Our national park quest began December 13, 2013. We hit the open road at 8:30 p.m. and drove straight to Jackson, Tennessee, the first stop on our 12-day road trip. We discovered Nicholas has the amazing capability to drive long distances without the aid of coffee and TN has elaborate rest stops, decked out with life-sized cutouts of Dolly Parton. We left Jackson after enjoying a southern BBQ dinner and getting some sleep (thanks to the hospitality of my college friend Rachel).
We were en route to Hot Springs National Park, Arkansas, our first national park. (Cue excited squeal!) When we finally pulled into a sleepy downtown, we were confused where the "park" was. Our GPS announced our arrival, so we parked and optimistically believed the national park must be near the visible forest on the town's edge. To our disappointment, we discovered we were in fact in the park, except the park was NOT a park, but a town. Yes, our first "national park" experience was entirely lame. The highlights of our Hot Springs National Park visit are as follows: having an excessive amount of pictures taken in front of the sign by a random lady; touring the hot spring spas, honestly, they were a tad creepy; walking the park's Grand Promenade, a one-mile, brick path; and visiting a steamy waterfall. It was a royal disappointment. Nicholas believes the park's inclusion is a conspiracy. The only reason it is still a national park is that Bill Clinton grew up in Hot Springs.