Redneck heaven and buried treasure

Distance: 8 mi

Miles to go: 1693

Between the house (roof leaked on my new hardwood floors), work (3 days in lovely redneck Vegas… err… Branson MO), having my one and only post for the week get eaten by iGoogle, and life in general, I have had no time to run.  The 8 miles I ran was in two measly runs over the last week.  Disgusting…  Oh… and I tried to post about my run (on a really cool trail in Branson… see below)

Actually… last week was disgusting.  This week seems promising so far.  I rode my bike to work (20 miles) yesterday and ran 5.25 mi today… so things are looking better.  I should get a solid week of workouts in and then I leave Sunday for the NECC conference (education technology) in San Antonio, which should be fun.  Especially if I can figure out how to wiggle in a run… in the 100 degree heat… blech…  umm… treadmill?

So… Let’s talk about Branson.  To say that this town is… umm… “slanted” towards tourists would be a HUGE understatement.  Think “gawdy cross between Vegas and Nashville”, or “LA traffic… two lane roads”, or, better yet, “where old country acts go to die… and do a variety show”.  I stayed in Branson because the town I was teaching in was too small to have a hotel (that I would ever dare stay at…!).  If you have never been to, or even heard of, Branson, it used to be a quaint little town nestled in the Ozarks that sat on a beautiful lake.  Then a theme park moved in called Silver Dollar City.  A couple of country acts played there and somebody thought… ya know?  Wouldn’t it be great to take a big crap on the surrounding countryside and put up a mess (redneck term) of show halls so we could play bad music and sing off key for the rest of our lives and never have to leave here???  *sigh*  What a great idea!  Thus, Branson, as we know it, was born.  Now?  It’s a gawdy, bloated tourist trap filled with aging country acts, tour busses, blue hairs, bubbas, and 20 foot banjos sticking out of the tops of ice cream/pizza parlors.  Now THAT’S progress… redneck style.  As an example, I stayed on the same floor as the Oak Ridge Boys (MAN… they look old…) and waived politely to Mickey Gilley in his Daytona Pace Corvette as he allowed me to cross before pulling on to the main drag.

So… what the heck does all this have to do with running?  Ohhh man…  Lemme tell ya.  Prepare for old, jaded recreation professional rant…

See… I got my degree in recreation from Oklahoma State.  I was going to design and build handicapped accessible trails and parks.  Noble, eh?  So that fell on it’s face… but anyway…  I still look at every city I go to with a recreation professionals eye.  How many park acres does it have?  What kinds of facilities?  Are there bike paths?  Multi-use trails?  …and so on.  This is the main reason I chose Columbia as a new home.  Fantastic parks and rec.  So imagine my dismay… horror even… when I went to the City of Branson website to look for local parks and trails to run on and found… nothing.  Oh, don’t get me wrong, it’s there, but it’s buried… and “nothing” is what was on it.  The MENSA that designed this page should be ashamed.  A brief and vague description of each park, no pictures and… NO ADDRESSES!!!  You gotta be kidding me…  No maps, other than a very vague and not even to scale color job that represented the parks as green blobs with NO ENTRANCES MARKED!!  What?  …Am I missing something?  I looked all over for more information.  But I found it very much easier to get a show time in October for the Baldknobbers variety show than I did to find information about the parks and trails in Branson.  That’s sad.

So.. armed with my vague and not to scale map.  I headed out in Jabba the van (15 passenger monster not ideally suited for the narrow, bus filled roads of Branson) in search of a big park that appeared to be very close to my hotel.  I got on the road that looked like it ran right next to this trail and… nothing.  Five miles of nothing.  No signs, no parks… nothing.  So I gave up and headed back.  As I am pulling up on the main road, it runs just behind my hotel.  Out of the corner of my eye I see a dilapidated, overgrown sign for the trailhead, which points down what, for all appearances, looks like an access road long dead.  You gotta be kidding me… I drove right past this thing and went on another 10 miles?  This is ridiculous…

I pulled into the parking lot, now very uncomfortable.  I was greeted by an old porta potty sitting on a slope (fun ride!) and what appeared to be a trailhead, however poorly marked.  I knew from my criptic description of this trail that it was a wilderness run and it was a loop… cool… I can do this.  So I took off…

By this time, if your still here and not asleep, you are probably thinking, oh boy, here it comes.  He got lost or bit by a snake or mugged, etc.  And as much as I would like to say so… It’s not true.  What Branson loses in advertising and publicity for it’s parks and trails, it makes up for in beauty.  This was 1.7 miles of heaven.  A real buried treasure.  Critters everywhere, smells of deciduous forest and pines, rocks and great views between the trees.  And all on a wood chip single track trail that was like running on a sponge.  It was yummy.  I’m only sad I didn’t get to run on it more than once.

So if you are ever in Branson (and you should go, if only to shake your head in disgust) and want to get away without leaving town, look for the Lakeside Forest Wilderness Area.  The easiest way to find it is to get on the main drag headed toward downtown and look for the Ramada Inn and a place called Area 57 (no… I’m not kidding).  There is a road behind it known as “The Yellow Route”.  Get on this road and go 1/4 of a mile.  If you go past the end of the Ramada property you have gone too far.  Look for the entrance on your left.

In other news, the run this morning was Hugh’s Hulen Hills.  The best things I can say about it are that 1.) It’s over and 2.) We won’t have to run it again for another 6 weeks or so.  Highlights included me getting lost, seeing my lungs come flying out of my chest on the last hill and meeting a new friend and my new personal Sherpa… Carl.

If anybody knows a good place to run in San Antonio, I’m lookin’!

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