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 .
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.
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 www.mostateparks.com/trails/table-rock-state-park 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 www.cityofhollister.com .
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 www.cofo.edu .
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 ( www.FirstPlace4Health.com ) 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