Friday, January 1, 2016


The White River Valley Trail System has 11.75 miles of trails , with four loops.  It is located on lands within the Table Rock State Park and U.S. Army Corps of Engineer properties, in southwest Missouri. 

Although I was born, and grew up less than an hour south of this area, I had not had the opportunity to thoroughly explore the trails until a group of my hiking buddies (called Women Hiking the Ozarks, or WHO) planned an excursion to see what the area had to offer.   In my defense, however, I should point out that the trails have only been in their present well-marked, and well-maintained, condition, for the last decade or so .  Plus, the fact that toilet facilities and terrain maps (shown in this photo) are now located at the trail-head, make it a more enjoyable experience! 

This sandy path at the beginning of the trail is the easiest of the trek, as the other surfaces you may encounter will include mud, rocks, roots, and shallow water crossings. 

I think winter is the best time to explore the trails for the first time, because with the leaves off the trees, it is easier to see the surrounding landscape. 

Our group was thankful that park staff and volunteers had blown the leaves away from the trail, making it easier to follow in the dense woods. 

Because there are four loops, there was the possibility that our group could become separated by taking a different turn from the ladies hiking in front .  For that reason, the hike leader stopped every time there was an intersection like the one in the photo, so that the back of the group could catch up with the front of the group, and not risk "separation anxiety"!

The trail goes by a filtration pond, designed to contain silt from the dam construction era.  It is a good place to observe waterfowl and beavers. 

Some parts of the trail are built on roads that were used during construction of the dam.  This photo shows that the old road crossed a stream bed, so the large stones on the right have been placed so that hikers could use them when the road is underwater .

It was fun to take the "giant steps" necessary to hop from one stone to the next!

The trail goes through some lands that have been kept cleared for decades, since they are the route used by the electrical power lines, leading from the hydroelectric plant of Table Rock Dam.

This photo shows the view down the powerline cut , to Lake Taneycomo, beneath Table Rock Dam.

The highest part of the trail can be found on the Green Loop, and will take you to the dolomite glades located about 1,200 feet above sea level.  They make up part of what is called "Baird Hill", which was a valuable natural resource for dam construction, in the 1950's.

From the top of Baird Hill, we could see that someone had spelled out their name, on the floor of the abandoned quarry, several hundred feet below.

Portions of the trail cross Baird Mountain Creek, and then run adjacent to the trail, as it winds its way around the park. 

These rock "enclosures" are easily maneuvered by hikers, but mountain bikers have to be a bit more alert when they are traveling at high speeds through confined spaces such as this  .   If seeing these photos has made you want to learn more about exploring this trail on your own, you can visit for more information .

When our group finished hiking, we drove to Downing Street in nearby Hollister, Missouri, for our post-hike meal.  Hollister, with a population of less than 5,000 people, was actually named after its much larger counterpart of Hollister, California.  Historical records indicate that when Reuben Kirkham applied for a town name in 1904, he requested the name "Hollister", because his daughter had been born in Hollister, California.  Most of the buildings in downtown are constructed in the picturesque "Tudorbethan" or "mock Tudor" style.  Our group dined at the Little Hacienda Restaurant, but for a complete listing of all the available choices, you can visit  .

After finishing up on Downing Street, in downtown Hollister, some of our group crossed Highway 65, to visit the ever-expanding College of the Ozarks  When you see a list of possible dining places in the Hollister-Branson area, you will notice the Keeter Center, which is located at the College of the Ozarks.  It is shown in this photograph, with its beautifully  landscaped water features in the foreground.

College of the Ozarks, which carries the nickname "HARD WORK U", was founded in 1906.  Just as this flatscreen television is showing a "vision", so it was that a Presbyterian missionary named James Forsythe, had a "vision" in 1905, that the young people in the Ozarks would have a school, where they could get a Christian education, in exchange for working to keep the school in operation.  What started out as a high school, has blossomed into a four-year university, which consistently ranks high in national publications, as a "best value" liberal arts college.  If you would like to learn more about this FANTASTIC institution, you can visit their website at  .

I was reminded of the strong work ethic at College of the Ozarks----"HARD WORK U"----when I was thinking about a visual aide for one of my First Place 4 Health ( )  memory verses that says, "All hard work brings a profit, but mere talk leads only to poverty."  (Proverbs 14:23).    The success of the graduates of Hard Work U are a great testament to the wisdom in that proverb!  One thing is for sure, the "hard work" I put into making my "Hollister Expedition", and documenting it for this blog, gave me MILES OF SMILES!   Tricia

Tuesday, December 1, 2015


This was my 12th straight year to compete in the 5K Division, of the White River Marathon for Kenya!  That means I have been blessed to participate in the event each year since it started!

The crowd starts showing up at the Cotter, Arkansas, High School long before daybreak, and around dawn, the group heads outside to the starting line.

The temperature in the Ozarks in late November is almost always cold, but a misting rain added to the "chill factor", for the 2015 start-up. 

In spite of the dreary skies, the race had very few "no shows" on the morning of the event.  Even the "no-shows" do not have to feel too guilty about their choice, as part of the entry fee goes to fund programs in Kenya operated by the well-known humanitarian organization, World Vision .  (See previous blogs I published, for information on World Vision.  Archived dates are October 7, 2009; November 21, 2009; October 4, 2012; November 24, 2013). 

My friend, Diane, was all smiles as she completed the finish line!  If you want to have those same feelings of accomplishment, go to the website and sign up for the 2016 event!  The race filled up in 2015, and some folks had to be turned away, so do not procrastinate!

I was absolutely DELIGHTED to get a First Place medal for my age category in the 2015 race!  It has been my observation, since this was race #12 for me, that it is not so much that I have gotten faster since I did my first race, where I did not win any kind of medal; rather, it is just the fact that I have persevered, and been promoted into progressively older race categories, where there are fewer participants!  

The unique aspect about all the folks in this photo, showing off their prize medals, is that they are all members of the North Central Chapter of the Arkansas Master Naturalists ( ) !  Could it be that learning about the natural world makes you more appreciative of the miracle of the human body??!!  So appreciative, in fact, that you make efforts to stay active??!! 

One way the married couple in this photo keeps active, is by being a part of the devoted Master Naturalist Trail Patrol volunteers, who do some hard physical labor, to keep our area hiking trails "maintained".  In the process, they are also "maintaining" the physical health of their own bodies!

A big motivator for me to keep striving for optimum health, is a program called First Place 4 Health.  It is a Christ-centered healthy living program, that is available nationwide.  You can check for classes in your area by going to their website, and typing in your zip code.  One aspect of the program is memorizing a Bible verse each week, and I use visual aids from my photography to help me remember the words.  One of my verses for the current "Healthy Boundaries" study is from Galatians 5:7 and says, "You were running a good race.  Who cut in on you and kept you from obeying the truth?"  Naturally, I thought of these photos I had taken at the various races I have participated in, although, fortunately,  I do not have a photo of someone who kept me from finishing!  Since I want to continue running a good race in life, I am going to keep an eye out for those things that that DO "cut in" to my obedience to the truth!  This includes things that would keep me from participating in the 2016 White River Marathon, scheduled for Saturday, November 19.  Being able to complete another 5K will give me "3.2 MILES OF SMILES"!   Tricia


For the last several years, I have had the blessing of going on an "expedition" with these two good-looking grandkids!  We plan our time together to be around their July birthdays, which usually means it is HOT.  It is also prime time for ticks and chiggers in Arkansas, so although I would enjoy  hiking outdoors in the woods with them, our July expedition does not usually find us deep in the forest.  Fortunately, we are blessed with dozens of other "kid-friendly" pursuits in our area, so this blog post will tell about some of those.  Our first stop was the Museum of Native American History, in Bentonville, Arkansas (   ).  A great thing about the museum is that it is FREE!   There are photo ops even before you go inside, as this large teepee sits beside the museum's front entrance.  The grandkids have a "link", of sorts, to one of the exhibits in the museum, and one of the books for sale in the gift shop. That's because the kids' mother is a radiologist, who used to work with another radiologist, Dr. James Cherry----- an authority on ancient effigy head pots of native American cultures, and he has published a highly-acclaimed book on the topic.  There is also a link to some of Dr. Cherry's archaeological radiology research studies, on the website of the Museum.
Our next stop required us to drive through some lovely meadows in northwest Arkansas, and that is where we spotted a field full of youngsters, doing some equestrian training.  Since I am always interested in passing along stories about Kaitlyn and Jacob's grandfather, I told them about the experience their grandfather and I had, when we attended equestrian events at the summer Olympics in Atlanta, Georgia.  Our equestrian event tickets were scheduled for early in the morning, so we left our motel (one hour outside Atlanta), long before daylight, without turning on any radio or television news.  (Of course, this was before the days of smart phones)  We were well into the Atlanta city limits, when we turned on the radio to hear the announcer warning people, "DO NOT COME INTO ATLANTA TODAY BECAUSE OF A BOMBING A FEW HOURS AGO AT AN OLYMPIC VENUE!".  Since we were already near the equestrian park, we kept going, not knowing what else to do!  As it turned out, the equestrian event had NOT been cancelled, but everything was running at least three hours behind schedule because of GREATLY enhanced security measures at all event entrances, as a reaction to the bombings.   The grounds of the equestrian venue, was our first opportunity to use a pay phone to call our loved ones back home, to let them know we had not been at the location where the bomb went off, and that we had plans to continue on with our Olympic itinerary.  I am really thankful we did, because it was a great experience to see the pageantry in the dressage, and observe the OLDEST-ever Olympic athlete, compete against their much younger counterparts!

But getting back to the "Arkansas expedition", our travels took us to the tiny town of Gentry, Arkansas, for a restaurant I had been wanting to visit for over a decade, because it was recommended to me by a fellow Registered Dietitian.  I took a photo of this wall decoration in the restaurant, because the words are very meaningful to me----"ARKANSAS, you run deep in me".

This photo shows Kaitlyn and Jacob in front of The Wooden Spoon restaurant in Gentry ( ).  I was so amused that within minutes of me divulging where I had planned for our lunch, Jacob had looked it up on his smart phone, and was reading the "rave reviews" it had received, to Kaitlyn and me!  The on-line endorsement made me thankful to finally being able to visit there.  Although there was a line of people waiting to get inside, the line was shorter when we arrived, than when we left!  My advice----get there early!

Following our lunch, we made the short, scenic drive to Gentry's other big attraction, The Wild Wilderness Drive-Through Safari ( ) to encounter some amazing animals!

The gigantic horns on the bovines in this photo are simply amazing!

Likewise, the rack of antlers on this big buck, make him easy to spot, as he took a little swim to cool off, on this hot day in July

There were giant birds!

There were camels!

We marveled at the design of these zebras!

It was fun to see this very curious ostrich repeatedly pose for our photos!  He was not at all camera shy!

One of the employees at the park gave us the special giraffe food the park supplies, so we could try actually "hand feed" this long-necked critter!

I was especially thankful to get to see and pet one of the kangaroos at the park, since I went all the way to Australia and back, without getting to do that!!

I am using this photo of a very good-looking brother and sister, as my visual aid for my First Place 4 Health ( ) memory verse that says, "He has given us this command;  Anyone who loves God must also love their brother and sister."  I John 4:21   This brother and sister treated each other with both love and respect throughout our expedition, (as they have on every other trip we have taken together!), and I greatly enjoy spending time with them!   By the way, camel rides are available right here in Arkansas!  My son and I once made a trip to the Memphis zoo for the sole purpose of getting to ride a camel, but it is no longer necessary to go to the Middle East or out of state, to have this experience!

The gorgeous outdoor setting for this photo was our next stop, and was located down an unpaved county road outside Siloam Springs, Arkansas, at their newly opened natural water park on the Illinois River.  You can learn more about it by visiting their website at  .
The final stop for our expedition was at this cross, located high above the city of Fayetteville.  It is fun to find the towers of "Old Main" of the University of Arkansas, as you look westward.  If you would like to see this spot for yourself, just click on for driving directions, and a list of all the services offered by this mountain-top retreat owned by the Methodist Church.  Writing this blog article is a reminder to me to always be
giving thanks for the Cross of Jesus and these precious grandchildren!  They give me "MILES OF SMILES"!!!  Tricia


Sugarloaf Mountain rises 690 feet above the Red River Valley, just east of the city of Heber Springs, Arkansas.  I first saw the mountain in the winter of 2002, and knew immediately I wanted to explore it!

I had that opportunity last November when a group of ladies I hike with, planned an overnight trip to hike the trails in the Heber Springs area.  This photo shows some of our group studying the trail map and visitor guidelines, that are posted at the trailhead.

There is enough regular use and maintenance of the trail, that it was easily distinguishable from the rest of the forest floor, which was covered in fallen leaves.

The trail starts to climb, right from the parking lot, as illustrated by this photo that shows our cars down below, at the beginning of the trail.

Geologists say that Sugarloaf Mountain exists, because the huge rocksat the top of the formation lie in flat layers, and thus were not eroded away like the less resistant sandstone, silt stone, and shale deposits that surrounded this Atoka formation.  It is described as an "erosional remnant", similar to Bryce Canyon National Park in Utah.

Upon reaching the top of the forested part of Sugarloaf Mountain, there are well worn paths that completely circumnavigate the massive sandstone formation at the summit.

Our group decided to stop and enjoy our lunch, before we began exploring different routes to the summit.

We made progress towards the summit by "bouldering", which just means going to progressively higher locations by crawling, climbing, or jumping---without the use of technical climbing equipment or harnesses.

Some of the routes we explored were a very tight squeeze!

The most popular routes to the top were well-worn, and free from major obstacles.

This exposed  root shows how deep a tree may have to grow, in order to get the nutrients and water it needs to stay alive.

Forestry surveys indicate that wind-stunted cedars and gnarled scrub oaks are the most prevalent trees at the summit.

We observed that someone had made a very "unstable" route to the top by pounding gigantic nails into a tall tree that extended above and beyond the top layer  No one in our group assessed this as a suitable route to attempt.

Since it is quite a climb to reach the summit, it is nice that these park benches have been placed along the  trail that circles the gigantic sandstone formation.   I am thankful to the Dr. L.C. Robbins, and his family, who worked to secure a clear title to the lands, and then leased it to the city of Heber Springs for its people to enjoy.  The Arkansas State University (  ) became a part of this partnership in 2007, when they opened their newly-built campus in Heber Springs, at the base of Sugarloaf Mountain.  They offer an associate degree in Environmental Science, and have the benefit of this outstanding "outdoor classroom", right outside their back door!

I am using this blog post about our women's hiking group----which is never lacking in zeal and fervor----as the visual aid for one of my First Place 4 Health ( ) memory verses that says, "Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord."  (Romans 12:11)    The wisdom I gain by studying God's Word, makes me realize the importance of MY responsibility to make healthy lifestyle choices, so I can continue to serve the Lord.  One of the most enjoyable of those healthy choices, is spending time hiking outdoors with a group of ladies known as "Women Hiking the Ozarks"!!  Our adventures give me "MILES OF SMILES"!!  Tricia