Ausable Chasm, August 1, 2019

Ausable Chasm, August 1, 2019
Ausable Chasm, August 1, 2019

Sunday, March 31, 2019

Oaklawn Park Race Course and Captain Marvel - Sunday, March 31, 2019

"Divide and conquer," say Bob and Susan, "if you don't want to do the same thing." Today was one of those days. 

Bob wanted to go to Oaklawn Park Race Course, ranked #5 of all thoroughbred race tracks in North America. An unusual feature to see is a world-class-ranked horse racing facility in a national park. 
Assembling the horses before the race.
There's a bugler in this photo somewhere.
(Photo by Bob Alton.)
Oaklawn racing (a moment from a video
by Bob Alton)
Oaklawn Racing Casino Resort has been one of the premiere Thoroughbred racetracks in the country since 1904, best known as the home of the $1 million Arkansas Derby (so says their website). There is no admission fee for general admission. If you want a reserved seat, there are different levels of seating for a cost.


Anyway, Bob had a lot of fun watching the horses race. It was a beautiful day to be at the races. One nice thing is, he didn't have to vie for an expensive parking space! I dropped him off in front of the gate and took off for a movie.

I'm really missing going to the movies with my BFF Susan Medlin. Captain Marvel has been out a week or two and I'm just now making time to go. This is a good flick. The beginning credits showed memories of Stan Lee and a dedication to him. 

This movie goes back in Marvel Universe time and we get to see the Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., including Phil Coulson and Nick Fury, when they're getting their start. I thoroughly enjoyed Goose, the cat, as well. If you plan to go, make sure to stay to the very end for the two teasers. Well done! I enjoyed it, and now I'm looking forward to The Avengers Endgame coming out April 25! 

After the movie, I called Bob to let him know I was on my way to pick him up. He met me at the laundromat across from the race track.

When we returned to Gulpha Gorge National Park Campground, we took a walk along the creek and over to the other side of the highway. It was a beautiful evening. Here are some photos of the campground and our walk. We were in Site #3 and do not recommend it. It is next to a very noisy road, highly unlevel, no view or sound of the creek, and just barely big enough for a 33' 5th wheel and Ford F350 long bed truck with a crew cab. Also, there is no campfire ring here, just a BBQ grill. We feel fortunate, though, that we secured a site in the campground.


Site #3, Gulpha Gorge National Park Campground.
Gulpha Gorge National Park Campground.
Gulpha Gorge Amphitheater (closed for the season).
Gulpha Gorge (sites along the creek).
Gulpha Gorge (more sites along the creek).
Our walk along the creek.
We followed the creek to the other
side of the highway.
Bob in the late afternoon sun.

Here's something to keep in mind if you want to camp here: The campground is first-come, first served. Let me explain how you obtain your campsite. It's easy if there's an opening...you just pull in and then go to the gatehouse and pay for it on their automated machine, but it has to be after noon. If you get a site at 10:00 a.m., you need to pay for it at noon or after.

First a little background. Bob and I really wanted a creek-side site! When we arrived on a Wednesday afternoon, only two non-creekside sites were available. The site we chose had been vacated two nights early by a couple who switched to a creekside site. They had already paid for site #3 for two more nights, so we had to pay for their site #21 for two nights. 

We stopped by their site and asked if we could move into their site when they left and they said, yes, they would let us know when they were leaving. They told us their friends were leaving too, so two sites would be available on the creek. 

On Friday morning, she knocked on our door and said they'd be leaving in an hour to an hour-and-a-half. We started getting our 5th wheel closed up and ready to go. Bob looked down to their site after an hour and they were still there. We didn't want to crowd them, so we waited. About ten minutes later, Bob looked out and said, "Forget it, someone is already in it." We thought we could get the second site, but when Bob walked to look at it, someone had put their chairs in the site to "save" it. We were SOL.

Here's what happens (in case you're interested in camping there): People looking for a camping spot at Gulpha Gorge arrive around 8:00-10:00 a.m. They drive around the campground looking for someone getting ready to vacate. In fact, when they saw us putting our slide-outs in, they asked if we were leaving and we told them "Yes," thinking we were moving to the creekside. We weren't cutthroat enough and didn't drive our rig down there to wait for the site, so we missed out. 

Tomorrow, we head to Memphis, Tennessee, and lots of music history!

Saturday, March 30, 2019

What Do We Do When It Rains? - Saturday, March 30, 2019

First, we don't "piss and moan" about the weather on a rain day (unless there are a bunch of them in a row). It actually gives us a chance to rest and relax. 

Today, we had one of our only days of rain in three weeks. It meant I got to sleep in which is something I rarely do. 

Bob woke up early to be first in line at the Buckstaff Bath House in Hot Springs National Park. It's the oldest continuously operating bath house still open on Bath House Row. He signed up "to take the waters:" the complete package of hot mineral water soak, loofah rub down, towel wrap to cool down, steam room, Sitz bath, cool down, and a 20-minute massage. The whole thing takes about 1-1/2 hours.


Buckstaff Bathhouse has blue and white awnings.
My friend, Susan, and I took the waters when we were there last fall. It's worth experiencing at least once.

Another thing we do on rainy days is our laundry. We save it up and take it to the laundromat, about five or six loads worth. One thing we like about a laundromat is that we get all our laundry done in one to 1-1/2 hours.

For the rest of the day, I caught up on a couple of blogs and we both read. Simple days are good. 

Travel Bug out.


Friday, March 29, 2019

Garvan Woodland Gardens - Friday, March 29, 2019

Hot Springs, Arkansas, is well known for Bath House Row, and while it's certainly quaint, interesting, and educational, it's only the tip of the iceberg for things to do in town. High on my bucket list was Garvan Woodland Gardens, a place to luxuriate in outdoor beauty.

We slept in this morning and got to the garden around 11:30 a.m. Upon driving into the parking lot, the landscaping that makes it famous was already evident. Tulips bloomed alongside daffodils. Deciduous trees were leafing out in their fresh springtime greenery. 

With my San Antonio Botanical membership card in hand, we received free reciprocal admission to the garden. It's great to have those perks.

Garvan Woodland Gardens is 210 acres of woodland gardens along 4-1/2 miles of Lake Hamilton shoreline. Throughout much of the park, there are views of the lake and the Ouachita Mountains of southwest Arkansas. It is a lovely place.

How did this garden come to be? It did not happen overnight. 

The land was clear cut about 1915. In the 1920s, the Arthur B. Cook family of Malvern, Arkansas, purchased the property. Arthur B. Cook owned the Wisconsin-Arkansas Lumber Company and the Malvern Brick and Tile Company. He died prematurely in 1934. Shortly after his death, Verna Cook Garvan (his daughter) assumed control of the A.B. Cook companies and became one of the first female chief executive officers of a major southern manufacturing business. She served as CEO until her retirement in the 1970s.

Vera Garvan began to develop the property in 1956 as a garden and possible homesite. She was a self-taught gardener and knew the land like the back of her hand. Pathway locations were selected by her. Over 40 years this was a labor of love for her. She chose each new plant and selected its location. We owe her a great debt of gratitude for this garden masterpiece.

When she passed away in 1993, Mrs. Garvan left the property to the Department of Landscape Architecture at the University of Arkansas, through the University of Arkansas Foundation. This would ensure that people would be able to enjoy her work for years to come. What a gift!

The theme in the garden is "Celebrate the Colors of Spring!" Well, we certainly did that today.

We entered the garden through the Visitor Center where we were warmly greeted, handed a map of the garden, and were given an explanation of how the garden is laid out. Then we took off to explore for ourselves.

The Weyerhaeuser Bonsai Garden was our first stop. It never ceases to amaze me how patient you need to be to grow bonsai plants. The display technique here is very Asian. Vertical sandstone slabs are backdrops for the bonsai plants. Some are displayed on pedestals of Ouachita quartzite sandstone. Being from Texas, we liked the Bald Cypress bonsai which was just beginning to leaf out.
Allee Elm Forest (bonsai)

Bald Cypress (bonsai)
From the Bonsai Garden, we entered The Garden of the Pine Wind which is ranked as the fifth best Japanese garden in North America. It is four acres of Asian rock garden, cascades, a reflecting pond, a waterfall, a koi pond, and pathways through the trees. The trees in Garden of the Pine Wind include 60 types of Japanese and other maples, as well as Oriental dogwoods.


Bob in Garden of the Pine Wind.

Tulip tree.
Joy Manning Scott Bridge of the Full Moon.
Koi pond.

One of the park's waterfalls.
Warning: This blog will contain lots of flower photos! It is a garden blog after all. 

We are here during Daffodil Days & Tulip Extravaganza. Because it's spring, there are daffodils, hyacinths, over 150,000 Dutch tulips, azaleas, and camellias in bloom...not to mention dogwood blooms peeking out, and a huge Star Magnolia in full bloom.


Azaleas.
Tree peony?
Tulips.
Tulips - so lovely to look at.
Jonquils (?)
Tulips all around me.
These tulips have a fringed border.
Purple tulips.
Me and Bob by the tulips.
I particularly like these colors!

Pink azaleas and tulips.
Tulips in The Ellipse.


Star Magnolia.
Three Sisters of Amity Daffodil Hill: Home to 300 varieties of daffodils, blue anemones, and Roman hyacinths.


Daffodil.
Bob on Daffodil Hill.


Also on the grounds is a fairy village! We didn't see any fairies so they must have been zipping around. 






Bath House Row.
Pixie Dust Transformer.
Lighthouse - a beacon
for lost fairies.
Wing emporium.
Singing Springs Gorge was our next stop where we saw our first rhododendron blooming this year. This lovely side trail follows along the creek in the gorge.


Rhododendron flowering.
Singing Springs Gorge
Next stops on our walk are Trapp Mountain Overlook and Perry Wildflower Overlook. Both areas had great views of Lake Hamilton.

Bluebells?

Trapp Mountain Overlook.
Dogwood blooming.
It was about 2:15 p.m. and time for lunch. We were at the farthest end of the peninsula. The Chipmunk Cafe is the only place open for lunch, but it was about to close at 3:00 p.m. We zipped back about a mile. After lunch, we will resume our walk at the tree house. Trees around the Singing Springs Gorge include oak, hickory, pine, and ash.


Millsap Canopy Bridge: a 20-ft. high serpentine bridge.
Millsap Canopy Bridge over Singing Springs Gorge.

As we walked up to Chipmunk Cafe, we found the Sugg Model Train Garden. An engineer was there keeping the trains running and handing our Junior Engineer stickers to the kids. Lunch was very enjoyable out on the patio.

Sugg Model Train Garden (G gauge)

This is where we ate lunch.
Sugg Model Train Garden scene.
The train goes past replicas of the Wisconsin-Arkansas Lumber Company and the Malvern Brick and Tile Company.




After lunch, there were only two more parts to the garden we wanted to see: the Anthony Chapel and the Bob and Sunny Evans Tree House. 

We couldn't figure out how to get to the Anthony Chapel. It looked so easy to get to from the Chipmunk Cafe, but no trail led there from the Cafe. Finally, we found a sign in the Visitor Center that pointed out the front door. From there, we found a trail next to the parking lot that led to the chapel. It is amazing. The architecture really fits into the forest. We would have gone in, but it was closed for a private event.


Anthony Chapel.
The chapel carillon tower.
Looking up the middle of the carillon tower.

Then, we hiked 3/4 mile to gawk at the unique, three-level tree house with its boulder-strewn canyon. I could imagine kids climbing all over the rocks and discovering the waterfall and cave hidden there. Interpretive learning is encouraged with information on dendrology, the study of trees.

A peacock outside the visitor center.
These pansies look like Ewok faces.
Beautiful display of pansies.
I think these are tulips, but not sure.
Bob and Sunny Evans Tree House and
Interpretive Center.
One level on the interior of the tree house.
Tree house as seen from below.
Bob by the cave and waterfall.
One area we did not explore was the Hixson Family Woodland Nature Preserve. It has 45 acres of natural Ouachita Woodland. Trees in the preserve along the Lower Boardwalk are pin oak, water oak, gum, and cypress trees.

This was a great place to visit, especially in the spring! We loved making our way through this well-thought-out garden. Go see the gardens if you haven't yet.