Saturday, June 30, 2018

Paper Wasps

There was a nice little wasp nest tucked under the back deck railing. I didn't see it as I rested my hand on the ledge. And before I knew what was going on, they got me several times. All I remember was pain shooting up my arm and things buzzing around my head. There might have been some wild hand flapping and jumping around, but not too much screaming.

Immediately coming inside to sit down for awhile helped, as did applying full strength lavender oil drops on the potential places along with an ice pack on my hand.

The stings were mostly on my left hand, thankfully, since I'm right handed. There was a least one on my right arm. After a few days, my left hand puffed up and was swollen for a few days making it difficult to hold or squeeze things, or even wear my work glove. I took my rings off when I felt the swelling. A few days later the itching started. It was after that, when I'd been scratching for a few days that I could see all the stings. I counted at least seven on my left hand. (see last photo where I circled areas that were stings rather than age spots)

We decided later that the culprits were Paper Wasps, not yellow jackets that I had first thought because they had yellow stripes. The two do look similar, the main difference being the type of hive or nest they build. Yellow jackets build their nests in trees and bushes and tend to be large round smooth structures. Paper Wasps build smaller, delicate paper thin hexagonal structures resembling a beehive and that are attached by one thin strand, usually in corners and under ledges where you can't see them.

Thursday, June 28, 2018

Fordyce Bath House

The restored Fordyce Bath House is in the middle of Bathhouse Row in Hot Springs and serves as the National Park Service Visitor Center and Museum. It has 23 restored rooms furnished as they appeared during the height of spa popularity. Tours through the building are self-guided with exhibits, films, and displays which tell the story of the hot springs and their use.

It was very interesting, and I found myself transported back to a elaborate, romantic period in history.  I went to the right when I came in, which happened to be the ladies'  side of the building, clearly separated from the men's side of the building on the left. Each side had it's own dressing room with lockers, individual bathtub stalls, cooling down rooms, and various treatment rooms. 

Some of the treatments sounded barbaric and torturous, like the "needle shower" (see Ladies Pack Room photo) or the "electric bath" (see below Hydrotherapy photo and "no known deaths"). Or the "electromassage" and "mercury rub" (see Electromassage photo). Yikes. On the upper floor was a large parlor type "assembly" room where they could both gather after their treatments. And on the very top floor was a gymnasium.

The mosaic tiled floors and stained glass were particularly beautiful.

Wednesday, June 27, 2018

Bathhouse Row

In the historic part of Hot Springs, is a magnolia tree lined street with a row of large bathhouses on one side. They remind me of large Victorian hotels, each one with different architecture. The landscape and buildings have changed over the years, but today there are eight bathhouses which have been restored. Six are used as businesses or for National Park use, and only two offer spa services.

The morning of my visit, the sun was in the wrong place to take good photos. But I did the best I could. I got most of my information from the National Park website, and you could read more about it here.

Superior Baths
The original building was built in 1916, but it has been renovated by different owners over the years. With almost 8,000 sq. ft., it is the smallest of the houses and offered the lowest rates but made claims of providing superior spa treatments.  The bathhouse closed in 1983. Today the building is a local brewery, the only brewery in a national park, and makes beer from the thermal spring water.


Several houses have used the name Hale over the years, but the present bathhouse is the oldest visible structure, being built in 1892. It has over 9,500 sq. ft. Hot water comes straight into the basement of the building. The Hale closed as a bathhouse in 1978, but is for lease today. One article I read suggested a boutique hotel was planned.


The Maurice
The original building opened in 1912, and had 23,000 sq. ft. over three stories. The bathhouse offered a range of services and had the only indoor swimming pool. It closed in 1974. It has recently been renovated and now has 18,000 sq. ft. of leasable space.


Fordyce Bath House
The Fordyce was built in 1915 and is the largest with 28,000 sq. ft., and grandest of all the buildings. It closed as a spa in 1962 but was restored and reopened in 1989 as the visitor center and museum for the National Park. I'm planning to write a separate post about my visit there.


Quapaw Baths
The Quapaw is the longest building along the row, incorporating two previous bathhouses, and built in 1922. It closed in 1984 and had been vacant until 2008 when it reopened as a family-oriented spa. It's one of two that operate today as a spa.


The Ozark Bathhouse was built in 1922 and catered to a mid-range bather unwilling to pay for frills. It had 14,000 sq. ft. and provided 27 tubs for bathers. It closed as a spa in 1977,  but currently houses the National Park Cultural Center that displays artwork and exhibitions.


Buckstaff Baths
The Buckstaff has been in continuous operation as a spa since it's opening in 1912. It is the best preserved of all the bathhouses. It is the second largest at 27,000 sq. ft. and has the potential of servicing 1,000 bathers per day.


The last, or first depending on which way you start your walk, is the Lamar bathhouse. It opened in 1923, and was unique in that it offered a range of tub lengths for people of various heights. It closed in 1985, but today is the National Park store and has offices for park employees.

Friday, June 22, 2018

Hot Springs

On my recent trip to Arkansas, I stopped in Hot Springs on my way home. I've been wanting to go there for several years and it was only about an hour out of the way.

I am fascinated by all natural springs, that just bubble up out of the ground. The fact that pure water just comes up out of the ground in random places is pretty amazing. We've often wished we had a spring on our property, and better yet a natural hot spring. There is a spring not too far from us and you can read my old post here.

Entering Hot Springs, I noticed a sign telling me it was the childhood home of Bill Clinton, but I decided to not to hold that against them.

In addition to being a quaint town, Hot Springs also incorporates the edge of a National Park. In fact, some of the older parts of town are actually in the park. For hundreds of years the area had been known for the medicinal effect of the hot mineral water. In 1832 it was established as a federal reserve and then in 1921 became the 18th National Park. It was very popular with vacationers and health remedy seekers, until the mid-20th century when water therapy was replaced with drug therapy. Large elaborate bathhouses were built along a street referred to as Bathhouse Row and catered to the health seekers.

My first stop was the Visitor's Center where I was given a nice map and good advice about how to spend my time. There were several public fountains and faucets and I stopped a few times to chat with the locals filling up their bottles. Some said it was the only water they ever drank.

Just outside the Visitor's Center were bronze plaques honoring famous people from Arkansas. I recognized these: James Dobson, Twila Paris, Johnny Cash, Mike Huckabee, Sam Walton and General Douglas MacArthur. 

It was a nice walk along the magnolia tree lined sidewalk of Central Avenue, with the old bathhouses on one side. At the far end of the street was a hot waterfall bubbling out of the mountain side that collected in a little pool where you could dip your hand in the water. I had imagined sitting on the edge of the pool and soaking my feet for awhile. But the water was too hot - 143 degrees hot. I could barely dip my hand in the water without feeling burned. 

This is an excerpt from the National Park leaflet about the hot springs.

Outcroppings of Bigfork Chert and Arkansas Novaculite absorb rainfall in an arc from the northeast around to the east. Pores and fractures in the rock conduct the water deep into the Earth. As the water percolates downward, increasingly warmer rock heats it at a rate of about 4ยบ every 300 feet. This is the average geothermal gradient worldwide, caused by gravitational compression and by the breakdown of naturally occurring radioactive elements. In the process the water dissolves minerals out of the rock. Eventually the water meets faults and joints leading up to the lower west slope of Hot Springs Mountain, where it surfaces...Besides determining the chemical compositon and origins of the waters, scientists have determined that the waters emerging from these hot springs are over 4,000 years old. The park collects 700,000 gallons a day for use in the public drinking fountains and bathhouses.
I walked along Bathhouse Row and toured the Museum. But I'll save that for another post because it was so interesting and I took too many photos to include here.

Before I left I filled up the only water bottle I happened to have with me. I didn't come prepared like the locals did.