trailhead and took a short hike up to a rough stone house built under a rock overhang:

All along the trail grew Arkansas ground-cover: poison ivy. We had to watch every step to avoid brushing against its leaves. Also in abundance was some kind of wild hydrangea.

On our drive we crossed or followed several rivers with clean water of a beautiful green color:

Many people were paddling these rivers; self shuttling, or shuttled by an adventure outfitter company. So, a good experience in Arkansas. Assuming that it isn't always hotter than the surface of the sun, it would be nice to return to get to know it better.

No comments:

Post a Comment