I didn’t have great expectations of finding much of interest in Arkansas, but I was pleasantly surprised by the town of Hot Springs. In the 1800’s the town flourished under the influx of tourists looking to rejuvenate themselves in the naturally steaming mineral waters the city is named for. People came believing that the waters cured illness and ailments and stayed at the posh hotel-bathhouses lining the main street. Today one of the main bathhouses is a National Park - a free national park. The four story building has been restored to pristine condition and showcases the many stages of a typical Victorian era visit to the hot springs.
Part day spa and part medical facility, the bathhouse still has all the accessories and strange medical devices that were used during its heyday. It feels as though at any moment the place could be filled with the patrons from the past in their towels and bathrobes.
On the hillside the city is built into, you can see the steaming water gurgling up from natural pools and piped fountains. They even have a gazebo with multiple spigots in the visitor center parking lot, allowing people to take gallons of the water home with them.
On the same block as the National Park Building there are a handful of bathhouses still open and operating for tourists. It’s a cold and windy day and after dipping my hands in the hot waters of the waterfall in the park, I resolve that I will spend the $20 to take a bath. Why not? But as soon as I select a bathhouse and walk to the door, I see a note that they closed early today in observation of President’s Day. President’s Day? Nothing else was closed in the town. Grrr…
The next day I drive through the Ozarks. This time of year isn’t the best time to view the mountains and trees, but the sky is dynamic and dramatic and I end up tilting my camera toward the sky most of the time.
I stopped for the night in a tiny town called Jasper. Although there was little to do, that was part of its charm. The first hotel I stopped at the owner told me she hadn’t warmed up enough rooms and suggested I head up the street to the next hotel instead of sticking me in a room that would take a couple hours to warm up. How sweet. In the morning I walk across the street to Ozark Café and eat a cheap breakfast amongst scruffy locals who appear to have lived in this town their whole lives. It reminds me of the town in Northern Exposure, except there aren’t any quirky young people. Hum… maybe if I moved there…