01-26-21_The Other Hot Springs

In 2017 when I was trying to create an email address for the farmers market,  HotSpringsFarmersMarket@gmail.com, and was told that email had already been taken, is the first time I realized there was another town called Hot Springs. This one was in Arkansas.  I’d never been to Arkansas so I began to wonder about it.  Over the years I occasionally would be contacted by someone on Facebook about our farmers market only to realize they were referring to the one in Arkansas. Then this summer while soaking at Moccasin Springs I actually met a couple from Hot Springs, Arkansas. I don’t recall the entire conversation, but I think they said they liked our Hot Springs better because it was outside and the ones in Hot Springs, AR were inside in bath houses.  So when Uriah said that Hot Springs, AR was on our route, we both were curious and wanted to check it out.  I always imagined that it was a small little town like ours but it’s actually about 10time more people than our town. And the most shocking part for me was the fact that the entire town of Hot Springs Is in a National Park! How do you have a whole town in a National Park? For the details of historical reference, I’ll let you read Uriah’s blog (assuming he will write about the history per usual). From the perspective of a simple observer, lets start with the fact that their really isn’t an entrance to the National Park as you would imagine. There are signs but no official entrance. In fact, we pulled into the National Park campsite off the main highway and used an automated machine to pay for our camp site. Later on we drove into town to find the Hot Springs. We drove about 7 miles on a highway to the main downtown part of town where the “Hot Springs Row” is. That is the several blocks of large buildings that held the various indoor bathhouses to soak in the Hot Springs water.  A few are still open but some have been converted to hotels, restaurants, and the like.  Across the street from these buildings are all the smaller shops, restaurants, gift shops and everything you would expect from any tourist town. The highway between is busy with cars driving from one side of town to the other. Both sides of the streets are lined with metered parking.  All of this IS the National park!?

It was already afternoon when we headed to the only pubic bathhouse open, Quapaw. The other open bathhouse was only offering packages that included private soaks, massages and other various spa services, we opted for the less expensive version.  After going through the covid procedures of identifying ourselves, that we hadn’t had any symptoms and verified we didn’t have a fever we were okayed to enter the building and on to main desk for more identifications and making payments, determining if we had suits and appropriate footwear. Uriah didn’t have footwear but was lent a pair.  The all indoor bathhouse included 4 pools ranging in temperatures from 98 to 104, though it felt a little hotter. All the pools were generous in size and could accommodate many groups with plenty of social distancing; we were 1 of about 4 other parties in the place.  It was an enjoyable experience but no where near as nice as we’ve got it at Moccasin Springs!! Mainly due to ambiance, being outdoor rather than indoor and the little bit of freedom to be oneself.  The Moc certainly has a few rules, but this place had an employee station just there to mop the floors, hand out water and make sure everyone followed the rules. You so much get out in the wrong place and she very kindly comes over and corrects your actions.

After a few hours of soaking, we walked over for a bite to eat at the Grateful Head pizza shop. It had been a very long time since I’ve enjoyed one of my favorite foods so I went along when Uriah suggested it.  It was simple but tasty and apparently we got there just in time before close. They were closing early due to a slow night.

The next day we spent hiking the trails In the National Park.  There are many small winding and intersecting trails. We took the longest one, just over a mile and ½ to the downtown bathhouses. We enjoyed the nice hike after sitting in the car for days, the warmer weathers and even had a nice conversation with Arkansan, Charles a retired nuclear plant worker. Despite the 50 degree weather, most of the leaves have fallen just like everywhere else, except one tree in the forest, which we’ve learned is an evergreen magnolia tree. We certainly enjoyed our time here, but I would agree, there’s no place like home and this place has nothing on our little Hot Springs.

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