Arkansas

Day 41 continued…

Monday, November 18, 2019 – On our way to Arkansas, we passed through Tennessee again! While I would have loved to check out Graceland, just because, the closest we got was the exit sign!

I’ve become quite the “moving photographer” these days. I’m perfecting my skills! 🙂 A few pictures of downtown Memphis & the Arkansas River that separates TN & AR. We passed through Little Rock but decided not to stop. It’s not so easy to just drive around in a city with the rig! 

We arrived at Gulpha Gorge Campground (part of Hot Springs National Park) around 3pm. We set up camp, ate a late lunch and then decided to go out for a drive to scope out the area. 

Day 42

Tuesday, November 19, 2019 – There was a hiking trail from our campground to the mountain top of Hot Springs National Park. We set out for what appeared to be a several mile hike round trip. The first part was pretty intense with lots of switchbacks – I explained to Lucas what a switchback was. He thought it was pretty cool and every time we changed directions he said the word. We are taking opportunities to get Lucas reading the signs as we hike. School on the go! 

Our intention was to find the tower and check out the view. When we arrived at the tower, the elevator was not working. We decided to take the stairs. Remember, Lucas & I aren’t big fans of heights. I was okay going up – as long as I focused on UP! Lucas did really well. We arrived at the little museum up there. It had a timeline of the Hot Springs rise to fame and history. There was also an open observation deck. 

When it was time to make the decent, I became very anxious – to the point of not feeling well. I finally realized that I was more concerned about Lucas so asked him to hold my hand. The 2 of us make our way slowly down the towner – Matthew was counting the steps to us to keep up focused. When we reached the bottom, we asked the attendant how many steps there were – the official count is 306! Matthew was just a few off. But we did it!!  My knees were so weak. We took a little breather to recuperate before continuing our hike back to camp. Lucas played in the creek beside our campground for a bit. 

After a hearty lunch, we heading downtown. There we went to the National Park Visitor Center which used to be a bath house. They’ve turned it into a museum. Such an interesting history this town has. Lucas wanted to complete the Junior Ranger program so we got the book and set out to complete the required pages. We were able to taste the water from a hot spring and see the steam rising from it. All the other springs have caps on them now for sanitary reasons. The architecture of these bath houses was intriguing. There are a few that are still active but most are either museums or restaurants. I did inquire of the Park Ranger what a bath would have cost back in the day. She said that you had to have a prescription for a bath, which you could get from a doctor across the street, and it was equivalent to about $400-$500 in today’s money.

We walked to the Arkansas Walk of Fame – famous people who were born in Arkansas. A few favorites of ours were Johnny Cash, Point of Grace, Russ Taff, and Twila Paris. There are several places in the town where you can fill your water jugs with water from the springs. We saw a lot of people taking advantage of the free water. 

After Lucas completed his JR program and received his 5th badge, we drove around the city a bit more before heading home. Made a pit stop at Starbucks for coffee & WIFI! We used all our data for the month and needed to research our next destination. Guess we streamed too many episodes of NCIS. That evening we played a game of Golf before turning in for the night. 

Day 43

Wednesday, November 20, 2019 – We thought about moving north to Fort Smith today but we didn’t want to pass up the opportunity to search for a diamond. So we headed to Crater of Diamonds State Park about 90 minutes away. We had to be those tourists and check it out. On the way, we stopped at a little hardware store to buy a folding shovel. It was on our list of things we wanted to eventually purchase so now was the time! The nearest town has clearly seen better days economically but was interesting. We arrived, ate our PB&J lunch before beginning our dig! 

The first diamonds were found on this site by a farmer in 1906! They were blue-white diamonds, one weighing 2-5/8 carats and the other 1-3/8 carats. This 37 acre field is one of the only places in the world where the public can search for real diamonds in their original volcanic source.

If you find a diamond, or any other gem, you are allowed to keep it. Once a month, the ground is plowed (harrowed) but they don’t tell you when that takes place. We were told that the best time to “hunt” is after a rain.

We purchased a bucket to help with the dig – forgot to bring one along. Guess we should have done a bit of research before we left the RV. The kind ladies at the counter loaned us 2 screens. Lucas was all into the digging part but not so much the screening part.  We dug a bucket full of dirt and then headed to the water/screening area. Needless to say, we only found a few stones of importance. While we were leaving, one of the ladies gave Lucas a crystal as a souvenir. He loves it! 

Day 44

Thursday, November 21, 2019 – We packed up our site and hit the road soon after 9:00. We decided to stop at a nearby Chick-fil-a for Chicken Biscuits so we didn’t have to make breakfast. It was a great time saver and, of course, delicious. Our destination is an Army Corps of Engineers park in Fort Smith, AR. It’s a first come, first serve park but it looked like there were plenty of sites available. The sites were only $12/night!! On our way, we passed over a couple mountains and drove some extremely curvy roads! It was a bit intense. Overall it was a good trip. 

We arrived at Springhill Park Campground early afternoon, picked our site and headed out to explore. It was overcast and chilly. We drove to the towns of Alma & Dyer and around the area where Matthew spent most of his childhood. There are a few pictures below of landmarks from that time. From there we wanted to go to the Fort Smith National Historic Site. On the way there, were drove through Oklahoma – about 4 miles! That was comical. Lucas was so worried that our RV was in Arkansas and we were in Oklahoma! 

The Fort Smith National Historical Site was a somber place. While I want Lucas to learn our country’s history, I struggle with parts of it myself. The focus of this Historical Site is Fort Smith’s military history from 1817 – 1871, western expansion, the federal court’s impact on Indian Territory, Federal Indian policy, and Indian Removal. Fort Smith is also known as the courtroom of the “Hanging Judge”.  I try to explain the truth of the site to Lucas in a G-rated format. He earned his 6th Junior Ranger Badge here and, as usual, is so excited to do so.

After touring the museum & site, we walked around the park that borders the Arkansas River. 

Day 45…

Friday, November 22, 2019 – We woke early as we wanted to explore Fayetteville and it was about a 90 min drive away. Unfortunately, it was a chilly, drizzly day. Our first stop was the University Of Arkansas campus. Matthew is a lifelong fan since he grew up in the area. While there we popped into the University Store to pick up a new hat for Matthew and a basketball for Lucas. 

Later we grabbed lunch at Chick-fil-a and then drove towards downtown. We found street parking and walked around a bit – it was bone chilling cold with drizzle so we grabbed coffee (for me) and hot chocolate (for Lucas) before heading back home.  

I had hoped to get back into downtown Fort Smith but the weather was not favorable. 

That evening, I headed to a local Starbucks to log some blogging time and attempt to get photos transferred from my phone (Android) to the MacBook. I was unsuccessful in my numerous attempts. I followed all possible online instructions. Guess I will have to continue to add pictures to the blog directly from my phone.

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