Neither one of has ever been to Hot Springs and we’re pleasantly surprised by how much the green, rolling hills remind us of Virginia. We decided against camping in favor of a B&B, again because of heat. It’s still in the high 80s and, according to the frizz in my hair, humid. I certainly haven’t missed the humidity while we were out west.
Or the bugs. The ranger at the visitor center reminds us to bring bug spray on our hike. He’s mapped what he calls a 6-mile loop but which really turns out to be about a three-miler. That’s ok. We have some nice views and the hike ends at the pool of the Arlington Hotel. Apparently changes to the landscape over the years have resulted in the hotel eating into the mountain so we come out of the woods, walk past the pool, into the hotel and take the elevator seven stories down to the lobby. It’s the first time we’ve ever started a hike across the street from a B&B and ended in a hotel.
Hot Springs National Park includes a row of early 20th century bathhouses. These huge brick buildings have been repurposed as art galleries, modern spas, a brewery – the first one located in a national park – and a cultural center. The park service uses one as the visitors’ center and preserved it, to a large extent, as it looked back in the day. We tour it, marveling at the exercise equipment that looks like very sturdy iron-wood-leather versions of leg presses and other machines you’d see in a gym today. There’s also the actual baths, with huge, deep tubs; massage rooms, changing rooms and so much more. In the basement there’s a piece of glass covering a hole in the ground and we can see the actual spring bubbling out of the ground. Apparently that’s always been there so that visitors to the bathhouses could view the healing waters. Interesting, at least to us, there’s also a “needle shower” that looks remarkably like the one we saw at the Castle in the Clouds mansion in New Hampshire earlier this summer.
We decide against trying the baths. I’ve experienced the authentic baths in Saratoga Springs, also known for its mineral springs. Instead we sample the brewery’s offerings, sitting in the windows and watching the passersby.
Later we meet old friends of Walt’s for dinner at a lovely downtown restaurant.