South to North or North to South, It Doesn’t Matter Lake Bastrop, Bastrop, Bastrop County Texas

At the end of the day, it doesn’t matter at Lake Bastrop. Lake Bastrop contains two parks, the Southshore Park and the North Shore Park with a 4.5-mile trailway between them, and a loop in each park. So where do you start? It doesn’t matter because you are eventually going to return to the same place.

Lake Bastrop isn’t a State Park, and it isn’t a County Park. It is a park owned and operated by the Lower Colorado River Authority. This group runs all the dams and power generation and water supply along the Lower Colorado River, the Texas one. Which is why this lake is here.

This Lake was created in 1965 by the damming of Spicer Creek. The lake covers 900 acres.

Most manmade lakes in Texas are reservoirs for drinking water, for flood control or for both. But Lake Bastrop’s main purpose is cooling for the Sim Gideon Power Plant a natural gas fired plant and the Lost Pines Power Project a second natural gas plant owned by GenTex Power a subsidiary of LCRA.

The Sim Gideon Plant has three generating units providing 620 Megawatts of power and the Lost Pines has 2 generating units putting out 545 megawatts. The Gideon Plant is named for Sim Gideon the LCRA general manager from 1955-1973.

The Lost Pines Plant was designed to use 40% less natural gas and 30% less water than a standard natural gas fired plant. In fact, the Lost Pines Plant is one of the most efficient power generating units in the world.

Sim Gideon Plant and the Lost Pines plant

Back to the problem, do you go north to south or south to north? Well in contradiction to the sign I am going south to north since I am in the Southshore Park.

I loved this trail. It had a great length of 10 miles for the round trip, plenty of elevation change although not to great heights, and most of all a, portion was in the Lost Pines area.

Ah the Lost Pines; makes me feel I am back in North Carolina walking through those pines. This stand was one of the few that haven’t been burnt up. The Bastrop Complex Fire of 2011 missed this area, and the fire of 2022 didn’t get these either. They keep messing around with this area and the pines will be lost as in forever.

Slough

This hike started around a slough. Then I reached the first of many bridges all named. This was handy as they were also named on the trail map, so you always knew where you were along the trail.

The trail entered the Lost Pines at Thrill Creek. From the picture below you can see how abruptly the area changed.

For the next mile or so I was in heaven. The Lost Pines if you remember from an earlier post are Loblolly Pines that have become separated from the rest of the Piney Woods of east Texas. North Carolina is covered in Loblolly Pines. These are the few that are left in Central Texas.

The most beautiful area of this hike was in the Spicer Creek Area. You were deep in the pines and the terrain was somewhat hilly.

It reminded me of Clemmons State Forest back in NC.

Spicer Creek

As I approached Spicer Creek, I saw this sign.

Just what you need to know hiking on a weekend when we have had 5 inches of rain ice and sleet over the last half week.

The highlight of this hike was the Floating Bridge. I came to a slough that they couldn’t get the trail around because a road ran up on the bank. So, they built a floating bridge.

Floating Bridge
View from the floating bridge

After crossing the floating bridge, the trail became muddy and had lots of standing water. But I pressed on.

Between Buck Creek and Little Buck Creek I caught another great view of the lake.

Around the loop in the Northshore Park and I guess this means we start back!

Last look at the pines as I approach Thrill Creek coming back south.

A Walk Along a River and Missions Galore, San Antonio, Bexar County, Texas

By now maybe you figured out that on momma’s birthday we pick out somewhere she wants to go. For Example, momma has picked Fredericksburg and Waco in the past and this year it was San Antonio. We had been in San Antonio for a day back in 2008 but didn’t get to really enjoy much as it was a bit of a whirlwind trip with the girls and the day involved driving from and to Austin. It was a long day. We went this time and spent the night. We arrived on Sunday morning and found parking way closer than we did in 2008. When I can get my photos of that 2008 trip out of jail on Photobucket, I will post about that. Jail on Photobucket. Yes. I put a bunch on there, years ago and they have since reduced the allowable free space and are holding my pics in jail until I either remove them or pay their astronomical fee. Well, they only let me have access to remove a few at a time then they sort of lock things up. So, things that are locked up are in jail, right?

Also, some pronunciation help coming to you. It is not Bex ar County. In Spanish it would be Bey-yar in English just Bear.

The Alamo

We started our tour at this very famous landmark known as “The Alamo”. Technically it is the Mission San Antonio de Valero. It was administered by the Daughters of the Texas Republic until 2015 when the state took control through the General Land Office. That appears to have been a good thing as the place and the surrounding area seems to be upgraded since we were here in 2008.

The long Barracks, believed to be the oldest building in Texas

There is now a nice movie about the Alamo, not only the battle but about mission times. The whole thing is surrounded by the Alamo Plaza with upgraded signage etc. One thing we enjoyed was the re-enactors as the Texas Militia firing their muskets.

re-enactors on the Alamo Plaza

After spending time here, we went on to the San Antonio Riverwalk, one of the best urban areas in the country.

San Antonio Riverwalk was planned by architect Robert Hugman in 1929.

First let’s talk about the San Antonio River. The river rises from a series of springs 4 miles north of downtown San Antonio. The river flows southeast 240 miles to meet the Guadalupe a few miles north of where they empty into San Antonio Bay along the gulf coast. In the downtown area there was a serious bend in the river that caused the section to be flood prone.

To alleviate the flood threat Hugman proposed a straighter bypass channel with check dams at each end of the original bend that could be closed for flood protection. Money and labor for the project became available through the Works Progress Administration in 1939. 17000 feet of walkway was placed along the river, plantings were installed, and the check dams built. The bypass channel had been previously finished. The idea was tested by a major flood in 1946 and minimal damage was done. Shops and restaurants developed and flourished in the area. In 1968 the channel was extended to the grounds of the 1968 World’s HemisFair.

Riverwalk San Antonio

We rode the boat where you get a great history of the area and the buildings along the river.

Along the Riverwalk

We got something to eat and then took a driving tour of the King William area and looked at the unique architecture. We were headed for the Guenther House Museum in the area, but it was closing time when we got there. This closing when we get there seems to be a common theme doesn’t it?

The Guenther House was the residence of C. H. Guenther, the founder of Pioneer Flour Mills. Today it is a museum and restaurant. You ever been shopping and bought say, a gravy mix with the Pioneer brand label? That is C. H. Guenther’s company still in operation today.

Day 2 San Antonio Missions National Historical Park.

Yep, a National Park right in the city.

The Franciscans came from Mexico in 1718 and established a mission named San Antonio de Valero near the headwaters of the San Antonio River. Today it is known as the Alamo. But what the Spanish found out was that the small tribes of natives that they coaxed into the Mission didn’t really get along together. Thus, over the next 20 years four more Missions were built to separate the natives. The Missions are: Mission Nuestra Señora de la Purísima Concepción de Acuña, Mission San Jose y San Miguel de Aguayo, Mission San Juan Capistrano, and Mission San Francisco de la Espada. Today they are simply known as Mission Concepcion, Mission San Jose, Mission San Juan and Mission Espada.

The full protection of the missions began in 1975 when the Missions Parkway was placed on the National Register of Historic Places. Prior to that a couple had been named National Historic Places but the all-out preservation effort was small. In 1983 the San Antonio Missions National Historical Park was established, and the missions put under the protection and operation of the National Park Service. Mission Road runs between the missions. There is also a bikeway/ hiking trail that connects the sites.

Mission San Jose Y San Miguel de Aguayo

We first went to Mission San Jose as this is where the National Park Service operates a visitor center. Mission San Jose was established in 1720. The current church building was originally constructed in 1768. We arrived just as the park ranger/historian was beginning his talk and tour. For once we weren’t late! He told of the work of the Franciscans who established the missions. Unlike in greater Mexico the friars found that the people of the region consisted of small tribes of hunter/ gatherers. Because the area was under a severe drought at the time it was quite easy to coax the people into the protection of the priests. The natives were to be Christianized, taught the Spanish language and farming and ranching skills and they would be given land to support themselves. But here’s the catch: the land was already theirs and now they would have to pay taxes on the land.

Mission San Jose

After being at Goliad in 2020 we found this mission to be huge!

On with the history, while at the mission the natives were housed in rooms built into the walls in groups of ten with each group given two rooms.

rooms in the walls of the mission
Two rooms of this size per ten natives

What the Spanish hadn’t counted on was this, the different groups of people didn’t get along, thus more missions were built to separate the warring tribes. At San Jose there were reports of abuse and the whole one hundred and twenty residents left one night. After negotiations only about twenty returned. The success of a mission was measured in body counts, so soldiers were sent out to capture and force any natives they found into the missions unwillingly.

the Convento

Meanwhile the friars and priests lived in the above pictured Convento. The rooms were large and airy. In 1939 the Works Progress Administration put money and workers into re storing the missions. The Convento was found to be too unstable to restore. We didn’t get to go into this church as there was a funeral in progress. The missions are still operating churches in the Archdiocese of San Antonio.

Who goes to these old churches? Well, the Ranger/Historian told us that many of the people in the area have direct ancestry to the residents of the old missions. In fact, they have found people who still live on the land given to their ancestors by the Spanish. In a couple of instances these people can still produce the original paper land grant that the Spanish gave to their ancestors. Now, that, is pretty cool!

The “Rose Window”

Another problem the priests had to overcome was this, non-Christians, were not permitted to enter the church. So how do you Christianize a people who can’t come in to hear the priest’s sermon? The solution was the Rose Window. The priest would open the window and stand in front of the gathered natives to preach to them.

Inside the Grist Mill at Mission San Jose

When pulling up stakes on a mission the friars were required to build a Grist Mill for the residents before they left. Mission San Jose’s is mostly intact and much of it original.

Mission Nuestra Señora de la Purísima Concepción de Acuña

We backtracked towards town to Mission Concepcion. The Ranger told us it was the most original of the bunch; about 90%. Mission Concepcion was first established on the Texas coast in 1716. It was moved to San Antonio in 1731.

Mission Concepcion

Apparently, this church is 90% original with the white dome in the rear the only modern addition. We did get to go into this church. The interior having been restored in the 60’s was quite remarkable.

Looking up into the White Dome

In the picture above you can see the remnants of an old fresco. They are struggling with keeping the frescoed wall intact due to moisture. The Convento of this mission was in much better shape.

Frescoes inside the Convento.

Mission San Juan Capistrano

After spending some great time at Mission Concepcion, we moved on to Mission San Juan.

Mission San Juan was established in 1716 on the coast and moved here in 1731.

Mission San Juan

What amazed us here was that the very old house on the property was still occupied by the resident priest or nuns. Services are now held in the white building which was the storehouse at one time. It was locked and we could not go in. The ruins of the original….well, the third church were across the lawn from the present chapel.

At this point of the day the drizzle we had fought since the San Jose tour ended, became a quite steady rain, so we elected not to go to Mission Espada.

Mission Espada was established in 1690 at Augusta and moved here in 1731.

This was quite an experience especially the ranger talk, and the trip to Mission Concepcion, knowing it was 90% original.

Mission San Jose
Mission Concepcion
Mission San Juan

Urban Hiking-Blue Hole and the Pickett Trail, Georgetown, Williamson County Texas

Found myself in Georgetown one day with some time to kill. I came across Blue Hole Park and thought, why not. The hike started on the pavement, but the South San Gabriel River was beautiful here.

The South San Gabriel River rises in the Texas Hill Country near the town of Burnet and flows thirty-four miles to its junction with the North San Gabriel River within the city limits of Georgetown Texas. In my previous post about the dams on the San Gabriel and how they came to be the South San Gabriel was promised a dam, but it never materialized.

Blue Hole

Blue Hole is a swimming area but it is chilly today so that ain’t happening. It has a really neat picnic area tucked up in among the cliffs.

Terraced picnic area at Blue Hole
Cliffs at the Blue Hole picnic area

I wandered on through the park and came upon this…….

Pickett Trail

Now this is more like it! The Pickett Trail is only 1/2 mile but almost every step is rugged.

The Pickett Trail was named for Bill Pickett an early rodeo cowboy born in Williamson County, near the town of Taylor. He was the son of former African American and Cherokee slaves. Pickett developed and introduced the rodeo sport of bulldogging; the rider rides alongside the bull then jumps off his horse grabbing the bull by the horns and twisting its head to bring it down. Pickett starred in Buffalo Bill’s Show and also took the stage with Will Rogers. Bill Pickett enjoyed a brief movie career.

At the age of 18 Pickett and his brothers started the Pickett Brothers Bronco Busters and Rough Riders Association, a horse breaking and cowboy services company.

While rodeoing Pickett had to claim that he was 100% Cherokee Indian as blacks were not permitted to participate. He is the first African American to be inducted into the Pro Rodeo Hall of Fame and the National Cowboy Hall of Fame.

This is more my kind of trail!

The trail runs along the top of the bluffs along the South San Gabriel River. It became quite rugged the longer I went.

Steps from one bluff to the next
The walking doesn’t get any easier up here
and continues on it’s rocky way

The trail ends at Chautauqua Park a small park in a neighborhood. So, I have to retrace my steps or street walk back to the car. I pick the former, walking neighborhood streets is no fun.

Cliffs on the far bank at Blue Hole.

A lucky find to kill some time and surprisingly rugged for an urban hike.

Another CCC Park-Blanco State Park, Blanco, Blanco County Texas

This could be another urban hiking entry, but Blanco is so small it is not really urban but just a country town. In 1933 residents of Blanco Texas sold the state 104 acres of land to build a park. The 177 men of Company 854 arrived and worked for eleven months creating the park. At 104 acres this is one of Texas’ smallest parks but there is a lot packed into it.

The CCC picnic pavilion

This is much like the linear parks in North Carolina in that the majority of the park extends just a few yards on each side of the river.

The Blanco River is very beautiful. I parked at the pavilion and started out on the Caswell Nature Trail one of only two trails in the park.

The Blanco River

I walked down the CCC built stairs to the first dam of the day

CCC Dam on the Blanco River

I am not sure exactly what the concrete box was for at the far end. It overflowed creating a waterfall. It may have been the wash pond that many of these parks have.

The easy Caswell Trail took me to the second dam built by the CCC downstream about a mile.

the second CCC dam downstream

Past the dam as the trail looped around to head back it dropped into the small canyon that this river has.

After returning to the parking area, I walked the road across the low water crossing to do the other trail, the Pumphouse Trail. Here I found the remains of the CCC pump house

Remains of the CCC Pumphouse

This trail led to a disappointing overlook as it was overgrown. But I found a lower trail along the river that led me to a third dam.

The third dam on the Blanco this one upstream

When I returned to the parking area, I decided to drive to the other picnic area I saw from across the river while on the Pump House Trail. I was glad I did. There were CCC built picnic tables and benches.

CCC picnic table
CCC Benches

I put off coming here because of its small size. I was heading for Guadalupe River this morning but found out most of the trails were closed so I ended up here. It was a surprising, nice visit and another park checked off the list.

The Day of the Vultures, and Another CCC Park, Meridian State Park, Meridian, Bosque County, Texas

Texas has 51 State Parks I have now visited 24 of them at least one time. Today was Meridian State Park. Meridian is about two and a half hours from home, but I wanted to get another one off the list so away I went.

Meridian is another of Texas’ many CCC built parks.

Meridian was built by Company 1827 (V) in 1933 and 1934. They built a refectory (cafeteria), roads, trails, retaining walls and a really neat bridge which still has its original wooden beams today. Now a bit about the numbering of companies in the CCC. The number followed by a “V” meant these men were veterans of WWI. In an earlier post I had a company number followed by a “C”. This designation was for black or colored companies.

After our early fall trip to Arkansas which was a little early to find fall, I went to find fall here. Nope. Last years trip to Lost Maples was gorgeous but in many parts of central Texas leaves don’t turn colors, what few there are, but just turn brown and dry up.

yep just brown.

Looking at a park map I decided to do the Bosque Hiking Trail, the Shinnery Ridge Trail and the Little Woods Trail. There is another trail in the park but there was no way to get to it from the Bosque so I left it out. Anyway this route was good for just over 6 miles.

My first stop Fern Ledge

Almost as soon as I stepped out of the car I was at the Fern Ledge. This is a grotto full of ferns.

Fern Ledge

From Fern Ledge I took the Bosque Trail away from civilization. Soon I was at Bee Ledge. Bee Ledge is so named as a large beehive of over four feet in length used to be under the ledge until Vandals destroyed it by fire. The colony was lost forever.

Bee Ledge
View of Lake Meridian from Bee Ledge

I continued the trail around the entrance into the lake of Bee Creek. This is at least the third Bee Creek I have found in Texas. There is one in Austin/Bee Cave, there is one at Pedernales Falls and now this one. Anyway every vulture in this part of Texas must roost in this estuary. I heard the loudest bunch of noise like a whole herd of deer running but it turned out it was Vultures taking flight as I approached. Must have been at least 50 or 60 of them.

Caught this one before flight but most of his buddies are…….
….up here!

The Bosque Trail was more rugged then I had anticipated. Although not alot of elevation gain at first it was far more rocky then I had expected.

Section of the Bosque Trail

not to far past the vulture encounter I came to a set of primitive campsites. One was nicely wooded the other in the sun. I would definitely pick the shaded one. Here was the best view of the lake.

Lake Meridian

Lake Meridian is only 72 acres so it is not a large body of water. They do have a beach and boating is allowed….. usually. They are having a blue-green algae problem right now so all lake activities were suspended. Not like I would take a dip in it anyway. It’s rather cool today.

This area is also where I caught the Shinnery Ridge Trail which is a loop so will bring me back to this area. The Shinnery Ridge Trail is somewhat unique. The first 1/3 of a mile or so of the trail is paved so it is accessible to all.

the partially paved Shinnery Ridge Trail

This trail was much like the Hike and Bike trail at McKinney Falls, poor quality asphalt, laid years ago and forgotten on whatever maintenance program is going on. It was almost like a natural surface.

Descending from Shinnery Ridge

From here the Bosque Trail became much more challenging. After a short road walk the trail descended steeply towards the lake.

descending towards the lake

From here it was constant up and down through some rocky terrain.

Soon I was on the Dam built by the CCC.

The Dam

Behind the dam was the requisite canyon all Texas State Parks seem to have.

Canyon at Meridian State Park

Now I am at the good stuff. The refectory was gorgeous!

The Refectory
Inside the Refectory
The Refectory

I continued on along a retaining wall built by the CCC for about another quarter mile.

The retaining wall

Next was the rock bridge the CCC Built. This one still retains it’s original wooden beams.

CCC bridge

a little farther into the woods some of the old trail work was still visible.

Old steps along the trail
Little Forest Trail

Across the gorge spanned by the bridge I hit the Little Woods Trail. Now this is designated as a junior hiking trail but it was the best in the park. It was rocky, had sights to see and some elevation gain. Don’t know why it is designated “junior hiking trail”.

Along the Little Woods Trail
View from Little Woods trail

The Little Woods Trail met back up with the Bosque Trail in the Bee Ledge area so I was back at the car. Nice little park but I don’t know that it warrants a return visit.

Oh I did find a little fall in Texas

The Texas Drought 2022

As I have hiked this summer, I am surely seeing the effects of not having any rain. I know I know it’s flooding in Kentucky, and Flooding in Denver………..but in central Texas as well as most of the rest of the state we have got squat for rain this summer. 99% of Texas is in some form of drought with Central Texas and the Hill Country in extreme to exceptional drought conditions.

Colorado River at Shaffer Bend Spicewood

The last measurable rain in Austin fell on June 28th and that was 1.23 inches. Doesn’t sound bad but before that it hadn’t rained since May 26th and that was only .19 inches. July skies yielded no rain. Zilch. Austin should have nearly 22 inches of rain by now for the year but has only about twelve. Yes, it’s dry and to add insult to injury we have had 58 days this summer over 100*. Right now, Austin and central Texas are on track for the hottest summer since records have been kept.

Rough Hollow Lakeway summer 2021

Rough Hollow, Lakeway summer 2022

And Texas is burning. I didn’t know this, but Texas has the second most wildfires in the country behind only California. Texas averages 900 wildfires a year: this includes even the small spot fires. To date this year the Forestry Department at Texas A&M University which is charged with recording activity and assisting in putting out fires says Texas has had 7500 fires to date. Again, these have ranged from small spot fires to the behemoth at Chalk Mountain in Somervell County, that burned over ten square miles.

Berry Springs Georgetown 2021

Berry Springs Georgetown,2022

Berry Springs Georgetown.2022

I was recently at Colorado Bend State Park and the spring fed Gorman Falls the state’s tallest continuous waterfall is barely running.

Gorman Falls July 2021

Gorman Falls July 2021

Gorman Falls August 2022

Gorman Falls August 2022.

A young lady I was talking to online after posting some pictures on my hiking facebook group says that the Colorado looks to be lower than the drought of 2011 when her family had to sell all their cattle because they had no water for them.

Tinaja at Colorado Bend 2021

Tinaja at Colorado Bend 2022

Colorado River at Colorado Bend fall 2019

Colorado River at Colorado Bend 2022

The Colorado is the lifeblood of Central Texas. It provides most of the cities with water through the Highland Lakes Dam system. It rises all the way back in Lubbock but the drought there is just as severe as here. Lake Travis which supplies most of the water here in Austin is now only 54% full.

Now one might think that maybe we just had a wet year last year. Not so. Central Texas actually missed its yearly rain total by a little more than an inch last year. They say we will get rain this week. maybe 1/2 inch. That will not help the situation at all, but I guess that is better than nothing. At least maybe the grass will turn back to green for a few days.

Rain this year

January 1 inch

February 6.2 inches

March 2 inches

April 1.9 Inches

May 1.5 inches

June 1.23 inches

July 0 inches

august through the 9th….0 inches

Finding Fall in Texas, Third Year Eureka Springs, Carroll County Arkansas

Finally, we are here. It was a six-hour trek through the mountains including our side trip to Mount Magazine. A mostly foodless trek I might add. So, to find fall in Texas our third season, well…. we went to Arkansas, to the Ozarks, but we were a couple weeks too early. Never believe those damn fall color maps!

We Are Here!

We arrived in Eureka Springs late in the day and many of the shops in town were near closing time. We opted for a drive through and will walk the streets tomorrow.

Eureka Springs is one of the largest collections of preserved Victorian building and homes in America. The entire town is on the National Registry of Historical Places. The winding streets and unique architecture is a major draw for tourists to the area. Downtown shops have a varied selection of goods and food. Eureka Springs is also a magnet for the LGBTQ community in a very conservative state.

Business district Eureka Springs Arkansas

I don’t usually say much about where we stay with the previous exception of Ten Bits Ranch at Big Bend, and Seven Canyons in Vanderpool, but this motel in Eureka Springs was phenomenal.

It was a Quality Inn but was much better than the average of that brand. In fact, the manager told me that it used to be a Comfort Inn, but the requirements had changed to Comforts having to have interior hallways which this one doesn’t have. What it does have is one of the prettiest properties in town. There are two buildings with a deep hollow between them. The hollow has a nice fountain and gardens with walking paths throughout. The rooms were exceptionally clean.

Our room view of the fountain. The walking trails wandered through the wooded area.

This hotel also had the best breakfast I had ever seen in one of these type places. Much of the food was prepared from scratch and was delicious! After a very hearty breakfast (we wanted to try everything) we headed out. We had a scheduled train ride at 10:30 but were running well ahead of time so we went to the Christ of the Ozarks, one of the local attractions and the second largest statue of Christ in America.

Christ of the Ozarks

Now I am in no way religious but it was a sight to see and a very comforting and quiet place for those who are the religious type.

The Christ of the Ozarks is the work of Gerald L.K. Smith and stands 65 feet tall. It was erected in 1966 as part of Smith’s religious theme park. The area also has a 4100-seat amphitheater where a summer play ‘ The Great Passion Play” is performed 4 or 5 nights a week from May through October.

But now it is time for one of the main events of our trip, a ride on the Eureka Springs and North Arkansas Railroad.

The Eureka Springs and North Arkansas Railroad began operations in 1882 as The Eureka Springs railway. It ran from Eureka Springs to Seligman Missouri where it could pick up riders and supplies from the major railroads and transport them to Eureka Springs. It had several names and owners until it went bankrupt in 1961 and was sold at a loss. In the 1970’s the Dortch family gained control of the railroad right of way and named it the Eureka Springs and North Arkansas Railroad. The family purchased and moved rolling stock to Eureka Springs, restored the Eureka Springs Depot and set out to offer train rides from Eureka Springs to “Junction Arkansas” which it exactly what it sounds to be, a junction of two tracks in the woods where the trains can be turned back. The family had to re-lay tracks and rebuild several trestles over the creek.

Eureka Springs Depot

inside the restored depot
Here comes the train

The train ride lasted a little over an hour. The narrator told the history of the railroad as it pertained to Eureka Springs and a bit about the history of the town. At Junction, everyone got off the train and we were permitted to lay coins on the track which the train slowly ran over as a souvenir of the visit. It was a really cool experience.

1925 passenger car
“Junction, Arkansas”

Why did the town develop here?

The Indians of the region talked of the healing waters of the area. After the Indians were removed no one knew where this spring was. In 1856 Dr Alvah Jackson was said to have rediscovered the spring and said it had cured his eye ailments. Dr Jackson marketed the water as Dr Jackson’s eye water. In 1879 A friend of Jackson’s claimed the waters had cured him of a crippling ailment and everyone began to come to Eureka Springs. By 1889 Eureka Springs was the second largest city in Arkansas.

But it got even better for the town, Powell Clayton who was the Reconstruction Governor of Arkansas moved to Eureka Springs. He was very wealthy and began construction on the Crescent Hotel in 1886.

The Crescent Hotel.

A few years before that, in 1882, The Grand Central Hotel was constructed in the downtown area and is the oldest continuously operating hotel in Eureka Springs. The large Basin Park Hotel was built in 1905 adjacent to Basin Spring, and the New Orleans Hotel was built in the 1890’s. With the establishment of the Eureka Springs Railroad in the 1880’s; the town is now a full-fledged booming vacation and spa city.

Grand Central Hotel
Basin Park Hotel
New Orleans Hotel.

All four major historic hotels are still in business.

We walked the streets and visited some shops. Everything was pretty expensive.

Spring Street

Later in the day we took a guided tour of the town on the tram. Our narrator was the seventh generation of his family to live in the area so he really knew his stuff. He knew which person originally built each of the best houses.

Eureka Springs is built up a mountainside. The streets are hilly and winding and there are no ninety degree intersections. The town has no stoplights. This one and a half hour tour was very interesting. We learned that at one time the Crescent Hotel became a hospital ran by a Dr Baker who claimed to have the cure for cancer. Of course he didn’t and he just made the folks comfortable as they died. A construction accident sent a young man to his death in the building. Today the Crescent Hotel is thought to be one of the most haunted buildings in America if you are into that sort of thing. They still give nightly ghost tours of the building.

Old gas station now a B&B
This newer home is a Frank LLoyd Wright design

Since many of the homes and buildings are built on the hillsides they may have entrances on several different floors. Some downtown buildings have two or three different addresses on different streets for different floors!

The tour ended our day here. But an interesting fact. Although now bottled near Houston Texas, Ozarka bottled water was born from the springs in Eureka Springs.

In the morning we went back to the motel dining area to get some more of the delicious food. I tried the spice waffle which was exceptional!

We decided to go home through Eastern Oklahoma, well actually Google Maps headed us that way but there were three different routes. We decided on U.S. 59/259 which took us back over the Ouachitas in Oklahoma. Who knew that the eastern section of Oklahoma was so scenic. Yep the whole state isn’t flat and ugly. The route took us through the Choctaw Nation. Here we learned something else. Indian tribes being independent governments in the U.S. issue their own license plates with their tribal seal and name on them. We saw plates from the Choctaw Nation and the Cherokee Nation. Quite interesting. Here’s some pictures of the beauty of eastern Oklahoma.

Along Oklahoma Route 96

we left for Arkansas with a vague game plan but this turned out to be one of our better vacations.

Signal Hill on Mt. Magazine, Paris, Logan County Arkansas – Pig Tail Scenic Byway, Ozark, Franklin County, Arkansas

And I just surpassed the NPS for the longest name of something! We left Hot Springs on Arkansas State Route 7 which is a scenic byway through the Ouachita’s. Known as Scenic 7 the road takes you to Arkansas Route 22. This trip will take us across the Ouachita’s and the Ozarks which are divided by the valley of the Arkansas River.

view from picnic area along Arkansas 7. the lake is Nimrod Lake

Once on Arkansas 22 we headed west for Paris. In Paris we picked up Scenic 309 to Mt Magazine State Park. Mt. Magazine is the highest point in Arkansas on Signal Hill elevation 2753 feet, and it is also the highest point of the American interior highlands between the major mountain ranges. Surprisingly it is in the lesser-known Ouachita Mountains not the Ozarks.

Cove Lake Mt Magazine State Park
View from the Mt Magazine Lodge and Cabins. The river is the Petit Jean River

This is a place to come and rent a cabin for a couple nights. They are perched on the bluffs near the lodge with the above view. We started at the trailhead near the lodge as opposed to the campground. It was a short hike with gradual elevation gain to the summit of Signal Hill. Mt Magazine is more of a ridge then a mountain and has two distinct crests. The lower at 2700 feet is known as Mossback Ridge and Signal Hill which rises 53 feet higher.

The trail up Signal Hill

I thoroughly enjoyed this one mile hike with the hardwood trees and shade, much like being back in NC. In Texas it is sunny, hot, and rocky everywhere you go. Shade is spotty.

We topped Signal Hill and to our disappointment we have already seen the best views from the lodge/cabin area. There is a sign, a flag stone map of Arkansas and a sign in sheet at the top. and trees, that’s it just trees. But we can say and prove we have been to the highest point in Arkansas since I signed the registry.

Yep we were there. The flagstone in the foreground is shaped like the state of Arkansas, with a large bump which has the benchmark atop it.

We descended, thought about eating at the lodge, didn’t, but should have, (didn’t find a restaurant for hours after this) and headed for Eureka Springs. We got on Arkansas 23 north, passed through Ozark which had no acceptable eating places and soon hit the Pig Tail Byway. This is a huge motorcycle route. Motorcyclists love curvy roads. What struck me as odd is that there were tons of places to spend the night along the Byway but no place to eat!

Along the Pig Tail Byway
Passing through the Ozarks
In the Ozarks

We arrived in Huntsville which was the only major town between Ozark and Eureka Springs and found of all things a McDonalds. We were famished so we surrendered to eating that mediocre food. Shortly after our very late lunch we got to Eureka Springs.

Finally after a long day on the road we are here!

to be continued……………………………

Hot Springs National Park, Hot Springs, Garland County, Arkansas

Hot Springs was the first National Park in America…. well kind of. The land was set aside by congressional act in 1832 “to be developed for future recreational use.” Five years after the establishment of the National Park Service, Hot Springs became a full fledged national Park in 1921, nearly 100 years after the land was first protected.

Bathhouse Row

A series of bathhouses were developed in that first hundred years as people came to bathe in the hot waters that supposedly had medicinal properties. The water exits the mountain at 143 degrees.

Now how is that possible? Rain falls on Hot Springs Mountain and the surrounding area which is a large recharge zone. It percolates through the limestone to such a depth that the earth’s core heats it. The water flow then hits an ancient fault that directs it back to the surface. It is estimated that the water that is flowing out today fell as rain about 4400 years ago.

The water exits the ground at 143 degrees. In the pools you can touch it but you would be scalded if you were to be immersed in it.

By these pools the ranger gave us a talk about everything water. The springs have been capped by metal locked boxes to protect them from contamination as people still bathe in the waters and one company, The Superior Craft Brewery, located in the old Superior Bathhouse, uses the water in their brewing process.

Hot Springs until recently had three unique distinctions. First it is the only National Park to incorporate a section of a town as part of historical Central Avenue is within the park. Second: This makes it undoubtedly the most accessible park in the NPS System. Third: Until 2018 when the Gateway Arch area became a full National Park it was by far the smallest of America’s National Parks at just 5000 acres.

Besides the downtown district the park encompasses several nearby mountains. Although only Hot Springs Mountain contains springs the park also includes West Mountain, North Mountain and Sugarloaf Mountain . There are roughly 40 miles of hiking trails throughout the park.

This water feature extends along the walk from the City of Hot Springs parking garage to the National Park.

We arrived in Hot Springs late afternoon. We checked into our motel near Lake Hamilton and took a drive through the historical district just to get our bearings for the next day when we will visit. Although the park is open until ten, the visitor center was already closed, and we just completed a long drive to get here, so we decided to wait for the next morning to start our adventure.

Buckstaff Baths the longest continually operated bathhouse in Hot Springs (since 1912)

Only two of the Bathhouses still offer services the Buckstaff which is the oldest continuously operated in the city. It caters to a more affluent clientele, offering private tub baths and complete spa services. Most visits will cost you $100 or more. The other is the Quapaw Baths. Here are large public bathing pools you can enjoy for $20 although they also have complete spa services if you would like. Because of Covid we decided it not prudent to publicly bathe at this time.

Because I am a dumb twit I don’t have a picture of the Fordyce Bathhouse which is the visitors center; it is also a museum, and, I have pictures from inside. The tour is self-directed and judging by the people we passed, almost all of them, we were going through backwards. we went to the left from the visitor center lobby. It is much more common for folks to go to the right.

Here’s a little travel tip for ya. When you stop at a rest area with facilities to the left or right always go left, it will be much less crowded. Human nature tends to take us naturally to the right in most cases.

Anyway back to Hot Springs, …….we toured the Fordyce Baths where a lot of the original spa and bathing equipment has been preserved. It is amazing what people put themselves through before we knew through modern medicine that the hot water and steam is probably not entirely medicinal.

Mens lounge

Steam cabinets… people sat in these and a towel was tucked tightly around your neck.
The needle shower…. uh no!….just looks ominous
Men’s massage room…uh….No!
The “Hubbard Tub”. you lay on the board and they lowered you in
I don’t even want to know what these were for
The Ladies parlor notice the beautiful stained glass ceiling

After touring the Fordyce Baths we went out to “The Promenade.” After your spa treatment many of the practitioners here suggested a walk on the Promenade. Now that we are more medically astute it is believed that most of the improvement in peoples condition probably came from exercise; swimming in the public pools and walking the trails.

The Promenade

Hot Springs reached it’s hey day in the roaring twenties and into the 30’s. Hot Springs became a hangout for the gangsters of the day including Al Capone, Bugsy Seagal and others. It also became the biggest spring training site for Major League Baseball so all the greats of the era took the baths. This probably did help relieve their aches, pains and injuries just as such treatment does in today’s world.

We then hit the historical district on Central Avenue. Here is the Arlington Hotel the largest in Hot Springs.

Arlington Hotel

Pictured above is like the third incarnation of the Arlington as it has burnt down twice. I checked on rooms and it was only $95 a night, not bad to spend a couple days in the lap of luxury.

We went by the Ohio Club…. well…….. because we were both born in Ohio. The Ohio Club was the main hangout for the mobsters who frequented the area.

Ohio Club, by the way the souvenir shop next door was the best and most reasonably priced in a very expensive town.

Other buildings of import are the Medical Arts building which is being remodeled into a hotel or apartments and the U.S. Army and Navy Hospital. All the old buildings are Art Deco.

Medical Arts Building
U.S. Army and Navy Hospital.

After wearing out the Historic District we decided to go to the Hot Springs Mountain Tower. The Mountain tower is on Hot Springs Mountain and there is a scenic drive to take you there.

Overlook on Hot Springs Mountain
View from Hot Springs Mountain Overlook

We parked here and took a short trail to the Mountain Tower.

Hot Springs Mountain Tower.

The tower rises 183 feet from the summit of Hot Springs Mountain. It was a nice elevator ride to the top. The present tower was built in 1982. Originally there was a wooden tower of 75 feet that was struck by lightning and burnt to the ground. It was replaced by another wooden tower that after 69 years of service was deemed unstable and unsafe. This is also where the main gift shop for the National Park is located. There are 360 degree views from the tower.

Hot Springs from the Mountain Tower
The Arlington Hotel and Medical Arts Building from the Mountain Tower
The Ouachita Mountains from the Mountain Tower

We went back to town to see if we could find the house Clinton lived in when they moved to Hot Springs. It is still a privately owned and occupied residence so you can’t really go there. We never exactly located it. But we stumbled on the West Mountain Scenic Drive so let’s do this instead. The West Mountain Scenic drive leads to the West Mountain Overlook.

West Mountain Overlook.

So that ends this portion of the trip. Tomorrow is a four hour mountain drive to the highest point in Arkansas and Eureka Springs the southern gateway to the Ozarks.

President William Jefferson Clinton Birthplace Home National Historical Site, Hope, Arkansas

Late September is vacation time. Being in retail, as the holiday season approaches, it gets harder to get time off so we try to go around this time of year, before the holidays and after school has resumed to lessen the crowds. When Momma said she wanted to go to Arkansas I was all in as it was a State I had never been to. So the plan was to do two nights in Hot Springs in the Ouachita( wash-i- ta) Mountains and two nights in Eureka Springs, the southern gateway to the Ozarks. We also planned a trip to the Clinton Library in Little Rock but it was closed due to Covid-19.

We were speeding up the freeway and came to Hope, Arkansas and decided to stop at the birthplace home.

This small historical site we were to learn has the second longest name in the National Park Service system. What could be longer? Well, we learned that the NPS site with the longest name by letter count is the Fredericksburg and Spotsylvania National Military Park and Battlefield.

The Clinton Birthplace Home contains two buildings the actual home and a neighbors house that was purchased to be the visitor center. There is a short film about the first years of Clinton’s life in Hope, 4 years before the family moved to Hot Springs.

We then took a short tour of the home. The house is at the corner of Hervey and Division streets along the railroad tracks. Clinton’s grandfather ran a store across the tracks in the black neighborhood. Clinton hung out there with his grandfather and played with the black children, one of the few white kids allowed to do so.

Clinton Birthplace, the box on the side we were told was for an attic fan

Inside the place was decorated with period furniture but none of which was owned by Clinton’s grandparents.

Yes Clinton was raised his first years by his Grandparents. Shortly before his birth his natural father died in a car accident. His mother moved in with her parents to have her baby and spent most of his early years in New Orleans attending nursing school.

Although the house looks large compared to some around it, Clinton’s grandparents were in no way that well to do. His grandfather ran a lot of credit in his store, his grandmother did in house nursing throughout the neighborhood. They had a large house because when they purchased it in 1938 the country was still coming out of the Depression and there was no market for large homes so it was purchased on the cheap.

After Clinton became President a committee was formed to purchase and restore the house which was in bad shape. The town then gave it to the NPS to develop the National Historic Site

It was a quick stop as it takes just a few minutes to go through the house (downstairs only) and look at pictures of the upstairs. Safety concerns I guess.

President William Jefferson Clinton Birthplace Home National Historic Site