Hungry Fishies (Arkansas Day 7)

Other than unintentionally tricking some fish into thinking they were going to get fed, we didn’t do a lot today.

Even though yesterday didn’t involve a lot of physical effort, we were both exhausted, so we had a late start to the morning. After a breakfast of leftovers, we set out to do a little hiking in the village where we’re staying. We chose a 3 mile trail that wandered near a creek, complete with a small pond area where we found the aforementioned fish. The fish are clearly used to human visitors, as they all lined up to watch us and hope we would toss them some food.

It was muggier today than yesterday, but we still enjoyed the walk and Cristin got a few new flower pictures. I can tell I’m getting old, because my knee has been acting up with all the walking on this trip. I finally remembered to ice it after we got back to the condo!

We ate lunch at home, then went back to Hot Springs so I could finish buying some art for myself (because I am my mother’s daughter, and I have to buy art wherever I go). From there, we drove a good distance to Arkadelphia to hit a yarn store. We are nerdy old ladies, apparently.

It’s strange that this is our last night here. I’m going to miss eating breakfast and dinner on a back porch overlooking a lake, and I’m really not looking forward to an 11-ish hour drive home, but I will be glad to see my cats and sleep in my own bed once again.

Thanks for coming on this trip with us!

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Shameless Commercialism (Arkansas Day 6)

Today was pretty much just what the title says: lots of shopping.

We had a lazy morning with a french toast and bacon breakfast, then made our way to Hot Springs to check out the art galleries and other shops there. I can’t say exactly where we shopped, since we picked up some presents for a few people who might be reading this blog. Suffice to say, we didn’t shy away from spending money.

We did manage two touristy type activities. First, we stopped at Galaxy Connection to see the museum, such as it was. Basically, the owner has been collecting Star Wars and other nerdy memorabilia forever, and it’s all on display here. It sounds super cheesy, but we had fun because they let us play with lightsabers, get on a speeder bike, and climb in an X-wing.

We also stopped at the gift shop for the national park, where they had an old bathtub from one of the bathhouses (it might have been a replica). Of course we climbed in for more photo opportunities. There was also a water fountain so we could drink some of the spring water.

Short entry today, but it was a laid back day for us! Also, the house still smells like bacon, so as far as I’m concerned it’s a great day.

Disco Boat (Arkansas Day 5)

As we walked up to the marina office to rent our kayaks, I noticed a gold sparkly paddleboat. Cristin vetoed the idea of paddleboating instead of kayaking, but when we saw a couple using that very boat later, she did christen in the “Disco Boat.” I want my own disco boat.

We did have the energy to go kayaking today, so we went back to Lake Ouachita State Park. We rented the kayaks for a half day (4 hours) and had planned to bring a cooler and have lunch; however, these kayaks were different from ones we’ve used in the past so we had to leave the cooler behind in favor of smaller bags we could secure to the back. We tossed in a few snacks and water bottles and decided to have a later lunch when we returned.

Cristin had decided this would be the best day for kayaking, and she was right! We started under clouds and even felt a few raindrops. That was much better than blazing sun in the middle of the lake, which is what we ended up with. Still, there was a nice breeze that kept us cool.

We traveled a relatively short distance along one side of the lake, detouring to explore coves and to lay claim to an island. The lake is huge, so we’d have needed days to go the length of it. We fought the wind a little on our way out, and barely on the way back, except for when I detoured us down one cove. Coming back out was a battle against the wind, and both of us opted to just drift back into shore on the return to give our hands and arms a break.

After a break for lunch, we headed west to check out a couple of art galleries and gift shops we’d picked up brochures for at the welcome center. Unfortunately, the one I most wanted to go to closed at 3:00, but we did stop in two others, and the area we drove through was pretty.

We got back to the condo a bit before 5:00, and for once we’re not dead tired! Cristin made us a delicious spaghetti dinner, then we nerded around for a bit. I’m pretty sure we’re going to end up knitting again tonight, but there will probably also be brownies and jello shots, so we’re not completely old ladies yet!

Quartz Alley (Arkansas Day 4)

Quartz Alley is what Cristin named the area where we were digging today, because it turned up a lot of teeny tiny quartz shards.

Since we weren’t able to stay up late last night, we were up bright and early this morning to make the hour and a half drive to today’s destination: Crater of Diamonds State Park. It’s the only public area to hunt for diamonds, and we had plans to come back rich.

(We didn’t come back rich.)

The cost to get in is pretty reasonable, I thought: $10 per person, and you can dig as long as they’re open and keep anything you find. There’s amethyst, agate, and more in the area as well. Plus, you can each bring home a 5 gallon bucket of sifted gravel to search later. We didn’t do that, because we didn’t have a bucket or the energy to do more, but it’s nice that it’s a possibility. As we walked in, we passed numerous people with their own digging equipment, but we had to rent it from the park. Two sifting screens, a shovel, and a bucket are only $12…plus a $45 deposit. They’re serious about getting their things back! So for only $16 each, we had around five hours of fun!

We tried dry sifting for a while, trading off who used the screens and who hunted on the surface–how most of the large diamonds have been found–but the beating sun eventually prompted us to switch to wet sifting. We filled our bucket and took it and our screens to the sheltered sluices, and it was so much nicer in shade. Plus, we found most of our quartz pieces and some pretty rocks this way.

We came home filthy and tired, so first thing for both of us was a shower, then laundry, then dinner. Cristin cooked again, and I’m so grateful to have somebody else taking care of the food that I never mind doing clean up.

I think our plans for tomorrow involve kayaking, but I guess we’ll see how we feel when we get up!

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.

Southern Hospitality (Arkansas Day 2)

Two things I learned today: People around here are really friendly, and saying “y’all” is not just an affectation. Almost every single person we saw today greeted us warmly and started a bit of a conversation!

We woke earlier than we expected this morning, because we forgot that home time is an hour ahead. So we had plenty of time to have a leisurely breakfast on the porch overlooking the lake before we officially checked in (we arrived after the office closed yesterday). Then we found the pool (important to know) and tried to play on the small playground nearby.

Since it was supposed to be cooler today than almost any day this week, we decided to do some hiking. The high of 84 was apparently a little low, though, so it was closer to 90 as we walked. Ugh. We did the Caddo Bend Trail at Lake Ouachita State Park and the Serendipity Trail in Ouachita National Forest. Both were beautiful trails, and both offered ample opportunities for Cristin to find flowers to try to identify. The Serendipity Trail had a lot of signs identifying the trees for us. (Also, we saw a teeny tiny baby deer on the way home. Like…less than a week old, Cristin says!)

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All that hiking in the sun completely drained us, even with a break for lunch and a drive between the walks. So when we got back to Hot Springs Village (where we’re staying) we immediately headed for the pool. The pool is clean and maintained, but it was COLD. Cold enough that it wasn’t refreshing, or even bracing, at first, but we still managed a good swim. Then we had to warm back up in the nearby whirlpool (too bad the jets didn’t work).

After our swim, we were more than ready to be in a rest for the evening. We threw dinner in the oven before we showered and then rested and tried to identify flowers (it’s important that we know which exact kind of spiderwort we saw) while it cooked. We have big plans after we eat…knitting and watching a movie. Such partiers we are.

Bass Pro Shops (Arkansas Day 1)

I’m pretty sure that “Bass Pro Shop” is the official state motto of both Tennessee and Arkansas, as exemplified by this picture:

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So I’m in Arkansas, now! Cristin and I drove down today, and there’s nothing like 12 hours in the car together to let you know that you’re really friends. And we must be, since neither of us tried to kill the other at any point.

Most of the drive was in the rain, but in between downpours we got to admire the highways of Tennessee. You feel like you’re entering a tunnel of green, and it makes our own, flat farmland look even more dull. We finally got out of the rain just as we entered Arkansas, where, aside from Little Rock, we were surrounded by…flat farmland.

The landscape changed when we got off the highway and headed toward Hot Springs. The gentle hills and curving roads reminded me of Hocking Hills back home, complete with surprise churches when we came around a bend. Despite being stuck behind super slow campers and trucks, we still made it to our destination in the daylight. It’s nice to travel later in the spring!

Our condo at Hot Springs Village is AMAZING! We have a two bedroom place, and one of them has a jacuzzi tub the size of a small pool in the attached bathroom. There’s a small private courtyard in the front, complete with table and chairs. Our back porch (also with table and chairs) overlooks a lake. As Cristin put it, you could sleep six (there’s a pullout couch, too) in here and it wouldn’t even be cozy.

We have no idea what we’re doing tomorrow, but we picked up a lot of brochures at the state welcome center, so I guess we’re spending some time tonight making decisions.