First, I should be honest. I have only hiked a couple of places in Branson. Now, I do plan to remedy that fact, because our family had the BEST TIME this weekend hiking a GORGEOUS trail--the Lakeside Wilderness Hiking Trail.
In case you didn't notice in the title, this is also the story of how I felt pretty confident going in...and came out a sweaty, huffing, tired, and muscles quivering kind of mess. Albeit a smiling sweaty mess.
Our family has been wanting (okay, maybe only ONE of us has been wanting) to hike this trail for quite a while. However, we sort of stumbled onto it this weekend, as we were on some geo-caching hunts. This particular hunt was called "Soldier's Cave." And it was a spectacular hunt, indeed!
Our hunt for the soldier's cave took us down the blue trail, and we ended up going even farther--as far as Rebecca is pointing. On our way back up, an experienced hiker told us the trail leads as far as Sunset Park--at the Branson Landing. (Although, supposedly, a land owner recently put up a fence blocking part of it at the end.)
This hiking trail is located on Fall Creek Road--directly across the street from Dick Clark's theater. There's a nice gravel parking lot, and even public restrooms.
From the moment we arrived, all 4 of us kept saying, "This is just so neat!" "This is beautiful!"
One of my favorite things about this hike is the fact that Dr. Lyle Owen's abandoned old rock home is in the middle of the woods on the hike. Even though we knew the house was nestled in the woods there, when we came up on it, we felt like we were the first ones to discover it! Surrounding the old homeplace are beautiful hand-laid rock walls. I could just picture Dr. Owen, a rocket scientist who retired to this homesite in Branson in the 1930s, carrying rock after rock after rock to form the graceful wall.
The picture above is the lovely entrance from the home's yard to the staircase of hand-laid fieldstone that winds down the bluff towards Lake Taneycomo. Dr. Owen and 2 other men spent 2 years (1937 and 1938) building the lovely staircase--315 steps in all.
Exploring down these weather-worn and foot-worn steps made me feel like we were traveling back in time. It made me wonder what the men were thinking each day as they'd add another couple of steps. Did they have any idea that 75 years later, people would still be admiring their beautiful craftsmanship?
Once we reached the bottom of the stairs, we kept going. We were on the hunt for a secret cave that a Confederate soldier hid in during the Civil War! All along the way, we just marveled at the beauty surrounding us--the lush greenery, little peeks of Lake Taneycomo down below, the rock cliffs carved out by dripping water and waterfalls.
We met a couple of families on the way, whose kids were just as thrilled as ours to be running ahead of the parents, in search of the next "amazing thing" ahead!
We found 2 caves, both of which we braved it, and walked into the darkened caverns. The girls loved learning how quickly their eyes adjusted to the darkness just by closing them for 30 seconds. The Confederate's cave was larger than we had imagined. It was thrilling to imagine him living there, and braving the elements. (Yes, we FOUND the geo-cache!)
Sweet Sara Beth was excited to find some pretty wildflowers along the way. By this time, we were on our way back up the stairs--remember there are 315 of them!! Of course, she handed the delicate bouquet to her mama, who in an out-of-breath huffing voice said, "You. Are. Going. To. Have. To. Hold. Them. Mama. Is. Too. Tired. To. Hold. Thank. You. Sweet. Girl."
We stopped and rested a few times on the way back up--mostly to give the mama a chance to catch her breath, and wipe away more sweat. We had to move up the steps pretty quickly, as we were trying to "beat the dark home" (a quote from one of my FAVORITE movie sequels) and get some dinner in our ravenous tummies.
We all fell into our seats in the car, and were silent for a few moments as we all sucked on water bottles. I noticed that, even though we all were exhausted and sweaty and tired, we were all smiling.
This was a family hike that I think we will all remember. It was just a family MOMENT we will all remember--a family adventure that was free of fussing and complaining, and that was just plain FUN.
What's a memorable adventure YOU'VE experienced?