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Monday, June 22, 2020

Hot Springs, AK - FL To NM Road Trip - Stop 7

Stop 7 of our Florida to New Mexico And Back road trip was Hot Springs, Arkansas.  We had an opportunity to visit one more national park as we headed back to Florida.  We were excited about seeing the hot springs at Hot Springs National Park.  But first we needed to find the campground we would be spending the next three nights in.  

We reserved a site at Lake Catherine State Park not only because of the special name of the lake, lol, but because it was only 12 miles from I-30, the highway that brought us all the way from Dallas to Arkansas and it was only 20 minutes away from Hot Springs National Park.

(Please read more about this campground in a post coming soon!)

The next thing we needed to do, after we checked into the campground and set up our trailer, was to find a laundromat.  We are finding out that most state park campgrounds don't have washer and dryers.  It was not a problem finding a place near the park to do our laundry though.  

After we worked together to get this chore done quickly, we headed back to the campground to have dinner and continue our 500 Rummy tournament.

The plan for our first full day in Arkansas was to visit Hot Springs National Park. We thought our GPS got confused when it brought us to a city street lined with parking meters and not to a parking lot in the middle of a forest. We parked our car, luckily we had a few quarters on us, and went to find the visitors center to get directions to the park.

On the way to the visitors center we passed the Hot Springs National Park sign. We were getting even more confused now!

The visitors center was located, just around the corner, on Bathhouse Row in what was the Fordyce Bathhouse. This bathhouse now houses the visitor center and has been turned into a museum. We took the self-guided tour of the museum since we were there. We walked through most of the 23 furnished rooms that gave us a good idea of what the bathhouse looked liked in it's heyday.

We bumped into a group on a tour with a guide and stayed in one room with them and learned about the workings of the bathhouse. The tour takes place daily.

Now that we had our map, we could find our way into the park. It was exactly where our GPS led us. The entrance was right where we parked our car and we missed it completely. On our walk back to the car, we passed the Hot Water Cascade at the Arlington Lawn, a park just past the bathhouses on Bathhouse Row. This is what the area looked like 200 years ago before there were bathhouses.

Before we ventured into the park we stopped at one of the jug fountains to fill our water bottles with fresh spring water.

We got back to the car with a little time to spare on the meter and headed to the park entrance. The park was small enough that we could see most of it on our drive along Hot Springs Mountain Trail Drive.

We made a pit stop to have lunch near the entrance of the Hot Springs Mountain Trail and after lunch we hiked the 1-1/2 mile trail.

One highlight of this hike was a gazebo perched high on a hill that offered a great view of the park and surrounding city.

We didn't see any springs on our hike because most of the 47 springs throughout the park are covered to prevent contamination.  We did see a small trickle of water here and there though.

After our hike we got back in the car and did the rest of the Hot Springs Mountain Drive. It took us around and then out of the park. We found a free parking lot in the middle of the town and then went to check out the rest of Bathhouse Row.

Just like the Fordyce Bathhouse, the Ozark Bathhouse has been renovated from it's former bathhouse state. It is now the Ozark Cultural Center. You can find a a collection of artist-in-resident artwork on display here and can also find the national park sticker if you are collecting them for your national park passport!

This bathhouse, the Buckstaff, is the only one that has remained opened, since they started being built in 1877, when the others all closed down by 1985 and is still an active bathhouse along with the Quapaw bathhouse.

Across the street from the bathhouses were lots of souvenir, specialty shops and restaurants.   We stopped in a few of the shops and found a couple of souvenirs to bring home.

On our walk around the town we noticed that Hot Springs was pretty proud of how popular they once were with Al Capone and other well-known gangsters.

But this town is definitely more proud to be the hometown of their most famous former resident and we found that out shortly after we got into Hot Springs!

After a fun day in Hot Springs, it was time to go back to our trailer for dinner and our 500 Rummy competition.  Did I mention that I was ahead in the tournament by almost double the wins of Soko?

We were not in any hurry to start our day 2 in Arkansas as we were not going too far.  In fact, our plan was to spend the day hiking on the trails here in Lake Catherine State Park.  So we spent most of the morning cooking enough breakfast to last us the rest of our trip.  It makes it easy on traveling days to put together egg sandwiches or pancake roll-ups to eat in the car when everything is made already and just needs to be put together and popped into the microwave.

Then I needed to pose for some pictures near the lake that shares my name!

We had a nice morning and after lunch set off to find the park's trails.  We walked about 10 minutes from our campsite to the trails.  There were three trails but our plan was to hike the Falls Branch Trail which went by The Falls Creek Waterfall.  It was 2 miles and the easiest of the three with the terrain being only steep and rugged in places unlike the other two that were described as Steep and Rugged!  

We really enjoyed this gorgeous trail.  There were so many beautiful little waterfalls throughout this entire trail.  I was loving this hike which was mostly easy but I was very glad to have my hiking stick with me as it got very tricky in spots.

And then we got to The Falls Creek Waterfall.  It wasn't the biggest waterfall we have ever seen but bigger than we expected.  We thought it was spectacular and amazing and we had it all to ourselves.  We spent a good amount of time enjoying the view and taking plenty of pictures.

At the end of the trail we were treated to a special surprise.  This rickety bridge swayed with every step we took but that made it so much fun to cross and we made it safely to the other side. 

We will definitely be highlighting this campground on our list of state park campgrounds and will probably  stop here on our next road trip out west even if we have to go out of our way a bit to get to it.

We had enough time, when we finished our hike, to shower and get ready for a Saturday evening mass at the Catholic Church of St. John The Baptist.  This was a pretty big church and a very popular mass.  It was packed with parishioners.  

The church was near the Oaklawn Race Track that we kept seeing ads for so we took a quick stop to see it and then called it a night.  We had time, when we got back to the campsite, to play one hand of cards, which I won!  Soko did catch up when we played later in our journey, but I ended up winning the tournament in the end.  It could have been because Soko let me win, though, because he knows I'm not a happy loser!!

Next stop, Nashville, TN!

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  1. How exciting to visit such beautiful places on your road trip. I enjoyed looking at the photos and learning about your trip.
    Thanks for the blog visit and I hope you try the grilled potatoes! Enjoy the week.

    1. Thank you for stopping by and I am definitely going to try your potato recipe!

  2. Oh I just love trails with waterfalls! Sounds like despite having a tough time finding them; Hot Springs was worth the effort.

    1. Yes, aren't waterfalls great. I love the look of them and the sounds they make!

  3. It looks like you had a fabulous road trip, Catherine! I'm enjoying reading about your progress. I didn't realise Hot Springs has so many bath houses, nor how beautifully restored they are. I love that you stayed at Lake Catherine. My husband and I like to play cards too (and I am often not a happy loser either!). Thank you so much for sharing your adventures with the Hearth and Soul Link Party. Take care!

    1. Hi April! Thank you for stopping by. My next post will be the last installment of our wonderful road trip. We are so grateful we got to go before the pandemic. PS. We are lucky to have patient husbands!!

  4. oh wow so many great things you saw on your trip that is one thing that I love about trips learning more , getting new ideas and having fun
    come see us at http://shopannies.blogspot.com

    1. Hands on learning sure beats any other kind! Thank you for stopping by! Will be stopping by your place soon!

  5. Nice tour. It's always fun to get out in nature. Especially a long road trip.

    1. This was our first long road trip and we loved it! Thank you for stopping by!

  6. What a fabulous road trip. Thanks so much for sharing your adventure. #HomeMattersParty

    1. Thank you so much for hosting your party every week!

  7. Ah, they named a park after you :) Enjoyed seeing your pics! Thanks so much for linking up with me at my #UnlimitedMonthlyLinkParty 14, open until July 26. All party entries shared if social media buttons installed.