All about an extraordinary road trip from New Jersey to San Antonio, and back again.

Valley of the Vapors

March 10, 2008 – 8:55 pm | by Dave

buckstaff.jpgLeaving Nashville and all that snow behind us, we continued southwest along route 40 through Memphis, Tennessee into Arkansas. In the zig-zag mountains*, about 55 miles southwest of Little Rock, we arrived in Hot Springs National Park, our destination for the day, and a place unlike any either of us have ever seen before.

Hot Springs grew up more than a century ago around 47 geothermal springs that flow from the western slope of Hot Springs Mountain. Rainfall seeps down through layers and layers of rock, heating 4 degrees (F) for every 300 feet of descent into the Earth’s crust. Scientists have determined that the waters of the hot springs fell as rain more than 4000 years ago, but the waters take only a few minutes to reemerge on the surface with an average temperature of 143 degrees F (62 degrees C). Throughout this process, the waters dissolve minerals out of the rock, and are renown for their therapeutic qualities.

During the “Golden Age of Bathing” in the early 1920′s, Hot Springs and its world-famous Bathhouse Row were a popular destination. Today, many of the historic buildings still stand but are undergoing renovation. Our first stop in Hot Springs after we checked into our hotel was The Buckstaff, an operational bathhouse where we each received “The Treatment”: a 100-degree-plus 20 minute whirlpool bath, steam cabinet, hot towel wraps and needle-shower. Ladies upstairs, Gents to the left. The staff were friendly and knowledgeable, and guided us through the process gracefully (and modestly). Ollie says, “I had a great bath at Hot Springs. I loved it!”

Afterward, when we left refreshed and rejuvenated, we went up the street to The Fordyce, a historic bathhouse that reopened in 1989 as the park visitor center. Fountains outside smoked and steamed with the spring water. Inside, there were exhibits that showed all of the elaborate customs and practices of the bathhouses in their hey-day. Fascinating stuff. We were just in time to catch an informational movie in the bookstore, which rounded out the visit nicely.

We popped across the street and went through Madame Toussade’s Wax Museum. Creepy, but fun. To round out the day we picked up some self-sealing jugs and filled them up with spring water at the public faucets provided for that purpose. Hey, water’s free here! We also discovered that it’s very hot, and made a somewhat formidable and in retrospect, comical, challenge to carry it back to the car. We both tried to be kind of stoic, but I wound up threading three on my belt and slinging it over my shoulder. Ollie carried the fourth while I held my britches up with my free hand.

*really :)

Related Post

Put Your Related Post Plugin Code Here :)
  1. 2 Responses to “Valley of the Vapors”

  2. By greg-t on Mar 13, 2008 | Reply

    Sounded like an interesting stop. Glad to hear you’ve taken up bathing again. :-)

  3. By Dave on Mar 13, 2008 | Reply

    My Mom made me…

You must be logged in to post a comment.