Displaced Viscera (Arkansas Day 3)

Be sure to check out the abdominal massage machine previously available at the Fordyce in Hot Springs, just in case your viscera have been displaced from a tight corset!

We checked out Hot Springs National Park today, and spent enough time there that we’re going to have to come back another day to explore the town itself. One thing I already love about Hot Springs–a big, free parking garage about a block from the park visitor center.

Hot Springs is what first made us consider coming to Arkansas, and if you’re not familiar with it, check out its history. The national park visitor center is in the Fordyce Bathhouse on Bathhouse Row, a street of spas that take advantage of the thermal springs in the area. Fun fact…the springs are hot because of radioactive decay, which is cool and also slightly creepy. Right now, only two of the bathhouses are in operation, but you can see the historical set up at the Fordyce when you visit…and it’s definitely worth a visit. I especially liked the way so much of the treatments look more like torture equipment to me. And the early exercise machines and equipment are just cool.

One thing not to do if you visit…go on a tour with a know-it-all who likes to tell the park ranger guiding you what the real history is, as well as making sure we all knew she couldn’t stay for a long tour because she had places to go. Cristin and I kept shooting each other “Really?” glances.

Behind the visitor center is a place where the waters come to the surface, and we were able to get close to them. We didn’t touch it (the sign said it was about 134º F) but just holding our hands above the water and standing near it were enough to make us hot. I could see steam curling off the water (it was in the mid- to high-80s today). We made our way from there up to a short hiking path that leads to the mountain tower. The path was STEEP, and our legs weren’t happy with us abusing them two days in a row. But the views once we got to the top of the tower were wonderful, and it was totally worth it. And apparently we weren’t that worn out, because we took a longer hike back down to the town.

The city has fountains where you can fill up containers with water from the springs, so Cristin and I refilled our bottles there. The water came out scalding, but we tossed the bottles in the cooler to taste later. We had another example of southern hospitality while there, as a man filling up some jugs engaged us in conversation. The conversation kind of ended when he asked, “Do you know Jesus in your life?” Then it got…awkward.

After lunch and a stop for the view on West Mountain, we drove to Garvan Woodland Gardens, where we dragged ourselves along the paths. The flowers and plants were worth the effort, even though we were both dragging towards the end. I especially liked the bonsai garden and the fairy garden, but really all of it was beautiful. There’s also a chapel on the grounds made all of wood and glass, and walking in it felt like you were in church while outdoors. Be sure to check it out if you’re there!

We managed to stay awake long enough to make it home, where Cristin will be making us hamburgers on the grill, and I will be, um, trying to come up with a way to help, since cooking and I are not friends. (Update: I heated up the baked beans!) I’m not sure what the evening will entail beyond that, but given that we’re both already in our pajamas, it’s safe to say it’ll be a quiet one.

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