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 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, 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!

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:

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 ( 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: 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 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 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 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: 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 ( 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 ( 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.   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!

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 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 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 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! 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!