2. Birthday trip to Arkansas…January, 2023

Day 3 1.13
I felt like I’d explored the tiny town of Eureka Springs, so with still crappy freezing weather, I made a quick decision to drive 4 more hours south…it would be 10 degrees warmer in Hot Springs at least during the day…or so the weather app said.

This whole trip idea was sparked by my friend Telea who I camped with in Texas in December.  She raved about Hot Springs.  So, when I first tried to think of somewhere to go for my birthday, I researched Hot Springs.  But it was an 8 hour drive & I was nervous the driving could get treacherous on these hilly narrow roads, so I opted for Bentonville/Eureka Springs.  But this morning, sitting in my little cabin, the forecast for the next couple of days showed no precipitation.  So, I packed up 4Runner & drove south. 

The craziest & a bit scary part of my drive south was twice, when I’d go up up up  & into white…all the trees, grass, signs, everything was covered in frost.  Which made me immediately wonder if the roads were icy.  This happened twice, but I just slowed a bit & then I’d head down hill & out of the frost covered forest.

I got into Hot Springs, parked & walked Bath House Row.  These buildings are beautiful!  Only two have bath houses you can soak in now.  One former bathhouse is the Hot Springs National Park Visitors Center; another is their official gift shop; another a boutique hotel & another is a brewery.

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The Quapaw Bathhouse is where I chose to soak.  It’s beautiful inside & with five different pools with different temps, it was a great way to relax & get out of the cold.  And, it was the first time I’d taken my beanie off during the day for two days.

I stopped into the VC to see if they could tell me if they had any camping available for tonight.  Their sites all have hook ups & are all exactly alike; no tent sites.  And they were full for tonight.  The nice Ranger told me to check out a local Corps of Engineer campground & even checked online & said they had plenty of sites.  

The inside of these buildings are as beautiful as the outsides.

I hadn’t eaten yet, but needed to sit down somewhere & figure out where I was staying tonight.  The temps were going to be around 24, but I’ve slept in colder (but it’s not so fun especially when it gets dark so early).  So, I went to the Ohio Club & had a drink…it was one of the places on my ‘must do’ list.  

There’s lots of history in this town besides the bath houses.  History with baseball players & gangsters.  I ordered the Al Capone cocktail & it was delicious.  I got on my phone & tried to reserve a night at the COE campground.  BUT…since it’s a holiday weekend (MLK), I had to reserve three nights.  No way I was doing that.

Inside the Ohio Club.

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I kept looking for camping & finally gave up & went in search of food.  Telea told me about her fave place to eat here, which is in another part of Hot Springs, so I walked back to my 4Runner & drove to Taco Mama’s.

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The food was good, but no way could I eat all that.  I sort of picked the meat & beans & other goodies out of the bread & ate.  And, had a good share of the chips & salsa too.

My next stop was the Superior Baths Brewing Company right along Bath House Row.

I tasted some beer, checked the weather & tried to form a plan.

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That plan ended up being getting a room at the historic Arlington Hotel for the night.  So far, my camping plan for this trip was not happening.  The room was lovely & warm.  I was able to park my 4Runner right outside the hotel side entrance, hoping she’d be safe for the night & taking minimal inside with me.

The lobby was pretty & after I warmed up in my room (still with my beanie on), I went downstairs to check out the bar & the live music.

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I met some interesting women at the bar…two specifically, both very nice.  The three of us could not have been more different…one a 45 year old truck driver who’d always wanted to stay at this hotel & was excited about all the spa & soaking she would do over the next two days & the other was with her husband who was constantly looking at his phone & ignoring her & she was more than happy to chat with both of us.  She was a 50 year old glamour girl…all glittered & sparkled up, meeting some friends here for the weekend & also signed up for the big spa package the hotel offered.  And me…the oldest, the coldest (in temperature not personality) with my two day beanie on my head.  PS:  The drink I ordered was horrible!  Ending my streak of great cocktails on this trip.

I said good night to my bar mates along with "have a blast with your weekend", & went up to my room glad once again, not be out in the cold for the rest of the night.

Day 4 1.14
When I got out to my 4Runner this morning, the temp was 22 degrees.  I bundled up once again & took off walking around town.  It was only about 8am, so most everything was people-less.  But, I wanted to see a bit more of the place.

As you walk through this historic section, youll see bits of steam rising from water sources, but also just randomly through vents in the ground.

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This was the promenade behind all the bath houses.

I spied this little trail going straight up the big hill & took it for a mile or so.  I made it to the top for a view, but really wanted some coffee.  And, it was cold!

There are quite a few fountains around town.

You can see the ice around part of the pipe near the bottom of the fountain.

There were only a few shops open as I strolled back towards my 4Runner.  I went in & out of a couple, & if you are a shopper, you’ll love this place.

I got back to the car to discover my swimsuit I’d soaked in yesterday, was frozen in my towel & the whole thing was a rock hard rolled up bundle.  

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And, once my heater was on, I decided to move on.  I typically travel faster than most people I know, but I can also land in what I think are perfect places for long periods of time…I was in one town in Colorado last summer for 51 days.  And while it’s fun to explore new towns, eat in different restaurants & drink in unique & fun bars, I really want to be hiking.  And, I just don’t enjoy it in freezing cold weather.  But, it was supposed to start getting warmer & I had my fingers crossed the weather gods were going to be right.

So, thawed & warm in the 4Runner, I headed north & made it all the way to Fort Smith before pulling over for something to eat & trying their beer.  I had a unique bar mate…BC (for bar cat) jumped onto the stool next to mine & waited to be petted.  Made me miss my own little kittes!  The food was good & so was the beer…I had a Jalapeño English Dark Ale…a first for me.

I drove all the way to my last place to explore in Arkansas…Devils Den State Park.  I went to the VC first & bought a campsite for the night.  Even though it would still get in the low 30’s, that’s a big difference than low 20’s & I was so excited to be camping once more.

I jumped on a trail before the day got any farther along.  There were a ton of people here on this Saturday afternoon.

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This campground was nice.  There are three (I think) in this park, but this is for primitive camping only…most everyone was in a tent.  No hook ups of any kind & it was about 80% full.  And….it was so lovely quiet!  Someone had left some half burnt firewood & I had brought a big sack from home, so I built a fire early in the evening & it burned until about 9pm when I spread the super hot coals out which were perfectly hot to sit by.

The sunset behind camp.

I crawled into my sleeping bag, in my fleece pants & two layers on top & my down jacket.  I had my warm Rumpl blanket & I’d been sitting outside in my long down jacket & lined Ugg boots by the fire.  So, I laid that big down jacket on top of my Rumpl & tucked in. I don’t know why I’d never used the Hot Hand warmers before, but my brother gave me some & wow!  they are great.  I opened a couple of packages & laid them under my clothes…they were hot!  I also had my stocking cap on & a pair of fingerless gloves.  Then I read my book…for a long long time.  There’s no cell service in this part of the park & I’d texted Danny on my inReach earlier in the day.  I had my phone plugged into one of my chargers for overnight; but in hindsight I should have just turned it off.  I slept pretty well in my cozy camp!

Day 5 1.15 Happy Birthday to me!
My phone died overnight & so had my biggest capacity charger.  My worthless small Jackery brand charger (its a small one; not the big ones a lot of car campers have) showed all three bars lit, but when I plugged my phone it, all three bars went out.  The last charger I had is one Id been using the past three days & I wasn’t surprised when it didnt have enough power to even get my phone booted back up.  So, I started the 4Runner & plugged my phone in while I made my morning coffee.

still wanted to do another hike here & so after getting a bit of power back on my phone & finishing off my coffee, I took off on the trail.

I made it to the viewpoint & took this shot of the creek below & the sea of brown that I’m sure is beautiful in the fall with so many colorful leaves.  And then my phone died, so there are no more photos of the rest of my hike.

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After the hike, I was back in camp, gathered some clean clothes, my shower kit, towel & went to the bathrooms.  I was finally going to change out of my warmest winter clothes Id been in since Thursday morning (today is Sunday) & finally take my beanie off (I was hoping my hair wouldnt fall out after having it smashed in a hat for so long).  

I started the 4Runner, plugged my phone in once again & packed up ready to hit the road…for the last day of this trip.

I climbed down near the waters edge but then had to wait for about 5 minutes before I was able to get a clear photo (without people).  I was hoping my wet hair wouldn’t freeze in the meantime.   A couple carefully (she looked terrified) S L O W L Y inched across the top of the waterfall all the way to the middle, so a professional photographer could shoot some pics.  Once they had cleared the shot, I had just enough battery to take this photo of this iconic waterfall in the park.  

Then I got in my warm heated 4Runner & drove & drove.  I was going out of my way to Springfield for a special beer Danny & I love & that the distributors in our area have deemed not worth selling in Lawrence.  We totally missed out last year & are just about out of the year before.  So, we both thought it would be worth the extra mileage to bring home a case.

But, when I got to Springfield I still had 30 minutes before the tap room opened & I was hungry…BUT NOT COLD!!!  I found the Springfield Brewery about 2 blocks away from the taproom that opened later.  And, they served food (the taproom did not).  

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So, I ordered one of their brunch specials & a small pour of a BA Grand Cru…different for me but good. 

I’d never been to Mother’s Brewery taproom before.  I decided since I was driving out of my way, I’d have one of our special beers on tap, listen to some live music for a bit & look around the taproom.

But, this was my favorite thing on the wall.  Behind the old timey photos it says “The Mom’s of Mother’s”….I love this!

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I bought a case of our special beer, loaded it up, turned on my audiobook & headed home.  I made it home around 7pm for a birthday hug from Danny.  I made us a cocktail & we toasted to my birthday.  


I had some lovely conversations with Luke, Pete, Sara & Emma & Claire on my birthday…it was the highlight of the day.  Danny was able to text me first thing this morning on my inReach.

I’ve never worn a beanie & gloves for so many days in a row & hope I never have to again.  I look at people that are out in these frigid elements all the time, having a blast & am envious they can do it.  But, I’m waving the white flag.  I feel like I’m ‘over winter weather’….it’s the second best reason to move to Florida once Danny retires.

My take aways from these Arkansas places…

Bentonville was such a wonderful surprise.  I wish Lawrence had 1/2 as many trails as they do.  Of course the 66 degree day & sunshine made it even better.  I’d go back for the trails & back to Airship for sure!

Eureka Springs was so tiny.  But the coolest thing I came away thinking is the people must be what makes this town so wonderful.  They seem like a close community…a couple of them admitted the town is filled with quirky personalities…a bit of misfit in everyone.  It reminded me of one of my favorite towns in Arizona…Bisbee.  I was so glad I went in the off season because the people just opened up & visited, they were smiling & in no hurry.  I was grateful to witness that & it’s the people I’ll remember of Eureka Springs.

Hot Springs would be a great girls getaway, but I don’t really do those anymore.  The historic part has tons of shopping, restaurants & of course the bath houses & spa treatments you can spend time doing.  It is a big town…at least compared to the other two.  The old buildings are really beautiful & if you love history, there’s lots to learn here.

Devils Den State Park is really popular for bikers & hikers.  Lots of families there.  I bet the views at other times of year are very pretty.

It was a quick trip, to explore some new places & it’s so hard to figure out where to go in the winter.  It’s too cold, it gets dark too early & most of the scenic views are just brown.

I think for my next birthday trip, I need to go south of the equator!

My camper is all unpacked & ready to go again but gets a pass for my next trip which starts in 19 days!

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