Family business of a sort took us to the Midwest via Atlanta this past week. After a redeye flight from Los Angeles, and its morning connector- flights that I admittedly did not want to be on- we landed in Springfield, Missouri. The unwillingness to travel by this travel blogger will be a different story for a different time, but for now, suffice to say that we had arrived safely in Missouri. And though I had to remind myself that regardless of what brings us to the places we go, life is still an adventure meant to be shared.
The Springfield-Branson Airport was tiny, perhaps a bit better laid out than Quad Cities, but still nothing compared to the shopping mall feel of Istanbul or the frustrating largeness of Los Angeles. That said, it was pleasantly easy to get to our rental car, and head out from Springfield to make the hourlong drive toward Branson. The day was cold, though not enough for snow, with low clouds hanging in the sky. It was getting toward lunchtime in the central time zone, and after a disappointingly small McDonald’s breakfast in Atlanta about two hours before, we were starting to feel it.
Our first stop was in Nixa, a small but growing community that is referred to as the “Crossroads of the Ozarks.” We had punched into Google Maps places to go for brunch, and Google pulled up a few good options that were on the way to Branson. We decided on Morning Day Café, a colorful café and bar that offered up some interesting brunch items as well as a good selection of morning cocktails. The wait was long, with our arrival being on a Sunday late morning and patrons ahead of us waiting for their after-church meals with their carefully crafted beverages. The eclectic décor and breakfast menu were what I tend to enjoy when brunching. And of course, the tropical mimosa made the wait better.
After about 40 minutes or so we were finally seated. We went for cheesy, potato-y items, a treat after the smaller breakfast. The mildly spicy poblano cheese sauce was delicious, and different from what we typically get even in Southern California. Our dishes were well worth the wait and fueled us for our drive into the Ozark Mountains.
The Ozarks are a scenic highland region spanning across five states, with the most acreage located within southern Missouri and northern Arkansas, marked by beautiful hardwood forests and pristine lakes. The Ozark Mountains, also known as the Ozark Plateau, are the most significant topography between the Appalachians of the eastern United States the the Rocky Mountains to the west. The region is made up of the Boston Mountains in Arkansas, the St. Francois Mountains in Missouri, the Springfield Plateau, and the Salem Plateau. The landscape was formed by volcanic eruptions that deposited igneous rocks such as granite, and over time, sedimentary formations such as as limestone, shale, and chert were deposited. As such, the region is also dominated by karst topography, a type of landform that is created when limestone and dolomite are chemically worn away by water. This resulted in the over 300 caves found within the Ozarks as well as many water-filled springs. While we didn’t visit any caves, we could see examples of the the sedimentary rock characteristic of the area, with its rugged and beautiful ancient geology. The drive took us right into the scenic forests of the Ozark Mountains.
We arrived at our destination, a place overlooking Lake Taneycomo. Taneycomo, short for Taney County Missouri, despite its river-like appearance, indeed is actually a lake caught between two dams- Table Rock to the south and Power Site to the north. The view from the rolling hills was beautiful. The trees still in the dead of winter held a stark beauty in contrast to the waters below and the fields surrounding them. While Branson is considered “the Las Vegas of the Midwest” for its resorts and evening shows*, we were situated away from that. The interesting thing about Branson is that while there are some aspects that might resemble the busyness of the big city, it really is in the country. From where we were situated, it was a short walk down the road to farmland and quiet- with sheep and a llama who loves apples.
I enjoyed the time spent in nature and in the quiet of a more rural setting. Watching the hawks soar over the lake and to what may have been their nests below along with the songs of the birds and squeaking frogs were soothing to my soul. I always thought that I could live quite happily in the middle of nowhere as long as there are national parks or other sources of recreation along with a Target. Branson interestingly enough actually answers those two demands. There are a number of hiking areas in the Ozarks, along with state parks, and lakes perfect for water activities. And yes, there is a Target in Branson.
Some things to consider:
While this post and the next one remain in Missouri, there are many opportunities to recreate in both Missouri and Arkansas. You may even have the chance to cross off two states from your vacation ‘bucket list’ if you have the time. Just be sure to decide on your vacation priorities ahead of time and plan accordingly.
The weather in the Midwest can be dramatically changeful in the spring season. I’ve lived in- and have returned to- areas where the weather can go from thunderstorms to beautiful warm sunny days, to snow- all in a matter of a couple days. Be sure to pack according to the forecast. I recommend bringing clothing options that can be easily layered, along with a good coat. I was sad on this last trip that I did not pack a dress for a sunny 75-degree afternoon that would have been perfect for some Instagram-worthy llama-feeding photos.
The Ozarks offer something for just about everyone. Whether you’re into dinner theater, shopping, relaxation, recreating in the great outdoors- or some combination of all of the above, there is a lot to do in this neck of the literal woods. Just pick a happy trail and live the adventure.
For more information, or to plan your Ozark adventure, check out:
U.S. Department of the Interior. (n.d.). Cave / Karst Systems. National Parks Service. Retrieved March 13, 2022, from https://www.nps.gov/ozar/learn/nature/cave.htm