Saturday, March 16, 2013

Hot Springs and Crater of Diamonds State Park

Lydia and I went on a road trip from March 15-20 that took us to New Orleans through the center of Arkansas on the way down and then back up through Mississippi. There were many stops along the way. The 15th was mostly driving, we made it all the way to Little Rock, AR and stayed the night. The next morning we packed quite a lot into the day.

View Day 2 in a larger map
The dot to the southwest is Crater of Diamonds State Park.

One of my favorite parts of the whole trip came right at the beginning. I really liked the old bathhouses in Hot Springs, Arkansas. Several of them had been converted into other types of businesses, but a couple of them were still going strong, selling services using the hot spring water. The area was extremely compact and walkable which made it a lot more of an enjoyable experience.

There are even some areas where you can see the water coming out of the ground. I tried to keep it in perspective and be impressed, but I think my interest in geothermal activity has been satisfied by our trip to Iceland.

I tested the spring. It was hot.

Buckstaff is one of the bathhouses still in operation. Lydia was excited about going through the magic water process here, but to my complete and utter disappointment, they were booked. It is a really cool looking building though, I thought. We made a much less fancy reservation just for a Jacuzzi sort of set up at another bathhouse.

The Old Army-Navy hospital was a very cool building as well.

It was the day before St. Patrick's Day. I usually enjoy spending this particular holiday with my friends in St. Louis, but we all have to make sacrifices.

We had a little lunch at Bill Clinton's favorite barbecue, McClard's.

They had a confusing two-entrance setup inside. The ribs were good, and we were able to eat and get back just in time for our reservations at the Quapaw Bathhouse.

The front desk at the Quapaw has a window behind where you could see patrons lounging in the water healing their thirsty ailments.

I was surprised how intense people seemed to be with taking the magic water home with them. Several of the public fountains I saw had people filling up big jugs.

I am embarrassingly interested in finding treasure. I like discovering things at flea markets and garage sales and that sort of thing. At a garage sale I very recently had to fight the urge to buy one of those metal detectors you see old guys waving around at the beach. So I was very excited to finish splashing around in the medicine water and drive to Crater of Diamonds State Park.

I thought the park did a really good job of keeping the finding a diamond dream alive. There were lots of success stories posted near the tool shop, and an erase board kept tally of the number of diamonds that day. There weren't any found on this particular day, but there had been several found the day before. That meant we were due.

This was the tool shop where we rented our mining equipment: a couple of little gardening shovels and some boxes you shake dirt through. Sort of like panning for gold only without the water.

Well it turns out mining with hand tools is not as glamorous as everyone says. The ground was hard and diamonds are very good at finding hiding places. I joked that we had just paid $7 a piece to volunteer for slave labor.

I think we stayed about an hour or two. We didn't find much, but the people watching was well worth the price of admission. Back in the parking lot we saw families pushing wheelbarrows full of buckets and pickaxes. Good luck to them.

We continued all the way into Louisiana, and stayed the night in Ruston, Lousiana.

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