Mountain Biking-and Maybe Hiking at Fellows Lake

This connector trail led to the Little Bit trail.

So I learned a valuable lesson today, maybe a few of them.  I have been wanting to bike more and several weeks ago happened upon a bike rack on clearance that would fit the Kia and aide me in my goal.  So today, I decided to try my hand, for the first time, mountain biking some of the trails at Fellows Lake which is only a short drive away from my home.

After the nail biting drive down Hwy 65, watching my bike on the rack more than I watched the road in front of me (luckily it was a low traffic period) I unloaded my Schwinn mountain bike from the rack, slung my string bag loaded with water and Clif Bars over my back and proceeded to bike my way down the Little Bit trail located just off N. FR 197, close to where the access for the handicap fishing dock is located.

Lesson One:  I should probably buy a helmet.  For some reason, I was not expecting the level of difficulty that came with this adventure or misadventure.  I expected to ride over some hills, stay on a dirt track, and pedal through some water-maybe.  It is next to a lake.  What I discovered was the trails are very narrow, I don’t know my bike as well as I thought I did, and there were obstacles someone had placed in the way, like logs that were lined up, high banked curves and rocks placed over streams.  I brake-checked myself numerous times and thanked god I had not invited anyone to ride with me and witness my ineptitude.

One of the obstacles on the Little Bit Trail

Lesson Two:  Beginner trails are in the eye of the beginner.  I had no business being on these “beginner” trails today.  My awesome goal of biking casually through the woods of Fellows Lake quickly turned into a hike as I abandoned my 2 wheeled transport next to a tree near a particularly startling obstacle and had a good hike for about 20 minutes before turning around and heading back. 

Pretty much chickened out of this biking adventure today.

Hiking felt pretty good until I ran into two full blown spider webs with my face.  I quickly realized I was the first one through the trails this morning and no one else had cleared out the creepy crawlers before me.  I grabbed a long stick, walked directly into another web, breaking said stick while thrashing about trying to get the sticky webbing off my face and shoulders.  Grabbed a stouter stick and proceeded to sweep it ahead of me to remove any more dangerous spider predators before resuming my hike.

Fellows was quiet and beautiful, regardless of the spiders that tried to catch me for breakfast.  The new Ozark Greenways Trail system meanders around the entire lake, giving miles of peaceful though sometimes challenging hiking and biking opportunities.  I think I will check out some of the smaller bike routes for this fall when the changes will make for an excellent and somewhat cooler experience.  You are allowed to bike and hike these trails, but be vigilant.  It can be somewhat hard to see the trail ahead of you due to the foliage.  Be ready to call out if you are mountain biking these trails so that hikers can move aside allowing you to pass.

The marina has maps of all the trails available around the lake, some as short as .14 miles and as long as 4.5 miles.  Most of the trails are in and back as they are not looped so remember you must save enough energy to get your bike back to the car.   I have been guilty of this before-having so much fun getting there that I forget I have to go back!

Lesson Three:  Check your equipment before loading your bike back onto your vehicle, especially if you have a strap-on model bike rack.  I got home and discovered the bottom strap was nowhere near my trunk where it should have been.  Luckily enough, the other straps held the bike in place and it didn’t fly off and hit any other motorists while I was cruising down Hwy 65!

Lesson Four:  Go have fun!  This was a rather nerve racking thing for me to do alone.  I know how to ride a bike, of course, but to do something like this took some courage even for someone who loves to do new things.  I was so happy I did it and I got in a good workout.  PS:  I did tell my daughter where I was just in case I landed in a ditch somewhere ;-).

Check out the YouTube channel for a video of part of the trail and Instagram at htdto2020 for more pics.

Floating the Black River

Many of you have read my post about my First Scary Float Trip https://howtodotheozarks.com/2018/03/03/first-scary-float-trip/. Over the past weekend, I went floating with my two youngest children, Cole (25) and Darby (21), in a 4-man raft on the Black River. Had I floated this way on that first float trip, I would have fallen even more deeply in love with floating than I already am.

Floating, especially on the weekend, is not for everyone. There are a lot of people partying on the river on the weekends, celebrating time off from work, turning up the radio and generally having a good time. Depending on your WHY for floating, you may want to choose a weekday for your next float or maybe even your very first river adventure. I try to cover all genres of people in this blog, but I’m mainly targeting the intrepid woman looking for new adventures to have with the family. Depending on your tolerance for revelry and colorful language, floating on the weekend on ANY Ozarks river may not be for you.

Parks Bluff Campground had many choices for floating the Black River

Shenanigans aside, it was a great float and just under 5 hours from Parks Bluff Campground, https://www.parksbluff.com/ to their takeout spot. Parks Bluff is located just inside the Lesterville city limits in Reynolds county. The staff at Parks Bluff made the rental super easy as we were also camping there (more on that in a later post or possibly a podcast!!!), were super friendly and helpful when down at the river getting everyone loaded onto their craft. When thinking about floating, especially your first time, plan to be there early. Most outfits have a time that they do NOT rent past due to the time the float takes. I know of one friend who was stranded on the river at night due to the fact that the outfit transported them to the long float when they should have stopped at the short float. Being stranded on a river at night with no supplies is NOT fun so plan carefully and plan to get out on the Black River before 11 a.m.

Kayaks are maneuverable and easy to handle on most Ozark rivers

Clear water, ample fishing opportunities (you cannot fish from most rafts), reasonable fees for the raft rental, all made for a very pleasurable trip. Once we had paddled past the partiers, the river became quiet and filled with moments of deep reflection and camaraderie between the three of us. Two-foot fish swam lazily beneath us, just begging for a jig to lure them in. The banks were crowded with trees all the way up to the river but there were only a few snags actually in the water to impede our progress. Shallow water was our biggest hold up as we are currently experiencing a drought in SW Missouri and other parts of the Ozarks. We did have to jump out and slide the raft over a few spots.

My children did most of the work this trip, and I was able to sit in the middle of the raft and enjoy the sun and just relax. I do not drink alcohol on the river as when out on the water you never know what will happen around the next bend, so my adrenaline generally burns through anything I drink and want my wits about me. This is a personal preference, my children can and did drink margaritas and beer while floating. You can rent cooler tubes to pull behind your craft to keep your beverages ice cold.

This float was just what I needed and I am looking forward to bringing you the next float adventure with JRO in September. I’m even contemplating a winter float with Cole, just to say I did it! Get out and do something you’ve never done before, you won’t regret it!

Top Ten Places to Eat in the Ozarks Part 3

Disclosure:  Some of these restaurants are chain establishments, but were so good I had to add them to this list.  I’m always looking for great places to eat with my husband and grown children, as well as good places to hang out with coworkers and friends.  Check out my Instagram page at htdto2020 for other restaurants I’ve visited recently.

  •  Bellacino’s-a chain restaurant that serves pizzas, grinders and other Italian fare.  Two locations in Springfield Mo-one at 2856 S. Glenstone and 4560 S. Campbell.  They have lots of different options but I really liked the blackened chicken grinder.  The portions were big and that matters to me when I’m spending $14 average for a 9” sandwich.  I was able to take half home for lunch the next day.   Most of the time during my visit, the servers were attentive and quick, though I did notice that there was some confusion about who was supposed to be covering one of the tables. 
  • Bambino’s Café is another Italian favorite of mine and has been a Springfield institution for many years.  They also have two locations, one at 1141 E. Delmar in the heart of MSU territory and one at 2810 E. Battlefield at Lone Pine.  Wine, bread with oil and garlic, pasta, salads and pizza make this a first choice Italian restaurant for me.  They are always willing to support local schools with fundraisers and I love going for that reason as well.
Bambino’s at Delmar in the heart of MSU country Springfield Mo
  • Pampas Empanadas is a newcomer to Springfield at 3302 S. National Ste. F, tucked back on the northeast corner of the strip mall.  I have never had an empanada before, but one of my coworkers recommended them especially the Nutella® empanada.  Reminiscent of a pasty, empanadas are smaller and generally filled with meat but can be sweet as well.  I had the chorizo, carnitas and Cuban and they were all phenomenal-again with leftovers for lunch the next day.
  • First Watch-again a chain restaurant with excellent food and service.  I have eaten at both locations-2946 S. National and 3103 E. Sunshine in Springfield.  This is a breakfast, brunch, lunch restaurant which opens at 7:00 a.m. and closes at 2:30 p.m. each day so make sure you get there early in the day.  I had the multigrain pancakes and Morning Meditation from the juice bar.  It was heavenly.  The last time I was there I sat at the bar as I was alone and the service was very quick and attentive.
Morning Meditation at First Watch on E. Sunshine Springfield MO
  • Daisy Queen outside Jasper Arkansas on Hwy 7 located at 8999 AR-7 Harrison Arkansas.  For an old time burger joint feel, delicious burgers and fries this is the place to check out when you are down in Arkansas riding the Pig Trail, which is a scenic drive in the Natural State worth checking out.   The kids and I ordered the strawberry sundae with 3 spoons and after eating our burgers still couldn’t finish the ice cream.
Daisy Queen outside Jasper Arkansas on Hwy 7
  • Hot Cluckers is located at 4406 S. Campbell in Springfield Mo.  This Nashville Hot Chicken restaurant in South Springfield also serves catfish and is worth the trip.  Make sure you check the heat list which features Nancy, 1 Cluck, 2 Cluck, Hot Mother Clucker and Shut the Cluck Up!  I have been able to handle the 1 cluck, but can go no higher! 2 Clucks is too hot for this girl.  Their chicken strips are big and meaty and their smoked Gouda mac and cheese is so yummy!
  • W.F. Cody’s at 3138 E. Sunshine in Springfield has some of the best bar food in town.  Excellent burgers, piles of fried mushrooms with ranch, and beer!  Whether for lunch or dinner, this joint wins my vote every time for best burger.
Bar food and the best burger in town at W.F. Cody’s on East Sunshine
  • Mr. Ed’s Drive In-at 3192 US-65 Urbana Mo is a lake or race day staple.  Located east of Pomme de Terre Lake at NN and Hwy 65, this is the place for ice cream, curly Q fries and a fresh made to order burger.  Order at the walk up window or have a seat in the small dining room.  You won’t regret it.
You can’t beat Mr. Ed’s after a long day at the lake!
  • Early Bird Breakfast Pub located at 1717 E. Cherokee off Glenstone in Springfield Mo opens at 7 a.m. and closes at 2 p.m. Monday through Saturday.  Sunday they open at 9 a.m. and close at 3 p.m. so make sure you time your visit wisely.  Home of the best sweet potato tater tots I’ve ever had, a full bar for breakfast and lunch with a stout coffee my son loves and a great breakfast/lunch menu this is a must try next time you’re in the mood for breakfast and an adult beverage.
Early Bird offers great food with a full bar for breakfast, lunch and brunch
  • Longhorn Steakhouse-at 3121 S. Glenstone Ave in Springfield Mo is another chain restaurant I am recommending due to the fact that the staff was phenomenal, the food was great and reasonably priced.  I had a $50 gift card which made it even better and was able to eat dinner there twice in one week and still tip the wait staff.  The Grilled Chicken and Strawberry Salad was absolutely one of the best salad’s I’ve ever had in a restaurant and this was without dressing.

Eating out right now can be an expensive proposition.  I agonized over this list because I wanted to give you the best I’ve had over the last 8 months or so, but still protect your wallet.  The places I’m recommending this time around generally serve enough food to make 2 meals and right now that matters.  With most restaurant tabs costing between $17 and $28 for one person including tip, value and quality are high on my list as far as the food served goes.  So get out there my friends, the world has opened back up.

Boating at Stockton Lake Missouri

Stockton Lake Marina-Stockton State Park Missouri

For Father’s Day this year I really wanted to take my husband, Tim, out onto the lake and have him teach our son Cole and I how to handle a boat, especially by the dock.  He emphatically said “Not on a holiday weekend”, which was probably smart though disappointing.  So, on a random weekday, we set out to Stockton Lake Marina at the state park and rented a pontoon boat with a 90 horsepower engine.

Joey, one of the marina workers, handled all my manic questions beautifully and professionally.  He assured me that there was a bimini on the boat (it’s been 98-102 in Missouri lately) and the rental would cost $X amount and no more.  Previously, boat rentals on most lakes in SW Missouri may have had a hefty deposit against your debit/credit card until their boat was returned in good condition.  This was not the case for this rental, but I’m sure that could change at any time.  This extra deposit makes the idea of a 4 hour rental a little daunting.

We took some of the family on this trip including Cole, Darby and her boyfriend Tristan.  The 3 kids were born after 1984, which is important as anyone born before that date is grandfathered in to escape the need for a boating “license”.  I suppose the need for a boating license came about with the increased sales of boats to people who had no idea what “right of way” means out on the water where there are no marked lanes and your boat has no brakes (though my foot always looks for it).  The Missouri State Highway Patrol takes care of issuing this license and you can find more information here: https://www.mshp.dps.missouri.gov/MSHPWeb/WaterPatrol/BoatingLaws_Education/boaterEduLawFAQ.html

20′ 90 Horsepower Pontoon Boat

First off, I will tell you that I didn’t hit anything too hard with the bow or stern of the boat!  Second, I will tell you that Tim is a terrible boating instructor. We love watching the Broncos Guru YouTube channel every Sunday for Boneheaded Boaters of the Week!  It is a great way to vicariously live the boating life and learn what not to do when you are out on the water or trying to dock your boat.  One of his consistent pieces of advice when near the ramp or the dock is never go faster than you’re willing to hit something!  This is great advice for newbie boaters.  Check him out if you are thinking about boating as a new hobby or just want a laugh.  Broncos Guru is a much better boating instructor than my husband!

 I managed to back the boat out of the marina slip and make it through the breakwater, (which is larger than it looks from a distance) without any mishaps and with Tim constantly telling me not to over steer.  Boats have delayed reaction, it’s not a car with 4 tires AND the currents/wind are pushing you as well-steering is definitely a skill.

Stockton is famous for sailing in this area and is certainly a windy lake.  You have to find out of the way, calm inlets to anchor your vessel and jump into the water because even with an anchor, the wind will just push your boat away and you will have to swim to chase it down.  We tooled around the lake looking for spots to swim, enjoying the wind and the company for about 3 hours, eating the picnic lunch I had packed and taking turns driving the boat.  As it was the middle of the week, Tim was correct and there were very few boaters out on the water, which made learning how to come up to plane, how to find inlets and anchor much easier than on a weekend.  Joey had given us a map of the entire lake which helped in finding out of the way, deep areas to cool off and keep the pontoon boat safe from harm.  The ability to trim (lift and lower) the outboard engine is disabled on the rental boats from the marina as the propellers were being damaged by new boaters who didn’t understand how or when to trim the engine for safe anchoring.

Of course, bringing the boat back into the marina did not happen without bumping the dock once or maybe twice-who’s counting?  Joey was on the dock, ready to grab the lines, pull us in and tie us off.   He filled the tank while telling us about the otters that play under the dock interfering with the electronic connection between the pump and the register inside the marina store.  Of course, the fuel is in addition to the rental fee.

View from the dock of the marina.

 My advice for this type of adventure is to do some research first, watch a few videos and just take the boating class online.  If you know a boat person, entice them to come along on your first trip out to give advice and instruction.  I would have never attempted this alone.  Water of any type deserves respect and should be treated carefully.  Storms can blow up unexpectedly, engines can fail, the current can move your boat quicker than you believed possible.

In the end, learning to handle a boat is a lot like learning to drive a car.  You just have to dive in, after learning the rules, and do it.  The currents change, sandbars pop up, limited rain or flooding changes the water scape and you need to pay attention.   Now that I have a better understanding of boating, I would be comfortable going with Cole or Darby, though I would still rather entice the family boating expert out with me-terrible instructor or not.

Hiking Hemmed In Hollow Part II

Float traffic on the Upper Buffalo River on Mother’s Day weekend was high even with the river running fast. Cole and I were in agreement that the river was much too high to float at our current experience level. The hike was enough for this girl. Still there were plenty of people with children and dogs floating on Saturday and I wished them well. There is a point during the float where you are able to beach your craft and hike from the river to the falls. This video shows that access point and it is certainly less physically taxing and only 1.5 miles or so. Folks walking in from the river to the falls were wearing bathing suits, Chakos, and carrying their beer-hikers didn’t fall into that category for the most part. Personally, I was wishing I had brought some sturdy hiking boots with better ankle support and less slippery soles than my Brooks tennis shoes!

Traffic and water were high on the Upper Buffalo River Mother’s Day weekend

A few things about the ascent that saved our bacon. Liquid IV that Darby had the foresight to buy before joining us on Friday night and my Ascent trekking poles which were a Mother’s Day present. Liquid IV is a powder that you mix with water or Powerade/Gatorade to increase your electrolyte balance and give you a shot of energy. Look for it in the drink mix aisle at your local grocery store. We also brought plenty of snacks including crunchy peanut butter, pretzel sticks, trail mix, and Clif bars. Again, we still fell short on water/Powerade which was important for the ascent as we took more breaks and used more water. Cole did have his Sawyer Squeeze (https://www.sawyer.com/products/squeeze-water-filtration-system) available at Bass Pro and Academy, but it needed to be cleaned and output was torturously slow.

Ascend trekking poles available at Bass Pro for approximately $50

As we climbed up the equivalent of The Empire State Building that Saturday afternoon, I kept reminding myself that if the worst should happen and we needed to spend the night in the woods, we were prepared for it. We still had plenty of food to get through a single night, Cole had fire starting equipment, I had toilet paper and we knew there was a cabin down a different trail as well as how to build a squirrel’s nest for shelter if needed. Luckily, by placing one foot in front of the other and resting when needed, we did not have to rely on our backcountry skills to survive the night. Expect the best, prepare for the worst.

Typical squirrels nest shelter

Over that Mother’s Day weekend, a hiker from Springfield fell to his death near the Indian Creek drainage area. Read the article here: https://www.ky3.com/2022/05/09/hike-springfield-mo-dies-after-fall-along-buffalo-national-river/. A lot of this area is backcountry, rated difficult on Alltrails, steep and was very slippery with all the rain that had fallen the previous week. No matter what your skill level, accidents can happen; hikers and floaters should take stock of their experience level and if necessary, hike and/or float with a licensed and insured guide that is familiar with the area in all conditions. If it had rained any more on Friday before leaving for Arkansas, I doubt I would have hiked this particular trail. Cole and I are well versed in first aide, CPR, and carry enough emergency supplies to get by in a pinch. Except, apparently, for water which we really need to get better at.

All in all, this was an excellent gift to myself. Time with the kids, out in nature, doing something challenging and a bit dangerous. I’d do it again in a heartbeat!

The end of a long haul!

Hiking Hemmed In Hollow, Arkansas

The warning sign that we did not read before beginning our descent!

This hiking trip took a year to accomplish due to my transportation issues last year with my Kia. I love planning Mother’s Day outings like https://howtodotheozarks.com/2020/05/14/roaring-river-state-park/ to celebrate with my kids, husband and my own mom when possible. I have been wanting to hike Hemmed In Hollow for years. It is a beautiful spot outside Compton Arkansas, but a tough hike for anyone who is not in fairly decent shape. I wanted to do this in the spring before it was too hot so Mother’s Day seemed like the perfect weekend. On Friday night, Cole, Darby and I headed down to Arkansas to celebrate Mother’s Day together.

On this trip, I reserved my very first Airbnb rental right outside Jasper, Arkansas, a 40-minute drive from Compton. The Buffalo River Bunkhouse was everything we were expecting and more, you can check it out here https://www.airbnb.com/rooms/26860505?guests=1&adults=1&s=67&unique_share_id=28927e30-8942-44dc-8cbc-8bc6e23aedbf. Thelma, the owner, lives on site and has another Airbnb on the premises called The Bungalow which is perfect for 1-2 people. Thelma had stocked everything we could want including shampoo, soap, toothpaste and extra blankets. She even had little cans of Starbucks Breakfast Blend which we had for breakfast on our second morning. Of course, we brought our own food, but the grill, fridge, stove, and microwave all came in handy and what luxury over tent camping! The only thing that would have made this spot more perfect was a hot tub. The property is located on the Little Buffalo River and has access from the backyard. Cole and I paid for 3 day non resident Arkansas fishing permits ($16 at Walmart in Harrison) just in case we had a chance to get some fishing in.

The Buffalo River Bunkhouse outside Jasper Arkansas

Here in the Ozarks, we can get a lot of rain in April and May, making hiking and kayaking more challenging. The week before this hike, Springfield Mo had received a lot of rainfall, meaning that Northern Arkansas most likely had close to the same amount right before this trip. What this translates to is a definite no from me and the kids on the idea of kayaking the Upper Buffalo River when it was running very high and then walking about 1.5 miles to the falls. No thank you.

To prepare for this particular hike I had been working on strength training, stair climbing, swimming and cardio so that I could enjoy it more and hurt less. Even with all the preparation, my legs were still not ready for this degree of hiking and downright scampering around the rocks. Alltrails https://www.alltrails.com/trail/us/arkansas/hemmed-in-hollow-trail rated this hike difficult and they were not kidding. Two days later, my quads and hamstrings were still locked up at times and it took a few precious minutes to ease into a walk that didn’t look more like a limp. Picture 7-8 sets of stairs like the ones below, with scenery and clear spots in between and you will have a good idea of what this hike entailed. We measured it at about 6.5-7 miles total as we also hiked the 1.5 miles to the Buffalo River to hang hammocks and rest before the ascent out.

A series of stone steps like these are a big part of the trail at Hemmed In Hollow

On the trailhead outside Compton stands a photo with measurements of the Empire State Building in NYC and a statement letting folks know that the climb out from the hollow (or holler if you’re from the South), is equivalent to climbing that famous building. We did not see this notice! It’s probably a good thing because I might have talked myself out of the hike before I even started, and Darby definitely would have. By the end of it all, the general consensus was the trail was brutal, but worth it.

After raining for multiple days, the area was waterlogged and beautiful.

What we sometimes forget when hiking because we are so excited to get where we are going, is that the way down is also difficult. When stepping down uneven terrain, you are constantly controlling your weight to not pitch forward, using your leg muscles to control every step. By the time I was 3/4 of the way down to the falls, my legs were already trembling with the effort. Not a fun thing to contemplate when looking back up and realizing you have to do the entire thing in reverse before the sun goes down. We initially started out hike at about 10:30 a.m. and we were back on top at 6:30 p.m. We did take a few short breaks coming down, one longer one at the falls and then a 35-minute break at the river swinging in the hammocks and eating a late lunch. The ascent was MANY breaks broken into consistent climbing or scrambling back up rocks, some of which we had slid down on our butts during the descent. The trip back up took 3 hours, and I would do it again in a heartbeat!

The hike was brutal but worth this experience!

Watch for the next installment of this hike next week. I’ll fill you in on what happened next and let you know what items we had the foresight to pack that really saved the day. Don’t forget to check out the Facebook page at How to do the Ozarks and Instagram at htdto2020.

Pomme de Terre State Park-Hiking Indian Point Trail

What to do on a beautiful April day???!!! Take a hike!!! So cliché, I know. After trying to coax my son Cole and my coworker Laura out for the morning, I gave up and shoved my German Shephard, Sammy into the car and took off for the 50-minute drive to Pomme de Terre State Park. Why 50 minutes for a 28 mile trip you may ask? Well I headed out in the wrong direction!!! I don’t know what I was thinking but I headed West instead of North. Just goes to show you that you can live somewhere for years and still get turned around especially when distracted by loading an excited animal into your vehicle and forgetting to check Maps.

One of the Indian Point Trailheads at Pomme de Terre

Much to my dismay, Sammy gets carsick. She’s about 10 years old and hasn’t done much traveling, only short trips to the vet. So, I’m driving along, and she is puking in the backseat. Now normally I would have not been pleased, and may have had a few choice words for her, but this was my bright idea to take her for company so it’s on me.

Pomme de Terre is located in Hickory County north and slightly west of Buffalo, Mo. It’s a two-finger lake, beautiful any time of year and generally crowded in the summer with campers, boaters, and lake people in general. The Indian Point Trail has several trailheads, a map may be accessed here: https://mostateparks.com/page/89776/pomme-de-terre-state-park-trails and is a 3 mile moderately rated hike. The trail was generally well blazed with blue markers except for the jaunt out to Indian Point. Blue blazes were nowhere to be found, but the trail is well used and being on a point, well we just went with it.

Sammy attempting to chase that mysterious noise while at Indian Point.

One of the best things about hiking in the middle of the week in the spring is the absolute absence of any other person on the trail. We encountered no one, not one single soul. It was glorious, quiet except for birds and the occasional boat motor of enthusiastic fishermen and women. I found the trail easy to navigate and not difficult at all with a few damp spots from recent rains. Generally, I wear tennis shoes when hiking and a good pair of boots would have been welcome with this terrain which was also rocky in areas. I did remember to take my snacks this time and plenty of water for me and the dog. She does not like to drink out of the bottle, but I managed to get some fluid into her mouth during our rest breaks. 3 miles was a good prep for the Mother’s Day hike I’m taking in Arkansas this year to Hemmed In Hollow. I was hoping to get there last year, but circumstances with my car prevented that trip.

Not a lot of cover this time of year, but beautiful regardless

One thing I love about the Missouri State Parks website is that you can click on an icon for whatever you’re interested in doing at a particular park like hiking, fishing, or boating and it will immediately take you to that particular page on the website. Pomme de Terre has two hiking trails listed for their park, but Indian Point was the longest. Stockton Lake is my favorite along with Bull Shoals in Arkansas, but Pomme de Terre in the spring is quiet, waiting to come to life and ready to welcome us all.

Don’t forget to check out the Facebook page at How to do the Ozarks and Instagram at htdto2020.

Kayaking Springfield Lake

Springfield Lake Boathouse

Kayaking has become one of my favorite outdoor activities over the years and I always make plans to do more of it whenever possible.  Last summer I was able to get in a session of stand-up paddle boarding with ShowMe SUP (https://howtodotheozarks.com/2021/09/12/paddle-boarding-the-finley-river-ozark-mo/) and I was also able to kayak Springfield Lake with my youngest son, Cole.  Unfortunately, that was all I was able to get in last season, due to working full time and other obstacles like not having my own vehicle for 5 months or so.

So, this year I am making plans to get out in a kayak more often!!!  I am making a promise to myself to use my days off in the middle of the week to do some serious searching of awesome kayaking experiences and letting you know how they went!  For now I will share my last kayaking trip on Springfield Lake.

Small waterfall from runoff

The thing I love about kayaking on a lake is that you are bound in and the currents running under most lakes are less dangerous than on rivers.  I have been on some hairy, scary float trips (https://howtodotheozarks.com/2018/03/03/first-scary-float-trip/) that had my adrenaline burning through any alcohol I may have consumed, so now I don’t even bother having a drink while floating on the rivers anymore.  It’s just not worth it.  In my opinion lakes are also great learning experiences for new small craft boaters to learn how to maneuver their craft whether it’s a canoe, kayak or paddleboard.  Lakes are also a great opportunity to work on boating skills with a partner if you have a dual seat craft before having to rely on each other in a crisis elsewhere.

Cole and I met up at Lake Springfield Boat House located at 5324 S. Kissick Ave Springfield MO on a warm September day 2021.  https://parkboard.org/255/Lake-Springfield-Park-and-Boathouse?loxi_pathname=%2Flist%2Ffuture%2F1)   I made sure to bring plenty of water for this trip as well as snacks and sunscreen.  When you’re paddling and getting wet from splashing, deliberately or accidentally, you can easily forget the sun beating down on your exposed legs and feet.  Lake Springfield Boat House has reasonable prices for single and dual craft and provides everything you need to get out on the water safely including help shoving off.

Leaving the boathouse and heading north then east toward the Missouri Veterans Cemetery we passed bluffs, herons, and picturesque homes perched over the lake, some with their own dock access.  We squeezed into some inlets that were muddy and shallow to get a closer look at some flower or fauna that attracted our interest, both of us in single kayaks.  We passed fishermen angling from the banks and from their own kayaks along the way.  I think what I love most about kayaking is the quiet at certain points of traveling on the water and being able to stop along the way without worrying about a propeller or the depth of the water.

Heron are plentiful on Lake Springfield

Lake Springfield Boathouse opens April 15 and operates through October 15, weather permitting.  For about 2 hours for $25, kayaking is a great shoulder workout and an opportunity to spend time with people you love doing something different and sometimes challenging.  I will always jump at the chance to get out into nature with family or alone whenever possible (unless it’s really awful weather-wise).  Cole and I visited Galloway Grill after our lake trip, which gave us even more time to talk and support a local eatery.  I highly recommend them, especially for lunch.  So get down to Springfield Lake Boat House when the weather warms up and have some fun on Springfield Lake.

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Dinosaurs, Minecraft® and Giant Legos® at Discovery Center

Discovery Center 438 E. St. Louis Springfield MO

Looking for a fun and educational weekend hangout?  Look no further than Discovery Center in downtown Springfield MO (   https://www.discoverycenter.org/  ).  Open Friday, Saturday, and Sunday from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. and for a reasonable fee, your kiddos can enjoy hours of hands on electrical, engineering, natural science stations and that’s just the beginning.

Minecraft play area

In February, I spent two hours with both grandkids building bridges, hanging out with dinosaurs, and exploring 3 floors of activities.  It wasn’t enough time.  I had to pull them away from the Minecraft® room to meet my granddaughter’s other grandparents to ensure she got home on time.  Minecraft® is an exhibit that has taken over the 5 year old and under room and involves building structures with sturdy blocks and other activities in an enclosed space.   This is a great place to take a break from the more open areas, especially with younger children who keep their parents hopping.

This new to me Dinosaur exhibit was pretty cool.

Discovery Center is relatively small for a children’s science museum in comparison to Chicago’s Museum of Science and Industry or other large city museums.  But for the price:  adults $12 and children $8 with discounts for seniors and veterans, I believe it’s worth it.  The staff is friendly, helpful and takes an active role in showing off the various experiments, helping children’s excitement about science grow.  Some exhibits require staff to be present, like the giant hamster wheel that generates electricity to power a Jacob ’s ladder electrical arc, and the Tesla experiment. 

One of their favorite areas!

My grandkids are hands on building types, so the water table, giant Legos®, and bridge building area were their favorites.  They were less interested in the space and chromosome exhibits, though we learned fun facts about planets and the Star Chamber was a hit as well.  Sage always has fun with the magnetic car racing and Olivia did not want to leave the water table. 

Older children may be more interested in the high wire bicycle, weather, mechanical and engineering stations throughout the building.  The high wire bicycle costs a little extra, takes some bravery and will be saved for another day for my grandkids.  There is also a mini golf course that was not open on the day I visited in February, but would definitely be worth a look in the future when the 2 kids have a little more patience.

Sage obviously has an electric personality!

I do recommend that you bring a snack or two as this place burns some energy.  Everyone should wear clothes that can get dirty as some experiments and exhibits required being on the floor to build, dig and get a little wet.  Parents, be prepared to get involved and have fun!

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Follow Me to The Dickerson Park Zoo

Peacocks strut all around the zoo

I love zoos!  I have always been an animal lover and from Racine Wisconsin to Chicago Illinois to Springfield Missouri I try hard to visit zoos wherever I vacation or live. Though fairly small and requiring some serious upgrades to their older bathrooms, Dickerson Park Zoo https://dickersonparkzoo.org/ is a top Springfield destination.  I’ve been taking my kids and grandkids to this entrenched Springfield attraction for 30 years.  DPZ falls under the jurisdiction of the Springfield-Greene County Park Board of Springfield MO.  Quite a few years back the citizens voted for a small tax to help the park system with various projects and expanding and upgrading parts of the zoo were on the agenda.  They did a wonderful job with an elephant enclosure and play area, wolf den, expanded the Animals of Missouri exhibit and other fun projects.  The playground near The Bush Country Café is lots of fun and a great respite area for tired parents and grandparents to relax in the shade while watching their offspring play.

Mountain Lions are scarce in the Ozark region, but lots of people have claimed to have spotted them.

When I was a child growing up in San Francisco, visiting the zoo, especially the seal enclosure where we were able to feed the seals, was one of the highlights of every year.  Dickerson Park Zoo has something similar from March through October with their giraffe exhibit, making getting close to such large animals a fun experience. The newer giraffe deck where giraffe crackers are available from an attendant is so much fun and worth the extra cash for the photos you can get with your kids.  The petting zoo is also a fun area especially for young children.  Having a donkey or goat lip food from your outstretched hand tickles and gives parents an opportunity to teach good animal manners like holding your hand flat, petting nicely, and conquering fear.  Giraffe crackers are $4 and the petting zoo food is $1, so remember to bring cash.  Tokens are available at the gift shop as well as zoo food if you need to use your debit card.  The Dickerson Park Zoo is hilly so get your critter snacks before you head into the park.

Hungry??
Baby giraffe, circa 2018

Zoos bring us close to animals in a way we can’t experience in everyday life and can help establish a lifelong love for animals of all shapes and sizes. DPZ is an accredited zoo which means it meets certain standards set by The Association of Zoos and Aquariums.  Bottom line-they do the best they can with the space and funds they have available.  I believe they’ve done a great job improving over the last 30 years. Personally I love the snake house and the otter enclosure.  I recommend getting online and checking out their website, letting the kids navigate around to the animals and areas they are most interested in.  Though I loved the snake house, one of my daughters did not and refused to EVER step foot in it.  I had to make sure another adult or older sibling went along with me to sit outside with her while the others checked out the boas, rattlesnakes and hissing cockroaches!

Anyone ready for a dip in the pool? The river otters are usually ready to put on a show.

One last idea!  If your kids love the zoo, ask family for a Friend of the Zoo membership as a gift.  My sister-in-law did this one year and my children were over the moon over the opportunity to go check out their adopted animal, visit whenever they wanted (when I had time), and in general wear themselves out walking around the zoo using their zoo key.  We will never forget that special gift and I pass that tip along whenever possible.  Giving experiences trumps giving stuff any day!  Now get out there!

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