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.

Check out the Facebook page How to do the Ozarks and Instagram htdto2020 for more pictures and places to visit!

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!

Check out the Facebook page How to do the Ozarks and Instagram htdto2020 for more pictures and places to visit!

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.

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!

Check out the Facebook page How to do the Ozarks and Instagram htdto2020 for more pictures and places to visit!

Andy B’s

Andy B’s Entertainment Center

Looking for some indoor fun this winter??!!  Look no further than the corner of National and Battlefield in Springfield MO.  Andy B’s https://www.bowlandybs.com/springfield offers bowling, laser tag, a virtual reality experience and more.  Their website is excellent and full of great information, prices, and menu options and also allows you to book a lane or plan an event online.

For my 51st birthday in 2021, I decided to go bowling…because I can still bowl!! LOL.  My husband was not amused.  I think he’d rather hit is fingers with a sledge hammer than sit in a bowling alley with dozens of loud people including children having their own bowling birthday party.  But he was my designated driver for the event and it’s not every day you turn 51.  He gave in fairly gracefully.

Andy B’s on the corner of National and Battlefield, Springfield MO

I invited the usual suspects-the kids and my mom-to come along and join in the fun.  On weekends it’s a good idea to reserve a lane for at least 2 hours.  I had reserved a lane in the general bowling area for one and a half hours and it wasn’t long enough to bowl 2 games like I’d hoped.  We had 5 people on the roster.  Andy B’s also has a semi private 10 lane area with an attached private bar for a slightly higher price.  They can also set you up with bumpers, lightweight bowling balls and bowling ramps if you have children or physical limitations.

Andy B’s offers lane side service and has a full restaurant and bar.  I was impressed with the menu choices, though the service could have been quicker and more attentive.  Again, it was a very busy Saturday afternoon and I was not unhappy with the service or the food. 

Fun with family!!

I do want to share the best part of the experience though, and that was taking my 70 year old mom and getting her into the VR experience.  Neither of us had any previous experience with virtual reality and this was very cool.  We hopped onto a game with 2 young boys who picked the Zombie Attack (eye roll here, I hate Zombies) which turned out to be awesome because at some point the employees figured out one of the boys VR equipment was not working so we went through the scenario for extra time!  Soooo cool!!  They slipped the eye shield and headphones over my head and I was in a completely different world.  I couldn’t hear the bowling alley noise AT ALL.  They warned us to stay put on our spot and that we could turn but not to move too far.  I would definitely pay to do this again and again, it was that much fun. If you want to check out the video of the kids VR experience, head over to the YouTube Channel at: https://youtu.be/0PnFt1BLKTI

I must admit, I did spend some money on this event, but I paid for a few drinks, appetizers, bowling, VR experience and shoes.  Next time I go, I will scale it back a little.  For my birthday, it was worth every penny.  For a few people to share a lane for an hour or two, have a few drinks, it would be pretty affordable.  So get out there and see what indoor adventures await in the Ozarks!

Check out the Facebook page How to do the Ozarks and Instagram htdto2020 for more pictures and places to visit!

What to watch for in 2022!!

Ahh…dear reader, every January I sit at my desk to map out a plan for this blog and the vlog on YouTube and by December many of my plans have disintegrated.  Some of 2021’s mishaps were owed to vehicle trouble and the pandemic still raging across the country, even here in the middle of America.  Some of it was pure laziness.  This year I hope to be more like Turtle Quotes, a blog I follow who was prodigious this past year, apparently keeping their promise to themselves to really up their blog game and succeeded.

So, reader I will attempt several things with more verve this year such as posting every two weeks, upping my Instagram game and remembering to get my Small Business Saturday posts on Facebook actually posted on Saturday.  Kayaking Lake Springfield, a feature on Dickerson Park Zoo, Fritz’s Adventure and Discovery Center are all in the planning stages as well as that spread on camping at Stockton Lake which was cancelled last year due to my prodigal daughters visit.  That was definitely worth postponing.

I will also be stocking an Etsy store with Ozarks inspired items made on my new CNC router.  Plans are on the table for an Ozarks inspired Tic Tac Toe game, fishing rod holders, and picture frames for that outdoor lover in the family.  So watch out 2022, this girl is ready to get out there and cover the best of what the Ozarks has to offer!

Paddle Boarding the Finley River Ozark MO

So paddle boarding is something I would have never thought to attempt given my graceless exits from kayaks and canoes. Standing and mounting or dismounting a floating device is always a challenge for this girl.  But, Darby wanted to paddle board back in June for her birthday and Pomme de Terre, where we had her party, was busy enough to buck me out of a kayak, let alone off a paddle board.  Then an intern at work mentioned Show Me SUP (Stand Up Paddle boarding) out of Ozark and the great time he had floating with TJ and company in July.  So, I figured I’d give it a try and take Darby out for a sunset paddle this last Tuesday.

TJ, the owner of Show Me SUP, met up with us at the small boat dock in the Finley River Park in Ozark, MO right off Jackson Street.  From Springfield it’s only a 30 minute drive, so not bad.  In August, 6:00 p.m. is still pretty early and it was warm-about 94 degrees. He gave us a general overview of paddle boarding and what to expect, how long the trip would take and what we might encounter.  I’m generally not an anxious person and I’m a pretty strong swimmer so when the physical reality of what I was about to attempt rolled around and I was in the water getting ready to actually mount a paddle board, I was feeling pretty good….

Being first timers and less lean than other people, TJ gave Darby and I bigger paddle boards. They were wider and longer than the ones used by our more experienced cohorts who were joining us for their Tuesday date night.  On my knees, floating on the water, my heart finally pounding in my throat-TJ began to give me instructions on how to bring my dominant right leg up into more of a half kneel with the goal being to rise up on two feet while using the paddle as a “cane” so to speak.  I couldn’t do it.  My leg was tired from working all day and I had to adjust the paddle and lay it down to get that darn knee up into position with my foot next to the handle in the very center of the board.  Then came the even harder task of drawing the other knee and foot up and into a squatting position before finally coming up to stand with quaking knees and trembling thighs using the paddle for support all the way. I was very glad I had taken my blood pressure medicine that day as my adrenaline spiked into overload and I stood tall on the paddleboard (knees slightly bent) looking out over the river.  TJ commented that it’s better to look forward than down at your board as he left me to gain my composure while paddling over and guiding Darby to her feet.  In the end, we gained our feet, didn’t fall and began to feel more comfortable about actually using the paddle as more than a support for our quivering legs.

Then came the fun part; paddling up the Finley while standing and balancing on the paddle board.  TJ guided us up river to a little gravel bar where we could dismount and give our feet a break.  TJ mentioned that though he recommends wearing river shoes on the Finley, your feet will actually feel better if you can manage to paddle board barefoot.  Darby was able to take off her shoes and she much preferred it.  The small muscles of bare feet respond better to the balancing act they are attempting.  As tired as my feet and legs were, I spent the rest of the trip either on my knees or on my rear, paddling like I would a canoe.  I could definitely see that had I come into this in the morning fresh without 10,000+ steps under my belt already I would have been able to stand much longer.  Despite not standing for more than 20 minutes or so, I was extremely proud of the fact that I had actually done it; stood up and learned to paddleboard on a calm river.

The whole experience took about 2 hours and 15 minutes, watching wildlife and paddling around obstacles just as you would in a kayak or canoe.  Obviously, the chance to fall in and get wet is much higher during this activity, but neither Darby nor I fell off our boards which was a definite plus in my book.  TJ was a great teacher, calm and professional though I will also say that I am a teachable person as is Darby.  Going into this experience knowing you may get wet, expecting the unexpected and staying flexible (both mind and body) is the best way to have a great time.  So get out there folks and see what Show Me SUP has to offer.

Check out the Facebook page How to do the Ozarks and Instagram htdto2020 for more pictures and places to visit!

Tent Camping in the Ozarks!!!

Silver Mines Summit Campsite

The idea of camping has always attracted me.  Sitting around the fire roasting marshmallows, hiking in new beautiful locales, learning how to “rough it”.  The actual execution of camping is always somewhat less than ideal when you come right down to it and this past weekend was no exception to that rule for me. 

This time it was Cole, Darby and I heading out to the Eastern part of the Ozarks to Elephant Rocks and Johnson Shut-Ins for the weekend.  If you are a regular here at How to do the Ozarks, you’ll remember my article on Primitive Camping https://howtodotheozarks.com/2020/06/25/ozark-mountain-primitive-camping/ where I was so tired after attempting to sleep in a hammock that I was unable to enjoy neither scrambling around big rocks in Elephant Rocks State Park, nor cutting my bare feet on the rocks at Johnson Shut Ins.  I promised Cole I would make another attempt, and this past weekend was the result.

Johnson Shut-In’s has a campground but all spots were taken for the weekend we were interested in going so we ended up in the quiet camp ground of Silver Mines https://www.recreation.gov/camping/campgrounds/232392 near Ironton, Missouri.  For a mere $38 we reserved a nice size tent campsite with metal picnic table, fire pit and lantern pole for two nights.  Unbelievably, the Summit Campground where we were located had only 4 or 5 other reserved sites for the weekend and one couple ditched their site Saturday afternoon due to the storm that blew up and did its best to ruin the trip.  More on that later.

Wanting to take a more scenic route to the area, we started from Springfield Mo, traveling along Hwy 60 to Cabool and heading in a more northeasterly direction down Hwy 63 and then picking up Hwy 32 in Licking, Mo.  The drive down Hwy 32 was beautiful but curvy and I would not recommend it if you have passengers prone to car sickness.  At one point, Darby rolled down the window and stuck her head out to relieve some of the nausea the twists and endless hills brought on.  Picking up Hwy 21 by the stunning Buford Mountain Conservation Area and continuing through Pilot Knob, Ironton and Arcadia was picturesque and filled with interesting stops including the Battlefield of Pilot Knob and The Wheelhouse in Ironton which is a new mountain biking experience I will be checking out soon. 

We turned on Hwy 72 and traveled 11 miles to Hwy D (there is another Hwy D just a few short yards  from Hwy 72-don’t turn there) where our campground along the St. Francis River awaited.  The St. Francis River is the only white water river in Missouri and has an annual kayak race every spring when the waters are running fast and high.  The area was beautiful and even better, not crowded.  Temps were expected to be in the low 100’s on Saturday with a cooling off on Sunday, but we never had a temp higher than 85 all day Saturday.  The campground also has electrical sites at the Riverside Campground and the hosts had information available outside their RV as they were unavailable when we showed up to check out the terrain.  There are shut-ins on the St. Francis as well, but we were unable to reach them this trip as a thunderstorm blew up as we were exploring.

St. Francis River through Silver Mines

As we were setting up our tent, we could hear thunder in the distance prompting us to secure the rain fly more securely and use all the tent stakes on the 9 person tent as well.  Pop up thunderstorms in the summer are common in any part of the Ozarks and they usually blow over fairly quickly.  After securing our belongings in the tent and saying hello to our neighbors camping further down, we headed out in the rain to Elephant Rocks. 

Part of the Braille Trail at Elephant Rocks State Park

Elephant Rocks State Park https://www.mostateparks.com/park/elephant-rocks-state-park is located on Hwy 21 south of Buford Mountain Conservation Area and North of Taum Sauk Mountain State Park.  It is a geological wonder and was part of quarrying efforts for the popular red stone demanded by builders in the early 1900’s.  The hike can be as easy as sticking to the asphalt Braille Trail, and as difficult as climbing large boulders can be without equipment.  As always make sure young children are carefully watched by adults.  Not paying attention can result in a fall and serious injury in this area.  The sheer size of the rocks and how they are scattered around as though giants were bowling with them is amazing and keeps people coming back in all seasons to view this cool area.  Picnic tables, a playground, and information kiosk on how the boulders were formed round out this excellent park.

Did my ears just pop??? Made it to the top of Missouri!!

After leaving Elephant Rocks, we took Darby to the highest point in Missouri at Taum Sauk, which Cole and I hiked last July.  At 1772 ft. above sea level, it’s not much higher in elevation than where we live in Springfield, but it has a great lookout and now Darby can say she’s been to the highest point in Missouri!  One of the great things about this area is all the fun things to do.  The Black River is close and has outfitters who will set you up to float.  There are plenty of conservation areas managed by the Missouri Dept. of Conservation dotting the area with plenty of hiking, birding, camping and hunting opportunities (in season).  It is definitely worth a week or more of exploring for the outdoor enthusiast.

After returning to camp, we were planning on making dinner, but the thunderstorm that had loudly been heralding its arrival finally decided to rain on our parade, literally.  Howling winds, enough to make us slightly nervous, thunder, lightning, hard rain pounding on the roof of the tent which, of course, leaked.  We rested, and waited…and waited.  Finally, after an hour and a half, we decided to head to Fredericktown in Madison County and search for a place to eat as the idea of dinner over the campfire was definitely out.  We found the small town quaint, with a variety of restaurant options.  Cole wanted a beer so we decided on Lalo’s Mexican Grill on Lincoln Drive off Bus 67.  Darby and I shared the Nachos Supreme and Cole had fajitas.  The chorizo queso dip was delicious and we barely ate all the food.  Cole’s medium Dos Equis was huge and the total bill was reasonable considering he had two drinks.  What was most fun was watching the townspeople out on a Saturday night having a good time.  The staff was attentive but not overbearing as it was busy when we arrived and we had a good time.

LaLo’s Mexican Grill Fredericktown Mo

During the night, another storm blew through, but barely woke us.  What did wake me was having my Coleman airbed collapse under me and feeling the cold press of the earth on my spine.  At 50 I have to have a good night sleep or I am going to tear someones head off tomorrow.  So twice in the night I ended up using the air pump to refill the Coleman so I could fall right back to sleep.  I also remembered to take an over the counter sleep aide with me this time, so getting back to sleep was easier than last year.  Again, temps were supposed to be in the high 90’s and we planned accordingly.  With the storm, the overnight average was probably 65 which was a little chilly.  Darby was grateful she had bought a cheap blanket at Dollar General, and I had cotton sheets to lay over the air mattress.  Next time I will throw a blanket in the car as well just in case. 

A few camping tips:  Earplugs are helpful.  Noise travels in the night like it does over water.  A camper or animal can be 50 feet away and will sound like it is right on top of you in the middle of the night.  Please do not play obnoxious music at 6:30 a.m. in your camp site.  I was awake, but Eminem at that time of morning did not please me from our neighbors who had arrived noisily sometime in the night.  Put your firewood in your vehicle or tent where it won’t get wet, it’s much easier to start a fire that way.  Do not bring firewood from your county to other counties in the Ozarks.  The Missouri Dept. of Conservation is trying to mitigate damage from pests by asking people to buy or scout for local firewood when camping.  There were plenty of people making a few extra bucks in the area we were in by selling camping firewood.

Rocks and water, what a combination!

On to Johnson Shut-Ins! https://mostateparks.com/park/johnsons-shut-ins-state-park What a fun place.  You can float, sit in the water, hike the trails and boulder over the shut-ins as well as slide down the natural slide formations made by the rocks.  Shut-Ins are rock formations that create pools, waterfalls, rapids and crevices on a river that are a lot of fun to navigate if you have water shoes on!  Last year, Cole and I went barefoot and it definitely shortened the trip and our level of enjoyment dropped drastically.  This time I couldn’t help but think that video of me reaching for each rock as I placed my foot on algae covered rocks would have made good fodder for Americas Funniest Home Videos.  I work with people who have broken their hips or had back surgery; I knew I did not want to fall at on the rocks at Johnson Shut-Ins.  Be aware there have been deaths that have occurred at this park as people do not always stay away from areas with No Trespassing signs.  The last person to die was an 18 year old girl this year that attempted to jump off a ledge, changed her mind and slipped and fell causing her untimely death.  I want to take my granddaughter when she reaches the age of 8 or so.  There is an area that has less rock and more gravel beach at the first staircase and my advice is if you have any orthopedic issues with hips and knees, take that first stairway.  You can check out a short video on my YouTube Channel How to do the Ozarks to see more of the trip.

Shut-Ins can be fun!

This was a great trip and again I learned more about how to camp, what to bring, and how to be flexible with the schedule depending on circumstances.  I will be going out to Ironton, Missouri to check out the new mountain biking trails which are world class and have been included in the national circuit this year.  I’m not going to try anything crazy, but I will try a lower level trail and let you know how it went.  So get out there friends and enjoy the Eastern Ozarks.

Check out the Facebook page How to do the Ozarks and Instagram htdto2020 for more pictures and places to visit!

July’s Weekend Drive

Last Saturday, Tim and I took a drive through 7!!! 7!!! Ozark counties!  We needed to get away and just see water falling out of rocks at Falling Spring Mill.  Alley Spring Mill was on the way, so I took him to see that as well, even though Cole and I had gone last year and taken some great pictures.  Tim also wanted to take me on his daily drive see the site in Texas County that he had been working at through the month of April.  It was a fantastic, scenic drive which I will outline for you.  I have always loved car rides and I would love to share my favorite scenic drives here on the blog with you so you can hop in your favorite car and get out there too.

One of the best parts of the trip was along Hwy H, East of Niangua through Wright and Texas Counties.  There were a few spots to pull off and attempt to take in the view, but the trees along the side of the road have been allowed to grow too high for satisfactory Ozark Highland viewing.  Nevertheless, the drive was curvy, fun and gorgeous.  It would be even better in the fall or on a motorcycle or both.  Taking Hwy 17 out of Houston in Texas County and meeting up with Hwy 106 through Shannon County to Alley Spring Mill Park was also beautiful with tall pines lining both sides of the road all the way to the park.

Alley Spring Mill, Shannon County

Traveling south on Hwy 19 into the very edge of Oregon county is like entering Bigfoot territory.  No cell service and all green.  The county road 3164 makes a loop around the Falling Spring Mill site, meeting up with 156 and then turning into 3170 to make the jaunt back to Hwy 19.  156 was more like a goat path than a real road and parts of the whole loop are probably underwater when it rains a lot.  Signs of the road becoming part of a river were very much evident in the cut away look of the edges of the road and the standing water. 

Falling Spring Mill, Oregon County

We took the easy way back home, traveling through Howell and Webster Counties on Hwy 60 to get back to Dallas County and home. We passed your everyday, run of the mill rolling farmland until we reached this church in Dallas County outside of Elkland.  What a stunning building in the gathering storm.  This area is full of adventure and beauty any time of the year, so get out into the Ozark hills, have some fun and support small businesses while you’re out!

Old church outside Elkland Mo in Dallas County

Check out the Facebook page How to do the Ozarks and Instagram htdto2020 for more pictures and places to visit!

Christy’s Top Places to Eat in the Ozarks Part II

Excellent menu, delicious burgers and sandwiches.
Worth a stop any time in the Eastern Ozarks-Cattlemen’s Steakhouse LLC

Cattlemen’s Steakhouse, LLC (417)252-2117 1208 E Main off Hwy 60 in Willow Springs Mo is worth the stop.  Friendly staff, great food and the best leftover containers I’ve ever received from a restaurant.  The Reuben was delicious and so big I had to take half home, same with the burger my husband had.  Their happy hour looks fun with drinks like Stump Water, High Faultin, and Rattlesnake Rita; I recommend taking a look if you are ever in the Eastern Ozarks.  They also have a location in Mountain Grove on the square. 

Plenty of space in Curly Que BBQ in Bolivar

Curly Que BBQ, 507 E. Maupin Bolivar Mo (417)777-0004 curlyquecatering.com  is tucked back down a small hill off Springfield Ave as you travel through Bolivar.  They offer catering and are very popular for their ribs.  If you want a side or two of ribs, it’s recommended you call ahead and pre order.  The staff is super friendly and the restaurant is clean and well decorated.  I love, love, love coleslaw on my BBQ sandwiches and theirs was tasty with my pulled pork sandwich with drink for only $8 (prices subject to change).

Pre order your ribs!!! They sell out fast!!!

Donut Palace 1022 W. US Hwy 54 Camdenton Mo (573)346-8377 was a short, unplanned drive thru stop as my husband and I headed to Eldon Mo.  They had a great selection of donuts and breakfast sandwiches.  One of my friends really likes the biscuits and gravy they serve at their Buffalo location at 204 N. Ash St.  Worth a stop if you’re headed up to any of our famous lakes for the day.

Delicious desserts and daily specials at Market House Café and Bake Shop!

Market House Café and Bake Shop 113 N. 2nd St. Ozark Mo (417)551-4370 is a cute breakfast and lunch café located on the square in Ozark.  Their cake was awesome and their dessert case looked even better.  They don’t have a website that I could access but their Facebook page was informative especially with their hours of operation.  If you are headed down to Branson, check this place out before 2 p.m.

Italian cream cake and fresh ice tea

Lindbergs 318 W. Commercial Springfield Mo (417)868-8900 www.lindbergsbar.com has an excellent bar food menu.  The oldest tavern in Springfield boasts a beautiful original oak and mahogany carved bar.  There are lots of stories about Lindberg’s as it has been around for a long time.  Try the Patty Melt with the special sauce for the fries.  You won’t be disappointed.  Lindberg’s does have a very active music scene if you are looking for more than food, check out their website for the weekly entertainment.  There is a cover charge on some nights and that will be posted as well.

The oldest bar in Springfield Mo-check out the history information on the walls and website.

Amore Pizza Kitchen 5492 Hwy H Pleasant Hope Mo (417)267-0147 amorepizzakitchen.com has a very good sandwich selection and I really enjoyed their chicken parmesan sandwich.  We had a hand tossed pizza and side salad this week and I really like their sauce and Italian sausage.  The price was excellent for the pizza and the side salad.  They are open from 3 p.m. to 9 p.m. daily.  I would definitely call ahead and have my order ready to pick up on my way home from work in Springfield.  Ordering online was easy and you can pay inside.

Amore Pizza Kitchen in Pleasant Hope.
Catfish, coleslaw and potato salad-The Catfish Café

The Catfish Café 1210 S. Ash Buffalo Mo (417)345-1277 features an all American menu and excellent cobbler with ice cream.  The catfish was good sized and the portions were perfect for the price.  They do a brisk take out business as well and they are generally crowded for dinner whenever I have been there.  Midafternoon is quieter but they are only open until 2 p.m. on Sunday.  Their Facebook page lists their menu, but everything is reasonably priced and delicious.  Check them out on your way up to Pomme de Terre or Lake of the Ozarks soon.

Cobbler and ice cream at The Catfish Café

The Healthy Edge located in Kickapoo Corners at 3604 S. Campbell Springfield Mo (417)501-8188 is like no other restaurant on this list.  Their website: https://the-healthy-edge.business.site lists all their current flavors for protein shakes and teas and their Facebook page also gives special flavors like this month’s Shamrock Oreo.  They specialize in meal replacement shakes and teas that give a great pick me up after any workout.  The counter folks make great suggestions if you can let them know what you are after, for example: recovery after a long hike.  Check them out and remember you’re replacing a meal.  Trust me, I have eaten then gotten a shake and it was a mistake!

The Healthy Edge for a protein shake or refreshing tea-or both!!!

Carriage House Family Restaurant 1537 N. Glenstone in Springfield Mo (417)720-4487 https://www.springfieldcarriagehouse.com  is our favorite breakfast restaurant.  Located in an older building on Springfield’s north side, it caters to blue collar folks looking for hearty meals at good prices.   They serve breakfast any time.  My husband loves their gyro meat when they’ve got the good chunky stuff in stock.  I love the skillets and I’d eat any one of them on any day.  The wait staff is fun and will take good care of you.  It can get busy on weekend mornings so get there early or wait until a little later in the day to go.  They’ve always got a few specials on the board and their desserts look amazing.  I’m generally too full to order dessert there-ever and my waitress knows to bring me a box as soon as I order my breakfast.

The last year has been especially hard on our local restaurant friends in the Ozarks.  We can all help out by supporting our local eateries and looking for new places to love, so get out there!

Check out the Facebook page How to do the Ozarks and Instagram htdto2020 for more pictures and places to visit!

Hiking Busiek State Forest and Wildlife Area

Lot’s of rocky, steep terrain, but a good challenge.

Spring arrived early this past weekend with temps in the middle 60’s and blue skies!  Cole and I shoved his Husky, Balto into the car and took off south from Springfield on Hwy 65 towards Branson to hike the Yellow Trail at Busiek State Forest https://nature.mdc.mo.gov/discover-nature/places/busiek-state-forest-and-wildlife-area. One of seven blazed trails in the park,we  occasionally heard the sound of gunfire from the pistol range and the traffic on Hwy 65, but otherwise it was a great 4.3 mile hike.

Some highlights from the trip:

  • I remembered to bring snacks!!!
    • I was smart and checked Alltrails https://www.alltrails.com/ before heading out so I was ready with my crocs for the river crossing which we had to do twice.  I hate hiking in wet shoes!
    • I felt really empowered with this hike as we accomplished the 4 miles in 2 ½ hours so I was pushing it.

The trails we encountered were well blazed and also had occasional metal signs posted that indicated where on the trail you were-there were 3 or 4 of these on the yellow trail.  I’m not a good map reader, but Cole is so we didn’t take the longer route.  There are several offshoots from the trail that are more rugged and will give you a longer hike, so if you are looking to spend more time check those out.  I noticed that the uphill climbs really pushed my heart rate and the downhill trek really tested my leg strength.  I had jelly legs at one point, but quickly recovered as I have been working out more and climbing more stairs to get ready for hiking.

Lot’s of water on this hike!

There were a lot of people out hiking with their dogs and kids, mountain bikers and folks riding their horses.  This park accommodates all types of recreation so be prepared.  Balto is a fairly well behaved dog except when he is on a leash-then he tries to pull your arm off.  Keep your pets and young children close on the trails and near the water.  Balto is no swimmer and some areas drop off quickly in the river, though the bottom is still visible.

The shooting range is on the west side of Hwy 65 so hiking on the east side was preferable to me.  There are trails off of the shooting range as well.  Primitive camping is available with a special use permit and can be obtained by calling (417) 895-6880. 

Balto definitely had a blast!!

Surprisingly, we did not see a lot of wildlife on Sunday.  There were a few birds and a huge vulture that flew close to the treetops, but no squirrels or other small game were visible.  Of course, we had a large dog with us and he may have helped to scare any small critters away.  All in all a good hike, good company and I can’t wait until the next one.  So pack up your snacks, dog, extra water and get out there.

Check out the Facebook page How to do the Ozarks and Instagram htdto2020 for more pictures and places to visit!