My Near-Death Experience (Branson/Table Rock Part 2)

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The Caffeinated Ginger family enjoyed a few days’ vacation in the Branson/Table Rock area in July.  The first couple of days were spent eating, ziplining, eating, pontooning, eating…you get the picture.

On the third day, our oldest daughter had to get back to real life (AKA a job), so that left the remaining four of us to entertain ourselves.  We’ve been to the Branson area several times before, but one activity we had never tried was kayaking.  A friend of mine recommended using White River Kayaking in Branson.  Their office is located in historic downtown Branson.  Reservations are strongly encouraged.  I called them in the morning to see if we could reserve kayaks for that afternoon, and they only had one time slot left, so I recommend NOT just walking in and hoping to be fit into their schedule.

We headed to White River Kayaking to get ready for our new adventure.  The staff was very friendly and knowledgeable.  There are several  kayaking trips available, depending on how long of a journey you want to take.  We opted for the approximate 2.5 hour (5-6 miles) kayaking trip.  The staff fit us with life jackets and we rented a dry pack as well for our cell phones, car keys, etc. which was a very wise choice indeed we would soon find out.

We were then transported to our launching place on Lake Taneycomo.  We originally wanted to rent two tandem kayaks, but there was only one tandem kayak available, so Mr. CF and Dear Son were fit into single kayaks, and Dear Daughter #2 and I shared a tandem kayak.  One of the niceties that White River Kayaking affords their customers is they take a picture of you in your kayaks before you head off.  They then post the photos daily on their Facebook page and you are welcome to save your picture from their page.  Nice touch.

240Before we set off, the staff also gave us a quick kayaking tutorial being as I was a total newbie and the other three members of my family had only been kayaking once when we went to Mexico a  few years ago and they almost ended up in Cuba.

As we set off on The Caffeinated Ginger Family’s Most Excellent Kayaking Adventure, it started showering lightly. When we had left our campsite earlier that day the temperature was in the high 90’s and the heat index was 105 degrees.  So when it started raining, it caused fog to rise off the water, which made for a very mysterious setting.

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Dear Daughter #2 was the Captain of our tandem kayak.

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It was so quiet and peaceful.  Very relaxing.

Until the deluge of rain, lightning and thunder hit.

The light, enjoyable shower that we experienced at our launch had now turned into a major thunderstorm.  Dear Daughter and I now did what every brave adventurer does–we screamed our heads off and starting paddling as fast as our little arms would go.

This is why (1) I have no more pictures of the kayaking trip, and (2) I was very grateful that we’d spent $1.50 to rent the dry pack otherwise my phone would have been a goner.

So for the majority of our trip, it was raining–not always heavy, but definitely raining.  The fog also got thicker. Fog in and of itself doesn’t bother me, but when there are high-speed boats using the same waterway as you, it makes a person a little nervous that if a boat was to come hauling through Lake Taneycomo, there was a good chance they wouldn’t see a little kayak until it was too late.

Also, it was cold.  Although the heat index had been 105 degrees when we left camp earlier, the temperature had dropped 30 degrees and it was now 75 degrees outside. Combine the cooler temperature with the rain and the very cold water of Lake Taneycomo, we were just a wee bit chilly.

Even with the rain, fog and chilly atmosphere, we did have a great time (after the threat of being killed by lightning passed).  The scenery was beautiful–trees, waterfalls, wildlife–we almost felt as if we had stepped back in time a century or two.  In some areas of the kayak trip we passed residences that backed up to the lake and I couldn’t help but be jealous that they got to experience the lake view everyday.  If you are one of those people, I have one thing to say to you–Don’t take it for granted!

We also provided afternoon entertainment for some people who were sitting on their docks.  One gentleman sarcastically-but-in-a-kind-way called out to us, “You picked a great day to go kayaking!” Yeah, yeah, yeah, mister.  If I could figure out how to row myself over to you, I’d hit you over the head with my paddle.

With Dear Daughter’s and my supreme rowing abilities, we made it to the end of our kayaking journey way before Mr. CF and Dear Son completed their journey. We pried our drenched selves out of our kayak and collapsed on the ramp to try to dry out.

We did have these visitors come and keep us company as we tried to get our body temperatures to rise to normal levels.

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Days later–okay, maybe it was only several minutes, our menfolk finally arrived and we called White River Kayaking to come pick us up and take us back to their shop where I bought this awesome t-shirt as a memento of our death-defying feats of the day.

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We all agreed that kayaking is definitely something that we want to do again–maybe even enough to research buying our own kayaks to use closer to home–but perhaps not during a severe thunderstorm.

After eating a meal of nachos back at camp, we headed back into town for another round of Andy’s Frozen Custard because, well, it’s our vacation and we’ll eat what we want to.

I awoke earlier than the kids the next morning, so I went on a walk around the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers campground where we stayed at Indian Point.  We’ve always had great luck with Corps of Engineers parks–very clean and laid out well.  Indian Point is a gorgeous area right on the lake and just down the road from Silver Dollar City. There are several campgrounds as well as cabins, resorts, and motor inns on Indian Point.

This time we stayed near the marina and down the road from the swimming beach.

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This day was declared Shopping Day.  Branson offers lots of shopping opportunities.  I happen to be a fan of Tanger Outlet Mall.  It is right off the Branson Strip and offers lots of outlet stores such as Nike, Old Navy, Clark’s, Under Armour, and Gap.  On that day my mission was to find a pair of black dress shoes and some brown sandals. I didn’t find any (too bad, so sad), but I did buy a pair of cargo shorts at the Eddie Bauer outlet store in a size that I never thought I’d see again (go me!).

In the evening, Dear Daughter was going to see her favorite entertainers, The Haygoods. We first saw The Haygoods a few years ago when our oldest daughter performed with her high school’s show choir as the opening act for The Haygoods.  Dear Daughter #2 was immediately captivated by them.  Seriously. Every time we come to Branson, she has to go see them, and so the rest of the family draws straws to see who goes with her.  Dear Son was the winner this year, which left Mr. CF and I to our own devices. What to do, what to do….

We found a really cool hiking trail in the middle of Branson.  The Lakeside Forest Wilderness Area can be accessed right off the Strip.

Since this hiking business was done spur of the moment, I was wearing flip flops (not really the preferred shoe of hiking), but we decided to go for it anyway.

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The beginning of the trail started off innocently enough (even though it kind of reminded me of the set of The Walking Dead).

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However, then you get to the 317 steps.  Back in the late 1930’s, a family built a series of steps hewn from rock that led from the top of the mountain down to the river.

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  This is where I tripped in my flip flops and almost met my untimely death.

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Just in case you have miscounted the number of steps you’ve taken so far.

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Cave–And no, I didn’t venture in to see what living creatures might inhabit it.

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When it rains, this becomes a waterfall.

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Going down wasn’t bad, but going up?  My thighs were screaming, “Why me??  Why now??”

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View from the top.  Pretty, yes?

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You would never know you were in the midst of civilization.

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It was a beautiful hike and I highly recommend it to you.  However, I do not recommend wearing flip flops as they drastically reduce your chances of finishing your hike unscathed.

After our escapade through the wilderness, we were famished and thirsty, so we headed to a Mexican restaurant on the strip for food, drinks and people-watching.  We then picked up the offspring after The Haygoods show was finished.  Our plan was partake in Andy’s Frozen Custard one more time, but the line was HUGE and parking looked atrocious, so we bowed out this time even though it brought tears of sadness and regret to my eyes.

The next morning we packed up our mobile homestead to head back to real life.  My Chevy once again proved it was the Little Truck That Could and safely transported us back home.

I know that a lot people envision hillbillies and country western music when the name Branson is mentioned.  But as you can tell, there is a wide variety of activities and entertainment to keep most everyone busy and amused.  Thanks, Branson and Table Rock, for another family vacation filled with fun memories.

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