Table Rock Lake, Branson and Ava, Missouri

Leaving Eureka Springs, we had a short, 42 mile drive to our next stop, Aunt’s Creek Campground on Table Rock Lake. This US Corps of Engineers Campground was to be our base for exploring the Branson area. Our friends, Brian and Gary, were joining us from Wisconsin. We planned to check out what put Branson on the map, get in some bike riding and rent a boat for a day to explore, at least part of, the lake.

Well, the weather did not cooperate. It rained every day! Although we did get into Branson for lunch one day, and drove to Springfield for a bike ride, most of the 6 days were spent inside Brian and Gary’s larger trailer, eating, drinking wine and playing Rummikub and Uno.

One morning, when the weather forecast indicated a break in the rain, we decided to drive to Springfield and get a bike ride in before the forecasted rain returned. Gary decided not to ride, so he planned a trip to the Springfield Botanical Gardens, and then to meet us later at the end of our ride.

The ride was on the Frisco Highline Trail, a 35 mile converted rail that previously was the Frisco Railroad. The St Louis-San Francisco Railroad, known as the Frisco, was headquartered in Springfield, MO., operated for over a century, 1876-1980, in the Midwest and south-central US. Amazingly, even through it had San Francisco in its name, it never came close to the city. The Frisco Highline Trail runs from Springfield to Bolivar. I am told by the locals that it is pronounced like Oliver. So, I guess Simón Bolívar would just be Simon Bolivar. It just doesn’t sound as nice. Well, anyway, because of the coming rains, we decided that riding the full distance to Boliver, was not prudent. So we chose to ride only as far as Walnut Grove. The Frisco Highline Trail has a historic side note. In 1948, when President Harry Truman was running to keep his job. He used this 35 mile rail line as a test of the railcar, that he would use in the countrywide Whistlestop tour, which historians credit for saving his Presidency.

Bill and Brian at the Walnut Grove Trailhead
Bill and Brian on the trail
John on the trail

After the ride, Gary met us in Walnut Grove, we had lunch at a local diner, called Chuck’s Dinesty. I guess that is a little word play with dynasty. I also like having the opportunity to visit local restaurants rather than the large national chains. Just as we rode up to the diner, it began to sprinkle and by the time we were done eating, it was raining in earnest, so we timed our ride perfectly.

You can check out the ride on Strava

A couple days later, we had another forecasted break in the rain, so we headed into Branson. We walked around the old downtown and then down into the newer touristy Branson Landing. We lunch at Waxy’s Irish Pub. I’m not sure how Irish at actually was, but the food was passable and beer good. As we headed back to camp, not surprisingly, the rains returned.

John at Table Rock Lake
Bill at one of the piers on the lake
View of Table Rock Lake from our campsites

Our time on Table Rock Lake, was not what we had planned, but we made the best of it. We ate well, played lots of games and enjoyed spending time with Brian and Gary. On Friday morning we broke camp, in the rain, and Brian and Gary headed home to Appleton and we set out for or next stop, Cactus Canyon Campground, near Ava, Missouri. Our ride was another short one, only 85 miles.

Bill and I had been to Cactus Canyon before. Out first trip was in 2002 for the inaugural trip with our pop-up camper. Cactus Canyon was only a couple of years old back then and was quite rustic. My favorite memory of that trip was the wood fired redwood plank hot tub. Today the camp has grown quite a bit. Long gone is the wood fired hot tub replaced by a large custom built 16 – 20 person hot tub, a large out door pool and a new area for seasonal residents high up on the ridge.

Still it feels much like it did back then. Still run by two original owners, its isolation gives privacy and the 750 acres provide lots of opportunities for hiking and the pool and hot tub a place to relax. It is a gem and Bill and I enjoyed meeting seasonal residents and those who just dropped in for a couple of days. We took advantage of the clothing optional policy to do a couple hikes au naturel.

All set up, creekside, at Cactus Canyon
Bill and John on our hike.
Bill, just before crossing the creek and heading up to the ridge

Because of the clothing optional policies, photography is discouraged, so I don’t have others to share. We had an enjoyable 3 nights at Cactus Canyon, particularly since, after 6 days of rain in Branson, it was warm and sunny. 🌞 We now turned our eyes south toward Memphis and Louisiana. And, with that, I will leave it for now

One thought on “Table Rock Lake, Branson and Ava, Missouri

  1. Hi Guys,
    We knew you were going through that rainy weather watching the weather reports on TV. Glad you are having a great time spending with Brian & Gary. Enjoy the rest of your trip, happy travels.

    Ed & JOE


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