Our first full day in Hot Springs was a busy one. We hiked into town from the Gulpha Gorge Campground via the National Park trail system, then spent most of the day wandering around and exploring the charming town. There was far too much to see in a day, but we made a good stab at it.
We started off on the Gulpha Gorge trail, then took the intersecting Dead Chief Trail and the Grand Promenade into town, a hike of approximately 1.7 miles. This plaque explains that the Dead Chief Trail used to be part of an exercise trail in the 1920s. We can believe it, as it was quite steep in places.
We saw our first hot spring just off the Grand Promenade behind the historic bathhouses. Yes, the water is indeed hot; 143 degrees farenheit to be exact. You can see the steam rising off it.
Not only are there several hot springs in town, there are a couple of cold springs too. This particular spring provided great refreshment after our long hike, as I was able to refill my water bottle and "take the waters". It tasted pretty good!
We spent quite a bit of time walking around inside the Fordyce Bathhouse, which has been fully restored and now serves as the National Park's Visitor Center. It no longer operates as a bath house but as a museum, showing us what it was like in the heyday of bath houses in the town. This grand bathhouse operated from 1915-1962.
The stained glass ceiling in the large bathing room above was especially impressive.
Behind most of the wooden doors in the bathing rooms were large porcelain tubs. In another part of the building, theraputic showers like the one on the right below were located. I bet that would feel pretty good after a long bike ride!
This is the steam cabinet room. According to the information board, these high-temperature steam baths were believed to help with rheumatism, advanced syphilis, jaundice, and obesity.
Here are a couple of the other bathhouses along "Bathhouse Row" in downtown Hot Springs. At least a couple of these are still in operation, but we didn't have a strong desire for a bath, especially on a hot day. They are grand and impressive structures, however.
One of the many things we didn't know about Hot Springs was the fact that it hosted a Baseball Trail. Barry, being a baseball fan, enjoyed seeing the historical plaques around town related to one of his favorite sports. This one explains how the ball players would come to Hot Springs to "take the baths" to help sweat out all the alcohol they drank!
We saw numerous baseball trail signs all over town. Here is a lot more information about the Hot Springs Baseball Trail if you are interested.
The highlight of our day was lunch in an absolutely wonderful Mexican restaurant called Vina Morita. We had missed going out to eat for our 31st anniversary the week before, as we were not close to any restaurants. So, this was our special treat to belatedly celebrate our day. And what a treat it was.
The spicy homemade salsas, zesty margarita flight, and chicken alambres were all delicious, and as a bonus, we got to talk about Mexico with our server, who was one of the restaurant's owners and hailed from Mexico City. And the chocolate cake dessert was over the top! This was the most authentic restaurant we've had the pleasure to try north of the border, and it took us right back to Mexico in spirit.
Now, all we had to do was hike back up over the mountain and to our campground. After all our indulgences, that was not so easy as the hike into town!
Emily & Barry
We're a long-married, early-retired couple who are currently traveling as nomads with no fixed home base. After years of living in North Carolina (Emily's home state), we spent 18 months living oceanfront on Ambergris Caye, Belize, a year road-tripping the US in a Honda CR-V, a year in Playa del Carmen, Mexico, and are now roaming North America in our 32' motorhome, Pearl, following warm weather whenever possible.
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