Update 14 (continued)
Hot Springs National Park: March
2007 (Location 5 on the Map)
As we entered Hot Springs, Arkansas after a 10-and-a-half hour travel
day from New Orleans, we saw a huge sign proudly proclaiming that Hot
was the childhood home of President Bill Clinton. We visited
Whereas most of the National Parks we've been to have been vast areas
of mountains, forests, lakes, rivers, etc., Hot Springs National Park
is mostly comprised of buildings. Yes, there is a scenic drive in the
hills around town, but the focal point of the park is Bathhouse Row,
a line of buildings along the town's main street. These bathhouses
remain of the Golden Age of Bathing from the early 1900's, when an
million people a year flocked to the many hot springs for their therapeutic
Most of the bathhouses are not open to the public, although
one is still in operation, offering tub baths, showers, steam cabinets,
etc. The park's visitor center is housed in the Fordyce Bathhouse,
a restored 3-story
from the period that gave us a good look at what
was going on here at that time.
along Bathhouse Row, took a tour through the Fordyce,
and walked the promenade above town that passed by some of the springs
that haven't been capped off by the Park Service. We even filled a few
water bottles at the town spring, where the water that we drank first
fell as rain water here some 4000 years ago.
I did a 4-mile hike one day in the hills around town, and Susan and
Justin took a day trip and went to Crater of Diamonds State Park to dig
for diamonds. Like the majority of people who visit in search of riches,
they returned empty-handed.
For photos from Hot Springs National Park, Click
Big Bend National Park: March
8-11, 2007 (Location 8 on the Map)
Nothing brings home the vastness of Texas like a drive across it. It
took three long travel days for us to drive from Hot Springs to Big Bend
National Park in southwestern Texas. And the park itself is big; we put
200 miles on the car just driving around the park during the time
we were there.
Big Bend National Park is named for the big bend that the Rio Grande
River makes as it snakes its way between the US and Mexico. The main
natural attractions here are the huge desert expanses, the rugged Chisos
Mountains, and the calm tranquility of the river as it passes beneath
soaring canyon walls.
We were happy to be back in the desert, and eager to get
back into a decent hiking regimen. We started with a short hike down
to the Rio Grande itself, which wasn't far from our campground. The
river was only 20-feet across, which, given all the talk of solidifying
our border with Mexico, seems quite narrow. But when you look at the
type of terrain someone would have to survive to even get to the river,
you realize there is no need for additional fortification. Even so,
there were posted warnings about keeping an eye out for drug traffickers
through the park. That night Susan took Justin out for a walk after dark,
where he got to see javelinas for the first time.
The next day, after a short hike to a hot spring for Justin to splash
his feet in, we did a 4-mile hike to a place called The Window in the
Chisos mountains, where
of the desert far below. Even though we were at nearly 5000 feet in
elevation, the heat was such that we sought out every available shady
rest on the hike out. Justin was in rare form, saying hi to everyone
as he rode in his carrier and asking for high fives from passersby during
our rest stops. Zane did well, too, sleeping most of the time in Susan's
Rebozo despite the heat. After dinner, I took Justin out on a short
3/4-mile nature walk in the dark, with Justin illuminating the way with
the flashlight and constantly asking where the javelinas were.
The following morning we took a drive over to the west side of the park
to check out Santa Elena Canyon and her 1500-foot walls. This was
a great hike not only for the views, but for the fact that much of it
was shaded; it sure seemed unseasonably hot while we were there.
Big Bend is a popular birding spot, but we only managed to identify
one new bird, the Vermillion flycatcher.
For photos from Big Bend National Park, Click
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