Sunday, April 20, 2014

Hot Springs National Park in Arkansas

We spent several days at Beavers Bend State Park in Oklahoma.  Found a spot smack dab on the lake and settled into a few cold, windy days.  The Park looked "tired" and "run down" -- hardly a place that could be billed as a resort destination.  We did go down to Red Slough National Wildlife Refuge; thanks to a kind ranger who unlocked a few gates and let us drive into the Refuge.  Um, we saw, an alligator, a purple gallinule, and a few common moorhens.  Everything else had already left OR was about to arrive.

A whole couple of days and not 1 picture.  Pretty drab.  Glad to leave Oklahoma!!

And get to Hot Springs National Park.  Which is a very interesting & sort of "how not to have a National Park."  The Hot Springs were some of the first land ever set aside by the Federal Government -- as early as the 1830s.  But...they did not set aside any of the surrounding area, so today there is this incredible mish-mash of commercial business superimposed on the visitor center, etc.  Like The Museum of the Gangster, Ginger's Popcorn, and the Vapor trashy.

BUT, we did manage to find one of those commercial ventures offering hot mineral springs bath -- oh my, does it make one's skin so soft.  No chlorine or other chemicals.  Oh it was nice.

And we hiked a bit -- I guess the walks were part of the scene at America's Spa in the 1880s.

We walked a bit of the Baseball Trail -- turns out that spring training was held in the Hot Springs area in the era of Babe Ruth & Cy Young & Honus Wagner.  They came to "boil out" the nights of drinking.  Honest, that is what the sign said!

We walked the Garven Botanical Gardens.  Late for the tulips and other spring flowers.  Nice walk.

America's First Health Plan -- go soak in the Hot Springs!!

Looking down Bathhouse Row 

One bathhouse has been restored as the "Visitor Center"

Yesteryear's steam room
Hot Springs just ooze from the ground
The Formal Promenade on hill above the Bathhouses
Spring colors at the Gardens
View at the Gardens
Lovely Bloom

Stained Glass ceiling in the lounge area

Local connection:  Eastman Hotel & Babe Ruth.  Reminded Alan of when Frank skipped school and peeked through the fence to see Babe Ruth hit a home run in Seal Stadium in SF about 1920.  

Monday, April 14, 2014

Weather Wimps

Yup, we are weather wimps.  Yesterday it was in the 90s and we spent the afternoon sitting in the oak trees so we could bird at sunset.  We saw about 40 species, many new to us!  Exciting!

This morning.  Temps in the 30s.  Snow flakes.  Tonight's forecast:  temps in the 20s.  Gotta go.

We were so tough that we moved Bessie (the RV) about 3 campsites over to an electric site.  Plug that heater in and let's have breakfast in comfort!

On to eastern Oklahoma tomorrow...

Saturday, April 12, 2014

Wichita Mountains National Wildlife Refuge

East -- blink that was New Mexico.
East -- blink that was Texas.
East -- um, I guess we are in Oklahoma.  Um.

Our destination was the Wichita Mountains Wildlife Refuge -- a truly unique spot among the nation's wildlife refuges.  Established in 1901 as a Forest Reserve, the purpose was to set aside "the mountains" from the area being opened for settlement in a land auction.  In 1905, the area was re-designated as a Forest and Game Preserve--and the game of the day:  bison!

Like in OOPS -- the bison is about extinct, so let's move a few from the Bronx Zoo (to great hooplah) and see if bison can live in a controlled "wild" setting.  It worked and today the herd is maintained at about 650 head.  Bison are culled each year and auctioned.

Well, once the bison were established it was decided to try bringing back the elk.  The first elk were brought in from the Jackson Hole area, apparently the local elk were truly extinct.  The herd here now is about 700 strong.  Elk are hunted via a special lottery each year.

Texas longhorn cattle were next and returned to the refuge in the mid 1920s.  They never were wild but, so many longhorns had been breed to mix the longhorns with better "meat" cattle so few pure breeds remained.  Congress set aside funds to start the herd.  Imagine that NOW!  The herd is about 300 strong.

There are other animals of the plains here; prairie dogs for one.  Scurrying all over their towns.

The refuge has also done significant work to bring the black capped vireo to a more stable population (from endangered).

The Refuge is beautiful -- craggy granite peaks, vast prairie grasslands, many small creeks and lakes.  Herds of animals just wandering around -- and on the weekends:  lots of folks having fun!  We are too early for the spring wildflowers (yikes there is a frost warning up!!!) so maybe down the road I will see the prairie in bloom.

Walking the trails of the Refuge

Hello -- and please keep on riding that bike of yours!

Home is where I sit down!  

Scruffy elk -- saw very few of them

Early flower

Blue star...I think

Rocking Lizard!

Charons Gardon Wilderness area -- favorite spot for bouldering & getting lost!

Secret pool

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Rocks and Pots

EAST -- the direction of the season for now.  EAST.

We stopped at Homolovi State Park, a couple of hours east of Flagstaff.  The Park is a joint venture with the Hopis and State of Arizona to essentially protect a vast swath of Hopi lands along an ancestral trail.  Not much to see as far as "rebuilt" examples, but it was amazing to see the variety and amount of pottery fragments and colorful rocks and worked points that littered the ground.

It made us feel a bit like archeologists looking at a new site!

Yup, this is the bathroom at the state park....yup.

3 flags at this Park.

At this site, over 1000 rooms were found

Pottery shards EVERYWHERE

View to the next pile....

Walnut Canyon National Monument

Walnut Canyon, just a bit east of Flagstaff, was a "temporary home" to ancestral Hopi peoples.  The Canyon was occupied for only a hundred years or so -- the peoples built tiny rooms into the walls of the Walnut Canyon.  A couple of hundred people lived here & like many places was abandoned in the late 1300s.  Maybe they just moved on north?

This Monument features the Island Walk -- go down a 150+ feet via 200+ steps and then walk around "the island" of homes/dwellings.  Way amazing!!

We had an early start from Cottonwood -- I opened the blinds and WOW! a balloon headed my way!
Part of the Sedona tourism program.  But so lovely!

The Rim above Walnut Canyon is about 7000 feet -- so quite cold and harsh in winter.
The water in the creek below was seasonal--definitely worth the name Sinagua Peoples!
Make pots and stow water all year round??

Fine dwellings on the shady side!

Tall folks at a disadvantage!

Tiny door


Look for several dwellings across the way --  experienced Indians could easily climb these walls!

Loving the color!