Sunset in the Coconino National Forest, looking northeast toward Sedona, AZ, 4/17/15
Thursday, July 1, 2010
Hot Springs NP (AR), June 29 - July 1
I thoroughly enjoyed myself at Hot Springs National Park. The focus of the park is Bathhouse Row in old downtown Hot Springs, AR. It is situated on some thermal hot springs where the water comes out of the ground steaming hot. There are also a couple of wonderful scenic drives, hiking trails, and a nice little campground to enjoy as well.
The Visitors Center is in the old Fordyce Bathhouse where you can take a tour of the various rooms and facilities used in the early 1900's, the golden age of bathhouses. In the middle of the men's changing room is a wonderful example of a sculpture and stained glass. The women didn't enjoy such opulence.
One of the many bathhouses still standing, Buckstaff Baths, still offers a traditional bathing package -- a whirlpool bath in thermal mineral waters, sitz bath, steam vapor cabinet (head sticking out of a box), hot towel treatments (for sore shoulders and back), and a needle shower (lots of shower heads). You can also get your back and legs scrubbed for you during the mineral bath with a loofah sponge, a Swedish massage, paraffin treatment, manicures and pedicures. An attendant takes you from station to station garbed in a toga, in the Roman tradition.
After getting over my shyness, I decided to do the Buckstaff's traditional bathing package. After all, this is a journey to see and have new experiences, right? And I'm glad I did. It reminded me of both a modern sauna and hospital combined. Most everything -- walls, fixtures, towels -- were either white or silver. The attendant was quite nurse-like. The noise level was pretty high with water running and old-style whirlpools jetting (kind of reminded me of an outboard motor in the bathtub with you). All the same, when I came out I was very relaxed ... an excellent experience, even for the shy.
I camped at Gulpha Gorge (try saying that 5 times fast) in the National Park. My site was right next to the creek where I went to sleep to the sounds of trickling water, frogs and cicada ... all the while watching the fire flies until I couldn't keep my eyes open any longer.