Eureka Springs Again and On Through Kansas To Colorado
Downtown Eureka Springs along Spring Street

Week of August 1, 1999
After catching a glimpse of Eureka Springs, we decided to return to get the full flavor of this town, which was founded in 1879 as a resort, based around the healing powers of the local area spring water. Before being founded, the Indians had penned the area as "Medicine Spring". To our dismay, motor scooters weren't available any longer to ride about town due to insurance reasons. To avoid the heat, we took the trolley cars around Spring Street to get around. If spending the day walking, I recommend getting a copy of the Six Scenic Walking Tours guide and taking leisurely walks along the streets.
The Palace Hotel and Bath House Houses along the street downtown Many of the buildings remain as they were when built, the majority being in the 1890s. The area really began to thrive once the railroad was brought to the town. It is interesting to note the limestone cliffs, which can be seen right behind houses and buildings in town-- limestone was used as the material for many buildings. As the area thrived, spas and hotels were built.

One of the premier hotels, the Crescent Hotel (located at 75 Prospect) has recently reopened after remodeling. We visited the first day it had been reopened since the restoration had started. The interior still has its original charm, with photos of it's early years in the lobby, and includes a gift shop and spa. When built in 1886, the limestone for the hotel was quarried from nearby Beaver, with the remainder going to the building of the Carnegie Library. A must see is the elegant Crystal Dining Room and the fourth floor rooftop views of the city and the Christ of the Ozarks statue (the second largest statue in the world) near the Great Passion Play. The current owner of the hotel has also restored the Basin Park Hotel (located at 12 Spring Street), built in 1905.

The Crescent Hotel in Eureka Springs The gardens of the Crescent Hotel

There is much to see here, so plan accordingly! Here is a link to the Eureka Springs Visitor's Bureau, courtesy of Southpoint. After departing from Arkansas, we headed up through Missouri and on into Kansas. The landscape of Kansas was a surprise, with grassy hills, hay bales, wheat, corn, cattle farms, and huge fields of sunflowers along I-70. There are numerous museums along I-70 and interesting stops for the history buff. You can also see many windmills, which serve to pump water for livestock. After discovering that we had a flat tire (a new tire at that!) on our dually, we decided to stop in Junction City at the Junction City RV Park (next to a motel). The good thing about the park was modem access, cable TV, and being across the street from a Sonic. Junction City holds several museums, including the U.S. Calvary Museum and the county historical museum. Milford Lake is nearby, which is the largest in the state.

After taking care of the flat tire, we headed out again. Be sure take some time to visit Abilene, which was the hometown of Dwight D. Eisenhower and quite rowdy in the early frontier days. We were behind schedule, so we drove on closer towards our next camp. We drove past Russell, which is the hometown of Bob Dole. We stopped in Hays to go by the store and eat a steak. By all means, if you are in the area, go to Montana Mikes. It is a franchise of steak houses. We got a 44 ounce juicy steak for two, with potato, salad and some great yeast rolls. We couldn't eat it all! We feasted on the leftovers the next night. Very affordable, $20 for an A+ steak meal for two. While in Hays, be sure to visit the local museum sites, including Fort Hays (built in 1867 to protect the railroad workers) and also the first cemetery in Kansas to be called "Boot Hill." Since the tire repair took longer than anticipated, we ended up camping in Kansas again, at Camp Inn in Oakley. The park had an olympic sized pool and nice laundry. The park was however located next to a lagoon which tended to smell when the wind was up.
Monument Rocks near Oakley, Kansas The next morning we got up early to visit the nearby Monument Rocks. Quite an oddity in the middle of the plains, these are 70-foot columns made of chalk, rock sediment, and remains of marine life left over from when Kansas was covered by inland Cretaceous seas.
Fossils embedded from the ancient sea bed Looking through a Kansas arch

You can see the fossil remains of various sea life. The area has been designated a National Landmark by the National Park Service. It is located just 26 miles off of I-70. Well worth the trip. Along the way, we saw two pronghorn antelope from a distance near some cornfields. We had to ask the locals what they were, because we had only seen them in a zoo. There are numerous sunflowers growing on the roadside.

Antelope out in the field Sunflowers along the road in Kansas

While in nearby Oakley, we visited the Fick Fossil and History Museum. It contained numerous fossils found locally, including a 15-foot long prehistoric fish called a Xiphactinus audax. I'll have a photograph of it here soon from video. The museum also contained a sod house, a replica of an old railroad depot, and other artifacts of early pioneer life on the prairie, and thousands of prehistoric sharks' teeth. Once we got into Colorado, the landscape was unchanged until we made it to Denver. The mountain peaks rise in the distance. Be careful in Denver, the drivers are not friendly. We set up camp at the KOA Kampground in Castle Rock, with customized railcars at the entrance for breakfast and movies. It also has tepees that can be rented daily. Castle Rock got its name from a mountain butte in the middle of the city. The temperature here has been from 63 to 70 degrees, compared to the heat wave covering most of the country.

The next day, we drove around Denver doing a little shopping and then drove up to Golden. Golden is the home of Coors beer. We saw the headquarters but it was too late for a tour. The town is quaint, with an historic main street. It is the home of the National Earthquake Center. Here, you can also visit the Colorado Railroad Museum and the Buffalo Bill Memorial Museum and Gravesite.
We headed down to Colorado Springs the following day. We stopped near the U.S. Air Force Academy and watched several small planes dropping parachuters. We also admired Pikes Peak from this vantagepoint. While there, we got caught in a violent thunderstorm. The streets began flooding within a few minutes. Gus the golden retriever, was in the back seat shaking uncontrollably and hiding his face with his paws. After the storm calmed down, we visited Garden of the Gods Park.
The Garden of the Gods This is a 1300-acre free park at the base of Pike's Peak where the Great Plains meet the Rockies. There were many towering red sandstone formations with footpaths winding all through the park.
The next morning, we decided to head west to the South Park area to see some ghost towns. We took Hwy 285 down to Fairplay, Colorado. It is a partially winding road until it reaches the bottom of a valley, which is the South Park basin where the old towns of Jefferson and Como are.
I visited the old Jefferson Railroad Depot, built in 1879, now a store. We then drove through Como, which is being restored by a private investor. Each of these towns was thriving in the late 1800s during the gold and silver mining rush in the area. In the early 1930s, the railroad line was discontinued to the towns, and the population declined. It was interesting to see the old buildings and imagine what the towns used to look like in their heyday. We saw numerous mountain peaks in the distance, which actually had snow on them. The Old Jefferson Railroad Depot

In Fairplay, we spent the rest of the afternoon at South Park City, which is an authentic restoration of a Colorado mining town between 1860 to 1900. It includes buildings moved from area ghost towns, including a school, saloon, general store, courthouse, drug store, railroad station, and assay office (where appraisals were made on miner "finds"). It also includes a Denver, South Park and Pacific Railroad narrow gauge steam locomotive, railcars, wooden wagons, and numerous mining memorabilia.

Coming Next: Rocky Mountain National Park

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