I just got back from four days in gorgeous Eureka Springs, Arkansas. I went with a group of friends and my sister—there were 17 of us in total. We spent the trip in a very leisurely fashion, gathering in smaller groups to visit various attractions and larger groups for meals.
One of the first things we noticed is that it's butterfly season there. Wherever we went there were beautiful butterflies flitting around the flowers. My sister led us in a yoga practice on Friday and Saturday mornings and we enjoyed seeing the butterflies on the plants as we exercised.
We stayed at the 1905 Basin Park Hotel in downtown Eureka Springs. Supposedly it's haunted and they offer nightly ghost tours. I didn't think it seemed haunted to me, but what do I know? The only semi-weird experience I had was one afternoon while I was taking a nap. I heard the sound of a door creaking several times and assumed that one of my roommates was coming in. However, I never heard the floor creak to indicate someone walking across it. Once I got up, I checked all the doors in the room and none of them were as noisy as what I'd heard. So if that's my ghost story, it's a pretty tame one.
Every morning I went walking for an hour or so. The hotel was on Spring Street, and as with most towns with the word "springs" in their names, Eureka Springs has a history that included a tourist boom attracted to the healing waters. All along the street you can still see many of the historic springs, although several are dry and the rest are mere trickles of water.
My sister and I had decided in advance that we wanted to visit Turpentine Creek Wildlife Refuge, so we gathered a group of six and went on Friday afternoon. Turpentine Creek is a non-profit that rescues big cats, most of which had been bred as "pets" but were obviously not tameable. It's a much more widespread problem than you would think.
As you can imagine, it's incredibly expensive to build safe habitats and feed these animals properly for the rest of their lives. I wish I had the wherewithal to donate lots of money to their organization.
In case you've ever wondered if a liger is a real thing, here's one. This guy is still young and they expect him to double in size. Ligers are bigger than either lions or tigers once they mature.
On Saturday, my sister and I fulfilled our other sightseeing goal: to visit one of the local caves. We chose Onyx Cave, which apparently doesn't have a website.
What they DO have is self-guided walking tours complete with state-of-the-art 1970s technology including bulky radio headphones that pick up sections of a recorded message that you trigger at various points by pushing a button.
The cave is not as pristine as some I've visited. In the past it was the site of illicit activities by moonshiners and bandits, but it was most ill-used during a time when many of the stalactites were broken off for the onyx. Still, it has a lot of cool formations and it was well worth the $7 admission price.
To give you an idea of the age of the audio presentation, it ended with, "Take only photos and leave behind only flashbulbs."
I was very impressed by the number, variety and quality of shops and restaurants within walking distance of our hotel. If you were willing to drive a short distance, the options increased even more.
This morning I extended my walk all the way to the Crescent, partly to have a destination and partly because I knew I could buy a bottle of water there and pet the lobby cat. Yes, I missed my cats.
Of course, this story leaves out all the fun I had with my friends, gathering for meals and drinks at various parts of the day. I went out with the group on Friday night to see Mountain Sprout play at The Squid & Whale Pub, which is the kind of place that serves your pint of beer in a Ball canning jar and you don't blink an eye.
So what I'm saying is that I had fun, I relaxed, I stayed off the internet for days and, most important, I let 85 work emails go unread until Monday. It was exactly the kind of vacation I needed.