Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Historic Washington State Park, Arkansas

On Saturday, October 20, the kids and I enjoyed a LOVELY day in Washington, Arkansas. It is located two hours from us. Because we wanted to get there early for a special walking tour, we drove to Hope, Arkansas (birthplace of Bill Clinton) the night before. Hope is 8 miles from Washington.

There are no hotels or fast food restaurants in Washington. Nothing to take away from the wonderful peacefulness. I'm sure there are more crowds on days with big events (like Civil War Days this weekend, Nov. 3-4), but there were only a few other people milling around here and there. We were the only ones on our tour. It was so nice.

We started out at the Hempstead County Courthouse, which serves as the Visitor's Center. I believe it is open every day 8-5 (other than a few major holidays). You need to come here to purchase tickets if you want to go inside the historic buildings (which act as living history museums) in town.

We bought a family pass for $30, which will allow us to come back for a year PLUS visit many other state parks in Arkansas for a year.

A very sweet lady took us on our walking tour. I believe she said she is the town historian. This was the herb garden used for medicinal purposes, behind the Purdom House. (Dr. Purdom practiced in Washington in the mid 1800's.)

The kids got to practice pumping water, which took a lot of muscles.

They also got to try visit this outhouse. But only for pretend. There were different sized holes for adults and small children. I don't think we'd ever seen a multi-stool outhouse before.

We were watching the chickens that were roaming freely around this house. We enjoyed seeing the heirloom variety that looks like it is wearing fancy pants.

All day I felt like I was in Walnut Grove. Like on the set of the television show. And I wanted to never leave.

They learned about candle making and got to dip their own candles.

There were such amazing trees. I think that might have been the kids' favorite part. The branches fall out and down to create the perfect (huge) hideout. One day I may take them back to Washington and just let them play under the trees all day long.

I think this one is the largest magnolia tree in Arkansas. I'm pretty sure the kids wanted to move in and live under the branches.

I think this was the moon tree. It is one of the two remaining trees in Arkansas (The other one is in Fort Smith.) that were grown from seeds sent to space in 1971.

checking out the pioneer home

We spent a good amount of time with the blacksmith. He was a really nice man. The kids (and baby) were captivated watching the fire and listening to the clink-clink. This shop is a recreation of James Black's shop from the 1800's. Black, Washington's most famous blacksmith/bladesmith, created the original Bowie knife for Jim Bowie.

They got to hold these very serious knives. 

You (who are 16 and older) can actually take classes to learn the art of knife making, which I think sounds cool, in Washington. There are all kinds of classes and educational programs available all year for homeschoolers, school kids, and adults.

The kids will tell you one of their favorite parts of the day was feeding treats to this horse. It wasn't actually part of the tour. It was a rescue horse that belonged to our tour guide. She had thought the kids would enjoy seeing it.

After our walking tour, we ate our picnic lunch at a table under the pecan grove. One noteworthy moment: as the kids and I were eating, they started playing around, using their imaginations, and I heard myself say, "Come on guys - eat! We've got to go." 

As soon as the words were out of my mouth, I thought, "Weird. Why did I say that? Is that what my life has become?" Because generally, we ARE in a hurry, and we do need TO GO. But we weren't in a hurry at all this day. We were enjoying being in the moment. I immediately said, "I'm sorry; I don't know why I said that. We aren't in a hurry. Have fun!"

I told the kids to choose two additional buildings to tour. There are many more homes and buildings we will have to visit on another trip. They picked the printing shop, which was the original post office and bank. 

The man explained a little bit about the original newspapers and how Washington's was the only paper continually published throughout the Civil War. The kids got to take turns rolling ink on the stamper, then cranking it through the printer.

Their next choice was the B.W. Edwards Weapons Museum, which is across the street from the print museum. The man asked the kids to locate the very smallest and very largest guns.

I let the kids use their Car Bucks to buy gifts from the visitor center gift shop. Sissy chose this pioneer bonnet. Dash got a wooden rubber band gun, and Tornado opted for a wooden sling shot with clay marbles.

Here is a brochure of Washington that contains a lot of helpful visitor information.

I mean, seriously, if Ryan could live here for work or if we could profitably open a business here...I would pack my bags in a second. I know this is a paradox to those who know I would also pack up and move to NYC in a second. It's just pretty and clean and idyllic in the way small towns just aren't these days. (And there are picket fences and wood-plank sidewalks here!) And maybe it just gave me a feeling about life that I know Ryan and I have been missing lately. We were able to just walk around, and I felt like I could breathe and relax. We want to figure out how to achieve this feeling in our real lives.

Chestnut Grove Academy Field Trip Friday Blog Hop


Homegrown Learners said...

What a great field trip! I love days like that :-)

Thank you for linking with Collage Friday!

Mary said...

What an awesome field trip!!

We drove through Hope on our way to Little Rock, AR this past summer.

Jen Altman said...

Sorry I didn't make my way over sooner, I just realized I never commented on my link up from LAST week. Oops! Time gets away sometimes. Looks like a great field trip!! Thanks for sharing it with us at FTF!!

Lynnet Hardwick said...

Just loving all the hands on activities you were able to do! We've lived here for 23 years and not once ventured to Hope. Usually our trips to Little Rock are to AR Children's Hospital and we usually don't have find for a lot of fun. This really looks like it was an awesome field trip! What fun "learning" as they explored.