Hot Springs National Park, Arkansas
It is the only National Park located within a city. The reputation of the “healing waters” of Hot Springs began in the early 1800’s, ( much earlier than that for Native Americans ), and people began to make the pilgrimage to soak away just about anything they were suffering from. The water is indeed hot, coming out of the ground at 147 degrees at one of the main springs. There are a number of spring outlets and they pour forth at various temperatures. They are unique in our experience of various hot springs we have visited in that they come out of the ground pure and drinkable. No treatment needed. There are three or four drinking fountains around from lower temperature springs and we saw many locals filling gallon jugs. We filled our water bottles and then refrigerated the water to try it cooled. It tasted very clean and fresh, and although the Park Service provides a list of the varied mineral content, it had no strong mineral quality. It made a smoother cup of coffee than our tap water.
The grand years of Hot Springs blossomed in the late 1800’s-early 1900’s when a number of opulent bath houses were built to offer the public a dignified way to enjoy their hot water therapy. They exist today and three are still functioning as spas. We took a couples treatment and I had my first facial, (don’t need to experience another), had my feet scrubbed with warm oil and granular sugar, (that I would do another 100 times), and relaxed in a natural hot tub.
Up the hill, behind Bathhouse Row, as it is called, is a lovely laid brick promenade. We walked it and thought about what we had read about and seen period photos about. It was very popular for the turn of the century crowd to dress up all fancy and walk this promenade after their water therapies. The photos looked like “In my Easter Bonnet”. Amazing to think folks would pack what must have been steamer trunks to bring the frilly and voluminous dresses, suits and hats seen in the old pics. And then to do that in the hot, humid summers of Arkansas.
Afterwards, we undid all the health aspect of our treatments and went to Stubby’s BBQ, (since 1952), for ribs and pulled pork. Awesome baby back ribs spice rubbed and smoked forever and served dry with sauce on the side, Memphis style. Yum.
Arkansas has been another of our unexpected surprises on this journey. I am sure summers are tough but October is a beautiful time of year here. Lovely, dense hardwood forests, just beginning their fall color. Gentle mountains, The Ozarks and the Ouichitas, and many rivers and some well-done core of engineer lakes. It is home to Bass Pro sports stores for a reason as sport fishing is a big draw here. The bass get big.