Hot Springs: Our first National Park (Unit)

Filling up on mineral water in Hot Springs.

I had no idea that Hot Springs National Park would be just that – a National Park that centers on the hot springs alone. It’s the smallest of the National Parks, and perhaps the oddest, as the park originated to protect the spring’s waters, and the park’s lands are surrounded by the charmingly preserved resort town of Hot Springs, Arkansas. There are many hot springs, but these magical springs are intensely hot (at 150 degrees), incredibly pure (the water used now fell as rain during the time when Egyptians built pyramids), and delightfully odorless (not being volcanic springs, there is no sulphur, and no rotten egg smell). To top it all off, their slow journey from rainfall 4000 years ago through 1 mile of mineral-rich rock has given this mineral water enviable health properties. Continue reading “Hot Springs: Our first National Park (Unit)”

Big Bend: Big Walls?

Magical sunsets at the top of the Chiso Basin

Big Bend is massive. While not as large as Death Valley in acres, something about the variety of terrain (they claim it’s three parks in one), the 100+ miles of Rio Grande it borders, and the fact that the park contains one whole mountain range within it all make it a grand statement on nature and the beauties of West Texas.

View of the Rio Grande, and Mexico on the other side.

But one human-scale question looms all of the nature that is on display here. Big Bend, on the South border of Texas, is a national park that shares a 110-mile border along the Rio Grande River with Mexico. The political overtones of this border are hard to avoid. There are signs everywhere noting that it is illegal to cross the Rio Grande anywhere except the official border crossings.  In my mind, the Rio Grande was, well, Grand with a capital G, but in reality, much of the river here in the park is shallow and not more than 20-30 feet wide. Thus college boys on Spring Break seemed to take great pride violating the stated law by wading across the narrow strait to do a little dance on the Mexican shore. Continue reading “Big Bend: Big Walls?”

50 in 50: Month Three in 30 Seconds

Month Three had us moving through the Southeast, enjoying Arkansas’s hot springs and seeing the world’s longest cave system in Kentucky.  We managed to sneak some culture in at the museum at Crystal Bridges and caught a show at the famous Ryman Auditorium (home of the Grande Ole Opry!) in Nashville. We enjoyed Spring wildflowers and visits from friends in the Great Smokies, after which we dove south and traversed the very long state of Florida. From Payne’s Prairie through Orlando and Miami, I saw my first alligator and romped through Harry Potter world.  But that wasn’t south enough.  We drove the Whale all the way to the Southern tip of America to Key West and enjoyed a week of turquoise waters and learned there is no such thing as too much Key Lime Pie.

Hurray for Month Three!