A Travellerspoint blog

By this Author: travelswitz

Hot Springs National Park

Time for a bath!

sunny 90 °F

Hurricane Florence ran us out of South Carolina a day early so we made it to Hot Springs National Park on Saturday, 9-15-18, after a layover in Tupelo, MS. To Tupelo: 509 miles = $185 in diesel fuel. Gas mileage = 8.1 miles MPG (probably would have been 9 MPG but we ran the generator a lot for the A/C. Camping overnight at a Walmart in Tupelo = PRICELESS!

Only four more hours to Hot Springs where we first went to the National Park visitors center and purchased our lifetime pass for seniors (age 62 = Maggie) for only $80 which gets us into any national park forever for half price. WHAT A DEAL!!!! So our camping at Hot Springs dropped from $30 to $15 per night. Booking.YEAH! Check out more info about this park at the Hot Springs Wikipedia page.

After setting up camp, we enjoyed a tasty ribeye, grilled potatoes, salad, and a nice bordeaux.

Hint: You can see all the photos larger and as a slideshow by clicking the Photography link to the right

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Sunday, we hiked up and down Hot Springs Mountain on our way into town.

Our hiking sticks have now been updated:
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Scenes from the trail:
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At the end of the trail we arrived at the promenade behind the bath houses:
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The Superior Bathhouse has been converted to a brewery:
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A yummy giant, soft pretzel and beer tasting!
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I took one of our pups, Braddock, up to Goat Rock on Hot Springs Mountain for a dawn hike on Monday and saw a beautiful sunrise:

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Then I biked up to the North Mountain loop for another cool view:

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Monday, Maggie was treated to a deluxe bath package (mineral bath, massage, etc.) at the Buckstaff Bathhouse.

Pix from Bath House Row:

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VERY HOT WATER (143F) fountains are all over town:

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Pix from around Hot Springs:

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We also visited the National Park Museum at the Fordyce Bathhouse where they have a lot of the original equipment used back in the 1920's. Very interesting. And kind of creepy!:

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Here's Maggie about her bathhouse experience: "My experience at the Buckstaff bathhouse was different but enjoyable. My aide was Julie. I was in the thermal bath, an old white, cast-iron, porcelain tub, for approx. 20 minutes then moved to the Sitz bath which Julie said was used to help one’s back. Unusual for sure, sitting with your knees up. From there I was put in the vapor box for five minutes. After the vapor box I moved to the cooling room. I was fully relaxed by then and my skin was losing its raisin look. Then Julie moved me to the needle shower. I was a little hesitant because its name sounded painful, but the actual experience was more like a flood of water from multiple shower heads that almost made me feel like I was drowning! (I am short, after all.) The equipment I used was the same equipment used in the early 1900s. Next, I was handed over to Lena, my massage specialist. I thoroughly enjoyed my Swedish massage. Definitely need to have one again soon. Last was the paraffin hand treatment which was amazing. Mike loved my soft hands afterwards! Overall, a great experience and very reasonable, all for only $79!.

OK, so she was indeed relaxed afterward and told me she was ready for a cold pint of beer and lo and behold, right across from the bathhouse was the oldest bar in Arkansas, the Ohio Club. The actual wood bar back was something to behold. The pictures don't do it justice. Check out the bar's history here.

Pix from the Ohio Bar. Check out the dress on the original owner's wife:

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Campground Review

We loved the campground inside the park, Gulpha Gordge Campground. It's one of those campgrounds that you can't reserve in advance, all sites were first-come, first-serve. Fortunately, there were several good sites available, otherwise we would have stayed at the KOA a little further out of town. Park hosts were great, the sites were clean, a nice creek flowed alongside the campground and there was also a small pond. Great hiking trails started right inside the park, one of which takes you straight into town, and dogs were allowed on the trails. Biking into town from the park was also very easy. We also walked into town from the park, along the roads, most of which had sidewalks. There are no sidewalks however, the first half-mile or so, which made us a little nervous during traffic. Hiking into and out of the town via the park trail was much more fun, but also much more strenuous because of the steeper hills. We would definitely stay at this park again!

Posted by travelswitz 17:26 Archived in USA Tagged springs hot arkansas bathhouse Comments (0)

Great Sand Dunes National Park

America's Sahara!

sunny 85 °F

After a side trip to visit Maggie's family in Nebraska for several days, our National Parks journey continues...

OK, this is the only time I'm going to say this: GO SEE THIS PARK! And the reason I'm adamant about it is because Great Sand Dunes National Park is not one on many people's lists. In fact, it's one of the least visited national parks. But it's AMAZING! 30 square miles of giant sand dunes. The highest one is 750 feet high. We only ventured onto one of the smaller ones because we weren't dressed right (needed shorts, it was warm), we left our hiking sticks in the RV (we saw some people with ski poles, which made the climb look easier), and we were running out of time because we arrived a day behind schedule and we still needed to go to the visitors center which closed at 5pm. So if you're going, stop at the visitors center first and then go hiking. I wish we had made it to the top so we could have seen the entire dune field first-hand. But it was still AWESOME!

When you arrive at the dune field parking lot, you must walk through thick sand for about a quarter mile before you even get to an actual dune. After trudging for a while, we discovered that the walk was easier if you strode in others' footprints. And the sand seemed to be a little more firmly packed on the ridges of the dunes, so that was easier. The entire San Luis Valley by the way, is about 8,000 feet up so our breathing was definitely affected. But we had a BLAST!

Here are the pics (make sure you click on the photos link in the right sidebar to see them larger and in all their GLORY!):

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And finally, an amazing sunset viewed from our campsite:

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Campground Review

We stayed at the Great Sand Dunes Oasis RV Park. This was basically a large gravel parking lot with full hook-ups, located on the hill above the campground office. A nice location with a great view of the dunes and only four miles from the park entrance gate, so an easy bike ride...we thought! The wind was pretty strong on the way back so a little bit of a fight, but certainly doable.

Next, on to Mesa Verde National Park.

Posted by travelswitz 17:35 Archived in USA Tagged colorado sand dunes Comments (0)

This Country is HUGE!

TRAVELING ACROSS THE GREAT WIDE OPEN.

15.09.2018 - 26.09.2018

No pictures today, just going to try my hand at some prose, relating our thoughts from our journey so far from South Carolina to Colorado.

Van Broke Bad

If you’ve never been on the Elvis Highway, now I-22 from Tupelo, Mississippi to Memphis, Tennessee, you’ve not missed much. It’s a mostly barren stretch of rolling road through the dense, green southland. And that’s the way it was going for us until suddenly, about two-thirds of the way down I-22, we came across a highway patrolman standing outside his car looking at a half-burned out, old, white van under an overpass, that looked like the back end had exploded and spewed at least fifty small, blue bags, probably about gallon-size, across the cement. Ok, we’ve seen “Breaking Bad” so we knew that, obviously, this was a drug deal gone bad! And it had apparently just happened before we drove by because the cop was on his phone appearing as if he was describing the situation to HQ. No sign of the bad guys, fortunately for us. And yes, we kept driving!

Roadwork Needed

When we got to Memphis, the roads turned terrible and continued that way into West Memphis, Arkansas. Cracks, potholes, bumps, you name it. Not fun for an RV. The next noticeably bad section of roads happened as soon as we entered Colorado on I-70. Jeez, spend that marijuana money on some road work and give a new meaning to the term "pot" hole.

Speaking of Pot

As soon as we arrived at Colorado Springs, weed dispensary signs and billboards were everywhere. In fact, click here to see the new venture Maggie started while I was asleep at the Walmart.

But Let's Back Up a Little...

It's not a big RV trip without a mechanical issue of some kind. This baby is 18 years old, after all. After Maggie's nephew, Dave, cleaned out the radiator for us in Ainsworth, our rig just sailed along humming like old on our way to Hazard. No overheating, it was great. However going over a small hill, we did feel a little jerk in the acceleration and the warning light flashed briefly. It reminded us of when we had a dirty fuel filter so when we parked at brother Rick's house in Hazard, I opened the drain on the bottom of the filter and let about a pint spill into a clean container to see if there was any sediment coming out. Nothing really, so the next thing we did was replace the air filter that was ten years old, hoping that was going to take care of everything. Then, a few days later when we left Hazard, more herky-jerkyness off and on until we got into Kansas when the acceleration effort became very difficult. Fortunately, we had a cell signal in the boonies of Kansas (we were on back roads, taking the scenic route to Colorado) and we were able to locate a Cummins engine service center in Colby, Kansas, about 50 miles away. We limped in, not able to go over 45 mph. They replaced the suspect fuel filter and told us the one we had was missing an O-ring which was letting air into the system and causing the fuel restriction we were suffering from. It was only mildly affecting things until I released some fuel out of the filter which allowed more air in. Way to go Mike! Actually, it was probably a blessing to have discovered the missing O-ring before we hit the Colorado mountains. The RV has been running great since. Fingers crossed! But this incident did put us a day behind because we couldn't get to Great Sand Dunes National Park before dark so we stopped to spend the night, as is our custom on quick overnights, at a Walmart parking lot, this time in Pueblo, Colorado.

We did have another RV issue that tends to occur when driving across the plains in high winds: one of our window awnings came out in transit. Yikes! So I did what I always do when this occasion arises, or should I say "extends itself" and pulled over as soon as safely possible, climbed up onto the RV, and secured the awning with bungee cords. Thank God every day in your daily prayers for whoever invented duct tape and bungee cords!

The Expansive Beauty of This Country

There is only one way to truly appreciate the expansiveness of the United States of America and that is to get out and drive. Drive, Forrest, drive. Every time Maggie and I take one of these trips, once we cross the Mississippi River and head out into the great beyond known as the American prairie, we look at each other and say in unison: "You just don't know how big this country is until you get out and drive it." That sentence becomes even truer when you hit the REALLY BIG states like Montana, Texas, and in this case, Colorado. Here's an excellent example: As we arrived at Limon, CO to get some propane and diesel, we noticed a mountain in the distance. It wasn't until we arrived in El Paso County, home of Colorado Springs, and we saw a sign that said we had entered the Pikes Peak region, did we realize that the mountain we had been driving toward since Limon was indeed Pikes Peak. We had seen it initially from 100 miles away! That's like standing on your roof in Blythewood, SC and seeing Paris Mountain outside Greenville, SC. Ain't gonna happen! It probably helped that Limon's elevation is 5,377 feet and Pikes Peak's is 14,114. But what was also amazing was that on that route, we seemed to drop down twice into two huge valleys right out of the children's classic dinosaur movie "Land Before Time", but every little town we entered, rather than giving the population, gave instead the elevation, which kept increasing by about 1,000 feet. What's with that! And of course, our view is greatly enhanced by the giant RV picture windows we are blessed to be viewing through.

History Lessons

It is so great to have the wonderful companionship of my lovely wife, Maggie, as we traverse this amazing country. Not only does she keep me company while I maneuver the RV through traffic, she serves me food and drink, laughs at my jokes, is attentive to the dog's needs, and disburses history lessons. That's right, we educate ourselves as we travel! Occasionally, we will see a sign or a building or something that we must investigate further and as long as Maggie can get a signal on her iPhone, she opens Safari (what a great name for a web browser while traveling!) and does some research. Probably the most memorable of these instructive episodes was when we saw a sign that said we had entered Peculiar, Missouri. Wikipedia informed us that the town acquired that name because much disagreement amongst the settlers resulted in them requesting of a judge that he name the town and to please give them a name that was peculiar because they wanted to be "different". So they got what they wanted and obviously embraced their new moniker because the town's motto is "Where the odds are with you"! Still not sure if we want to actually visit the place, though...

Here's to more happy trails. We'll be keeping you posted!

Posted by travelswitz 07:17 Comments (0)

Mesa Verde National Park

Pueblo Land

70 °F

Relaxing at the campfire, laying all the way back in our lazy-boy style camp chairs and staring in amazement at the quilt of stars in the sky, following the edge of the Milky Way from one end of the sky to the other...that's camping at Mesa Verde National Park!

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But I'm a little ahead of myself, so let's go back to the beginning of this chapter:

The drive across southern Colorado was spectacular and intense. There were three passes we had to cross through the mountains, the highest being Wolf Creek Pass at 10,857 feet. Whew! We were sure glad to get through without any issues. Lot's of very slow moving trucks and RVs. When we finally made it to the Mesa Verde National Park entrance, we then had to drive another four miles up steep, snaking switchbacks to the Mesa where our campground was. So, needless to say, we were quite happy to finally be at our campsite! Little did we know that we would be driving more roads just like these the next day to see the Pueblo ruins deeper inside the park. No phone signal in the park and although, surprisingly they had Wifi, it was very unreliable and so hence, the delay in getting this update out.

But it was all worth it! Here are some of our favorite pics of the ruins and the canyons they are in:

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We also found two nice trails to hike with some more fabulous views:

Knife's Edge Trail

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Lookout Point Trail

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And then there were two nights of Milky Way mesmerization! Sorry, don't have the right camera for those photos but here's a link to one from someone who does.

Campground Review

We stayed at the park's Morefield Campground. This is an excellent campground with great hiking trails and wonderful archaeological sites. They even have wifi, but don't count on using it for streaming. Even at this time of year the park was very busy and we were only able to secure a dry camping space (no electric, water, or sewer hookups) but that's OK, our RV can dry camp for several days. We had deer wandering through the campground at dusk and the trailheads were very near to our campsite. Dry camping has it's advantages when you don't have a car with you because it's easy to just drive the RV wherever you need to go, nothing to unhook, which was necessary here to see the various ruins at different areas of the park. So overall, a terrific experience and highly recommended!

Now we're off to Moab, Utah for visits to Canyonlands and Arches National Parks, just two hours away.

Posted by travelswitz 07:39 Comments (0)

Moab, Utah

Canyonlands and Arches National Parks

rain 68 °F

Moab was only a short 2 1/2-hour drive from Mesa Verde National Park through rolling desert hills filled with giant red sandstone formations. The transition from green (verde) mesas to "dead" (muerto) mesas was almost immediate once we crossed into Utah. We checked into the Moab KOA mid-afternoon, picked up our rental car, and prepared ourselves for a three-night stay.

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Then we used that rental car to head into Moab for dinner (delicious blackened chicken and pasta in a tomato cream sauce) and a brew (or two!) at the Moab Brewery. Yumm!

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The next morning we headed out to the Needles Section of Canyonlands National Park, about 40 miles south of Moab. I know we keep saying this but, here is another AMAZING park. We hiked the Slickrock and Pothole Point trails and our jaws kept dropping! Then the kind folks at the visitors center recommended we also stop at the Canyon Rims Recreation Area on our way back to Moab to see more amazing views, and if we had any jaws left, they completely disappeared here!. We were so high up over the canyons that it almost felt like we were in a plane. Here are some pics:

Driving to the park

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Slickrock Trail

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Pothole Point Trail

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Canyon Rims

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Then, we realized it had been quite a while since we had Thai food after seeing a couple ads in a local guide so off we went to Arches Thai. The Panang Curry was the best we've ever had!

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On Monday, we hiked the Island in the Sky section of Canyonlands and then went over to Arches National Park.

At Island in the Sky, we hiked the Mesa Arch trail, a very popular arch on the edge of a cliff. Then we did the Grand View hike, where we hiked along the canyon edge to end of the Island in the Sky mesa. Amazing panoramic views!

Island in the Sky

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The sole came off the bottom of one of my hiking boots just as we finished the last hike at Canyonlands (great timing!) so we headed back to the RV for a change of shoes, fed and walked the puppy dogs and ventured out again, this time to Arches National Park. We drove to several of the most popular formations: Park Avenue, the Gossips, Courthouse Towers, Balanced Rock, the Windows, Turret Arch, and finally I hiked up to the Upper viewpoint for the Delicate Arch while Maggie took a break at the Lower viewpoint. What a day!

Arches National Park

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We felt like we deserved one more night out after all that we experienced out in the desert. Who wants to cook after that?!? So we consulted the menu guide and chose McStiff's, a bar and grill in the center of Moab's Main St. district. We ordered the flank steak, cowboy beans, salad and local brews. Sounded like something good after a hard day in the wild west. However, we soon saw the waitress deliver an irresistible-looking, brick-oven, homemade pizza to a table near us and decided to change our order but were told it was too late. The beer was very good but the remainder of our order was very mediocre. Should have gotten the pizza. We were "McStiffed!"

Overall, Moab was the perfect place to camp while we visited these national parks, very central to everything, great restaurants (for the most part), and definitely an outdoor enthusiast's paradise. Off-roaders and dirt-cyclists everywhere.

The next morning we were supposed to head to Monument Valley at the border of Utah and Arizona for a night, before traveling to Zion National Park in southwest Utah. But the remnants of Hurricane Rosa from the Pacific Ocean were making their way into that area with flash flood warnings popping up everywhere. So we decided that we had seen enough desert "monuments" to not want to risk being stranded in the middle of nowhere or worse yet, washed away in a torrential flood just because we wanted to see the best monuments of them all. Bummer that one hurricane sent us out of South Carolina one day early only to be derailed by another hurricane in Utah. Yikes!

So we decided to take the northerly route to Zion via I-70 and I-15, stopping overnight at a KOA in Richfield, Utah. Turned out to be a beautiful route through giant desert reefs and many more canyons and "monuments". We stopped at one rest area for lunch right at the entrance to the San Rafael Reef. Very cool!

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Okay, I do have to comment on the speed limit signs on this route. No surprise that the speed limit through the desert of Utah is 80 mph but when I saw a curve approach and read the suggested lower speed limit sign I had to turn to Maggie and say "Hold on Honey, we've got a curve ahead and they're telling me to brake it down to 75! Yeehaw!".

Campground Review

The Moab KOA was in a great location just outside Moab, between Canyonlands south entrance and Arches. Because we had full hookups, we decided this was a great time to rent a car to drive to the two parks and enjoy eating out for a change. We used Arches Repair Center for our rental which turned out great because the owner was easy to get along with, picked us up and delivered us back to the KOA, had the best rate, and the car was new and clean. As has been our experience just about everywhere, the wifi at this KOA was nothing to write home about. But hey, we're camping!

Tomorrow, Zion.

Posted by travelswitz 09:35 Comments (0)

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