Fall Foliage Day 3 - DeGray Lake and Hot Springs, Arkansas
Christian’s update on hammock sleeping: I’ve started to prefer sleeping in a hammock to sleeping on a bed. The cool, fresh breeze, the gentle rocking side-to-side, and the perfect canopy view opening up into a star-lit sky make me regret living indoors for the majority of my life. I especially don’t know why people sleep outdoors in tents. It’s so much extra work to set up, so much extra stuff to lug around, and so much more uncomfortable sleeping on the cold, hard ground - all to try to recreate being indoors when you should instead embrace the outdoor experience.
For brunch, we visited the Shoreline Restaurant attached to the lodge. My original plan was to kayak over, but to get started on the rest of our day sooner we opted for the seven minute drive instead. Food was okay (black bean burger/grilled tilapia for me/Christian), but the views were spectacular! There were a couple hummingbirds flitting around a bush just outside.
We had loaded the kayak in the car before going to brunch so we could launch from anywhere on the way back, and at the front desk of the lodge/restaurant I found a paddle trail map. We wanted to do just the middle section of the loop, starting from the visitor center instead of the marina, so we drove back towards the center.
At the visitor center, we could see the lake, but not a clear path to get the kayak down to it. I had read in the map brochure that the visitor center was a possible stop (“feel free to park your kayak on the shore and stop in”), so I assumed there would be a launch spot. We started down towards the water on the Green Heron Trail, resting for a moment in a wildlife observation platform, but the only possible launch spot without crawling through underbrush would have been too far to carry. To appease the bossy Apple watches on our wrists, we kept walking for the rest of the 3/4 of a mile trail.
At this point the early wake-up from the dogs barking next door was starting to get to me, so we gave up on launching from the visitor center and returned to our campsite. Christian got some work done while I napped in the hammock.
Then it was time for our maiden voyage in the kayak! It’s an inflatable two-seater we bought off of Amazon (affiliate link), and we chose it because it fits perfectly in our storage compartment deflated, about 12″x20″x24″. We were able to get it inflated and ready with no trouble, and after rescuing my shoes from the mud we were off!
We did a quick loop out to an island in the middle of the lake to take pictures, skip rocks, and attach the skeg, which made a huge difference in steering on the way back.
Now seasoned kayaking pros, we zipped back to the peninsula where our campsite was located, hoisted the kayak up on our heads, and walked it back to the RV, where we ate leftovers in the hammock. As I started getting ready for our river cruise, Christian cut up our watermelon from yesterday. He also took a break to vacuum up some of the little flying bugs that had made their way inside, making me very grateful once more that we installed the central vacuum.
Then it was time to head back to Lake Hamilton/Hot Springs for our riverboat cruise! After reading reviews online, we decided to just go for the cruise, since the dinner didn’t exactly get rave reviews.
The first hour or so we spent on the top deck listening to a narration of equal parts “who’s who’s of Lake Hamilton” (noticeable homes and celebrities) and Lake Hamilton/Hot Springs trivia. For example, did you know that Hot Springs National Park is the smallest of the national parks but the second most visited after the Grand Canyon??
Then we went back down to the first deck for the dancing portion of the evening and tore it UP. I already love ballroom dancing, and when you add to that an appreciative audience, a hostess/DJ playing jive (“Big Wheels Keep On Turnin’“) and foxtrot (“You Are So Beautiful”), and of course, my amazing dance partner/husband… well. Date nights don’t get much better than that.
All in all, one of the most relaxing days we’ve had in a long time. This was a wonderful reminder of why we did what we did in renovating the RV! Every day we get to do what we want to do when we want to do, connecting even more to each other and the new and old friends we encounter on the way.
Even driving back from Walmart takes on poetic importance as we drink in the road-side scenery for the first time with the crisp air tousling our hair through the open car windows. Looming pines and oaks stretch into the clear skies, while a comfortingly golden Dreamworks crescent moon peeks over the mountains on the horizon. This may all be wonderful just because it’s only our third day on the road - but I’d like to be optimistic and think that this will be what we look forward to every day for the foreseeable future.
And here’s what Christian is thinking about on the drive back: “Just remember every time you look up at the moon, I, too, will be looking at a moon. Not the same moon obviously, that’s impossible.” -Andy Dwyer, Parks and Recreation