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)”

Guadalupe and Carlsbad Caverns: It’s what’s inside that counts

Natural entrance to the Carlsbad Caverns

Carlsbad Caverns is a national park many have heard of, as it’s famed for beautiful limestone cave formations and the underground fantasy world they create. Guadalupe? I never heard of it. It’s claim to fame is hosting the highest mountain in … Texas. And while it is striking to see any peaks in the barren desert and mild slopes in this corner of Texas, I wasn’t sure it justified us spending a week of dry-camping in a parking lot. (Indeed, the campsite for RVs is a parking lot, and the heat brought out all the loudest generators in Texas.) While I don’t have a favorite park, it’s a running joke between S and I that I have a least favorite.

Guadalupe National Park aka Tip of the Permian Reef

Carlsbad Caverns on the other hand…  Cave exploration there requires reservations for ranger guided tours, which fill up fast (hint: reserve very early), so we had just one day to explore underground.  Much to our dismay, for time seems immaterial in that underground realm, and the hours slipped away too fast. The world below was almost unreal in its spectacular beauty of pale delicate speleothems, moist rooms crammed with spindly stalactites and fragile draperies. Continue reading “Guadalupe and Carlsbad Caverns: It’s what’s inside that counts”