Today was the first of our two-day stay in Eureka Springs.
The complimentary continental breakfast at our motel didn’t seem incredibly appetizing, so we left the motel at around 8:30 to find somewhere to get breakfast. Apparently, Wednesday is when a large number of the shops downtown take a day off, so it was a small challenge to find places to eat. We decided on the Main Street Café; it was a no-frills American breakfast diner with good service and decent food. I got biscuits and gravy with a slice of ham, listed on their menu as a local favorite.
After stopping to look in a few shops near the café and spend our money on souvenirs, we left for the Turpentine Creek Wildlife Refuge. We arrived about an hour before our walking tour around the refuge began, and we were able to spend that time walking around in the self-guided area; we were able to see leopards, cougars, bears, tigers, servals, and a macaque monkey. It was incredibly hot, so most of them were just laying down in the shade and panting. We saw sleeping cougars, a tiger batting around an 80-pound ball, and a bear pacing in circles around his personal pool. Servals look a lot like overlarge house cats; they’re adorable. The macaque was ancient at 29 years old; he looked like a grumpy man and mainly just sat and stared at us fumingly.
The guided tour was nice; our guide walked us around the edge of the refuge telling us the names and stories of the animals we passed. In addition to the breeds of animals we saw earlier we saw a lion, two ligers, a white tiger, and a cute little white-noised coati. We learned from the guide that Wisconsin is one of the five states where you can still legally own an exotic animal as a pet, interestingly.
My grey shirt was noticeably soaking wet with sweat by the time our brief tour ended, so after leaving the refuge we headed back to the motel so I could change. On the way, we stopped at a gas station to quench our thirsts; it was there that we found the jewel of the south, the forbidden 60-ounce soft drink. It was breathtaking.
Our primary goal of the day being to be served by rabbits, we stopped next at Caroline’s Collectibles. The rabbit there wasn’t at the counter and who I presume to be Caroline seemed preoccupied, so we left to visit their downtown and therefore probably better location, East by West. We stopped in more downtown shops along the way—spending more money—and we got directions to the bunny store from the very nice woman working in one of them.
The home of the working bunnies wound up being a relatively standard gift shop, but I bought a shirt and a sticker that featured the rabbits. The fat bun at the counter—Gumbo—threw my credit card and the receipts at me, it was adorable. Before leaving the district we would return again, this time using cash so he could throw dollar bills and a dime at us.
We ate lunch at the Local Flavor Café upon recommendation from the woman working at the scented soap store we’d stopped in. It was a nice little bistro, and at the very least it was open on Wednesdays. I had fish tacos; they were decent but slightly bland. For dessert I got a frapp and an espresso frosted brownie from the coffee shop. They weren’t bad, but probably not worth the 15 minute wait. Oh well.
We were both pretty tired from our series of early mornings and long days, so we took a half-hour pit stop in the room to lay down.
On the drive in yesterday we had passed a sign that pointed in the direction of some nearby springs. I couldn’t remember where the sign was located, so we drove around looking for it. On the way, we stopped to take a look at Quigley’s Castle. We arrived only 15 minutes before its closing so we weren’t able to tour it, but I hope we’ll be able to come back before we leave. We never ended up finding the blue springs sign, but we did come across a sign advertising Beaver Lake and followed its arrow.
We followed the road for a short eternity not knowing whether we were indeed moving toward the lake, but after about 15 minutes we could see the deep blue shining through the trees. We followed the winding road until it turned into a winding gravel path, and then for another ten minutes afterward trying to find a public outlet to the lake.
We passed over ten deer standing in lawns near the road, not running when we drove past, and a squirrel that felt no fear for the racing-striped monster rolling toward it. The houses that deep in the forest were massive and beautiful, retreats for rich families. The area was extremely pretty, a secluded area not touched by the many tourists (like ourselves) flowing in and out of the area. The path took us down and around the hill, closer and closer to the deep blue lake on paths cut out of the hillside. We passed several enamoring limestone formations in the side of the hill feet from the road. Not wanting to intrude any further on the private and undisturbed property around me, and afraid of climbing steep inclines with motor vehicles, we turned around when the path started to ascend and made our way back to town the way we came. We never made it to the lake—or any springs—but the beautiful detour was well worth it anyway.
Tickets for the illusionist we had planned on seeing were sold out, so I bought tickets for the show tomorrow night, and tickets for the ghost tour of the “haunted” Crescent Hotel and decided to get dinner at the pizza place on the fourth floor of the hotel before the tour.
We arrived an hour and half before the tour started and made our order. The pizza took longer than we anticipated, so we were unable to finish it before we had to leave to join the rest of the tour group. Thankfully, they were kind enough to hold our leftover half-pizza for us while we took the tour. Before we left, a police officer came in to ticket our waiter for serving alcohol to two underage girls earlier in the day. Oops.
The tour was overall entertaining. The guide was a good speaker, and while her severity and certainty when talking about ghosts was a little ridiculous, I guess I can’t expect her to do anything less when her job is to give ghost tours. More interesting than the tales of the ghosts that haunt the place was the hotel’s related history. Being in a hotel-turned-quack-doctor’s-hospital-turned-hotel-again is a lot more disturbing than the supposed spirits in the walls, in my opinion. Whether or not the hotel is actually haunted, it’s a really cool place.
That’s all for today. Tomorrow we go hiking in the Ozarks.