As we were packing up to leave Hot Springs, Arkansas, I said to Matt, “It’s hard to leave. I was starting to feel settled in. I know where the laundromat is and where to shop. I found the post office. We made friends and I have a rug hooking group. It’s amazing how much can happen in a week!” Well, actually, I guess it was two weeks, but we sure did a lot! First we went into the town of Hot Springs to find out what it was all about.
Hot water bubbles through the surface of the earth. At some places it is 143 degrees! See all that steam?! Then we toured the visitor center for the national park which just happens to be in an old bath house.
The antiquated equipment was interesting and some looked downright scary! But overall, they had facilities to do the same things we do today: baths, massage, hair styling and a work out room. There were several places throughout the town where you could fill water jugs with the water. It is safe, and good, to drink. Here is Matt filling the one bottle we had with us with hot water. It was very good tasting.
The next day, we decided to see a chapel in the area. Anthony Chapel is part of the Garvan Woodland Gardens. You can visit the chapel for free and that is all we intended to do. What a gorgeous place to pray. I love windows, and this chapel was just about all windows!
We almost didn’t pay to see the gardens. I kept thinking that it couldn’t be very fun at this time of year. Surely it was best in the spring and summer when flowers would be out. But, we decided to chance it anyway and we are so glad we did.
There actually were some flowers out at Garvan Woodland Gardens. But what we enjoyed was the lovely walk in the woods. It wound beautifully around a creek and over to views of a lake.
The bridges were beautiful. The whole walk was rejuvenating.
Another day we took a drive through the Ouachita National Forest. Matt found a “drive” on the internet and we followed it’s instructions. There were supposed to be signs along the way where you could stop at interesting things. Well, the drive was great and we loved it! We had a difficult time finding most of the signs though. Later we found out that the information he had found was old and apparently not up to date. At this stop along the road, we were to observe how the earth swirled and therefore how the mountains in the area were formed. There just happened to be a geocache there too. He had to watch out for a hornets nest.
While on that drive, we found out that the area was known for quartz crystals! One of the places we stopped had us walk for a mile straight up a mountain. What a climb! It took us to a place that used to be a quartz mine and you could look for crystals. We found where people had dug and also some large rocks with quartz veins, but nothing worth keeping.
I’m glad we just made it back down the mountain. The path was rocky and we kept slipping. Thankfully, we didn’t get hurt. But I love rocks and gems. You know…jewelry maker and all… And I looked on the internet and found out there were several places to look for quartz crystals in the area. One was a mine where you could pay a fee and dig in their scrap pile all day. So, we went to Ron Coleman’s mine and dug in drizzly, 46 degree weather all day long.
At first we dug holes in the dirt and really didn’t find anything. Then I decided to start rolling over large rocks.
We found some lovely crystals and clusters!
We had lots of other pieces but settled on these few to keep with us. When we sold our house and got rid of our stuff, I had boxes of rocks to throw away that I have collected in various places. Just like Lucy in “The Long, Long Trailer.” I can’t allow myself to collect rocks again. I sure want to though.
One day while driving around, Matt said, “Wait. Arkansas. Whetstones are from Arkansas!” He loves sharpening knives and had a whetstone from Arkansas. So, I looked it up and sure enough, we were in the prime area for whetstones. There was a place only 20 minutes from us called, Dan’s Whetstone, so we drove out to it. We didn’t realize we were going to where they produced the whetstones. After speaking with the very gracious people there for awhile, they offered to take us on a tour of the facility! This saw was room sized!
Mary gave us an informative tour about how they bring the stone, novaculite, from their mine and then carefully cut, polish and grade it.
It is a major production!
The folks at Dan’s Whetstone were super nice and interested in us too. In fact, when they heard that I made jewelry, they invited us back for me to show them. They enjoyed doing their Christmas shopping and we loved visiting with them again. Several people mentioned that Arkansas was a place to mine for diamonds too. So, off we went.
People find diamonds there everyday. At least, that is what they tell me. We were faced with a huge area that is periodically tilled up. You can see here a building that was built years ago when they tried to mine the diamonds commercially. It didn’t pan out.
My husband is a very patient man and he stayed all day digging buckets of dirt, hauling it to the sluice area, using screens to rinse the dirt from the gravel and then searching the gravel for bits of diamond the size of a head of a pin.
No diamonds for us. Maybe if I had stayed there with him and worked all day we would have found some. I must admit to leaving him there and shopping in the town square nearby. Now that was more fun!
Just had to share this next photo. My dad’s name is Burl and you don’t find many Burls around. So when we saw this sign, we just had to stop.
It was quite the place and Matt had fun sharing stories with this character.
One more special thing happened in Hot Springs. I decided to see if there were any rug hooking shops in the are. I needed more wool! And I found Aileen Anderson of Bear Creek Studio. She invited me to her lovely home to shop. We hit it off immediately and I stayed for four hours. Such fun! Later, she invited me back for a hooking time with her gals. Aileen showed us how to make poinsettia pins.
So, yes, we loved Hot Springs, Arkansas. And it wasn’t just for the fascinating hot water seeping from the ground. No, it was for the people. I almost felt like they adopted us. And I hope we see them again!