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Mark Twain, The Ozarks and a Castle

Nebraska, Kansas and Iowa have their own brand of beauty and charm. Missouri brought in new sights and adventures such as Pershing State Park.

This park is yet another location we discovered by looking at the Rand McNally atlas. I'm telling you, these old-school tools are priceless.

The Fall colors were great to see at this park and Shadow loved running around. On one of his walks, he and Darin crossed paths with a snake which interested them both, sticks were involved. Glad I didn't join them for that walk, not a fan. The November air was light and crisp, very comfortable for us. One thing you miss out on in coastal Southern California is the change of the seasons, so we really enjoyed taking it in. We also took this opportunity to use the drone, we are such amateurs! But we are having fun.

We soon realized the birthplace of Mark Twain was in Florida, MO. The building/museum was unfortunately closed but we did get to take a nice hike to stretch and consider where to go next. We chose his boyhood home of Hannibal and opted in for the town's site seeing/self guided tour. They were all about Mark Twain, which was great because who doesn't remember those fun times? The Wit and Wisdom of Mark Twain is a wonderful book we picked up while in the gift shop along with other gifts for the upcoming holiday season.

When we completed the tour we came across the Brick Oven and enjoyed a wonderful lunch before heading toward the Lake of the Ozarks. As we were traveling Hwy 54 we realized it would be dark before we made it to the Lake so we decided to find a spot to boondock while we had daylight. We turned down M Road and pulled into the Saline Valley Conservation Area and parked. We both felt uneasy about the spot and decided to drive away. We had just returned to our path back toward the Highway and almost immediately came upon a single car accident.

Darin and I hopped out to see what we could do to offer help. As we got to the opposite side of the car we quickly realized how bad it really was. Of course there was smoke and in our heads alarms were going off. The driver's door was inoperable so Darin proceeded to attempt to get the driver out on the passenger side. Meanwhile, I was dialing 911 with poor reception and uncertain of our location at the time. Someone pulled up behind us and let me know the road we were on, then he just maneuvered around us and took off. Who does that? Darin managed to get the gentleman out of the car and we wrapped him in a blanket to warm him up. He was shaken and had some visible injuries. Very soon after getting him out a young woman drove up and approached us as she realized the gentleman was her great-grandfather! Within a matter of minutes about 5 other family members arrived before emergency services got there. It was all very calm and casual. The grandson and cousin were letting the EMS know they wanted them to take him in for a once over. Apparently it had been a day of hunting for them, based on their conversation and clothes. We said our goodbyes and briefly considered asking them for a quiet spot to park for the night. Instead we drove to the Lake of the Ozarks and parked near a dam.

The Ozarks are beautiful and vast. Well worth a visit any time of year, I'm sure. The colors during Fall are spectacular. Being able to cruise around and take it all in without the summer crowds was really cool. We started our day at Stewart's Restaurant for a delicious breakfast. One can't leave Stewart's without their famous gigantic cinnamon roll.

We asked the employees what they suggest we see before leaving the area, Ha Ha Tonka State Park was the answer. They let us know there were sights to see and hikes to take, we're in! Who knew there was a Castle in the Ozarks? Not me!

We leashed up Shadow and walked around a bit, looked around the burned out Castle and read about the history. There were boardwalks everywhere, we needed some hiking and stretching, so this really fit the bill. This place was beautiful and well maintained to show it's natural beauty. We followed the trail and discovered steps to the river. Darin and I are in fairly good shape so we felt up for the challenge of the steps, then I saw the sign.

Let's do this! Down we go, easy right? As we descended the steps toward the river a much younger couple was headed up and I swear they looked as if they were about to croak! Darin of course struck up a conversation with them and found out they were in training to climb Mt Whitney. Uh oh. Down we go. The river was absolutely gorgeous! Shadow hung in there with us really well. There was another couple stopped on the trail, Darin once again struck up a conversation and was about to ask them for a ride back to our van when he found out there was a lower parking lot they had utilized to get to the river.

Time to go back up, Lord help me. Please! Up we go, so many steps, I mean a lot of steps, like 10 times what there were when we went down them. I seriously thought I would croak. No way was I quitting, well, I couldn't quit, I don't think the park ranger would allow me to camp on the steps anyway. Up we go, so many steps! We made it and I would do it again. All those hikes my BFF drags me on paid off.

Another attraction within Ha Ha Tonka is a 550 million year old natural bridge. More steps but wow! What a cool phenomenon.

We needed to find a place to camp for the night and came up with Amidon Conservation area, thanks to Rand McNally. We had a quiet peaceful night of sleep and found out about the Castor River Shut-ins. According to the Missouri Department of Conservation "The Castor River Shut-Ins is Missouri’s only known pink granite shut-ins. This picturesque pinkish granite is from the Breadtray formation, an igneous rock formation that is 1.5 billion years old. Most of the exposed igneous rocks of the St. Francois Mountains region are rhyolite rather than granite. Igneous rocks are formed from volcanic activity. Granite is a coarse-grained igneous rock formed from magma that cooled underground and was later exposed. By contrast, rhyolite is formed when magma is cooled above ground. Shut-ins occur where a broader stream is “shut in” to a narrow canyon-like valley. Shut-ins typically occur in Missouri where streams flow through softer sedimentary bedrock materials such as dolomite or sandstone and then encounter the more resistant igneous rock."

We so appreciate you joining us on our journey, next we'll visit some caves and the Smoky Mountains. Be sure to get your copy of the Rand McNally Atlas!

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