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Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Dogwood Canyon, home of natural wonders plus an elk and bison preserve

Ready for a mug shot!
Dogwood Canyon near Branson, MO, surpassed my expectations. If I can combine enjoying nature's beauty with photographing wildlife, I am in seventh heaven. Dogwood Canyon gave me ample opportunity for both.

Wilderness Chapel
Visitors can see Dogwood Canyon by tram, horseback, bicycle or hiking. The tram tour is the only one that also allows people to visit the wildlife preserve. An adventure pass includes fishing. The streams are stocked with rainbow trout.

Trams run throughout the day (you can check schedules at through this 10,000-acre park. The road through the canyon runs alongside Ozark spring-fed streams stocked with rainbow trout. Waterfalls abound with plenty of great photo ops.

This family-friendly nature park was the brainchild of Johnny Morris, the owner of Bass Pro Shops. His commitment to conservation found a home in this Ozark wilderness that stretches from Missouri into Arkansas. "It's so well-laid out," my husband commented. "There's plenty of room for all kinds of activities."

The two-hour tram tour winds past a wilderness chapel, rugged bluffs, caves, and the musical sounds of waterfalls. You'll see folks fishing and hiking as the tram guide drives a road that is smooth in some places and naturally rough in others. You may even get splashed from waterfalls along the road. You'll certainly want to stick your hand in the crystal clear water.

I boarded the tram with my telephoto lens on my camera. Tony, our guide, urged me to replace it with my wide-angle lens. "We'll probably get too close to the elk to shoot with a telephoto," he advised. He was right. The highlight of the tour included an elk giving me an up close and personal mug shot opportunity, a bull elk bugling and a couple of bison calves. Wow, I fell in love with the park!

The park caters to fishing, offering fly-fishing school, a casting clinic and plenty of places to try your luck.

And for the dog lovers among us, you can take your furry friend hiking with you.

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Tropical beauty in Branson, MO

Beauty, color, delicacy, flight and incredible strength - the gorgeous butterflies that populate The Butterfly Palace's rainforest. Imported from the tropics at the rate of more than 500 per week (in Chrysalis stage), the beautiful creatures have a lifespan of just a few weeks. A few species like the migrating monarchs may live up to seven or eight months.

We all know the beautiful colors that enchant us and we love to watch them flit and flutter. However, the strength required for these delicate creatures to migrate thousands of miles is simply amazing.
If you visit the aviary, try to make it for the 10:00am or 1:30pm releases when the butterflies are most active. We visited late in the afternoon and although we watched hundreds of butterflies fluttering about, the guide told us that it was the sluggish time of day.
Many of the butterflies were much larger than we normally see in this country. Although I tried to capture some beautiful blue species, I never got a good shot with their wings open wide.

Butterfly farms in the rainforests depend on facilities like the Butterfly Palace, which spends approximately $80,000 a year. This helps both the rainforest economy and preservation.
The Butterfly Palace provides a complete entertainment facility, with regular video presentations and a science center filled with tropical critters. Kids love the Emerald Mirror Maze and the Banyan Tree Adventure and adults love the gift shop. For more information, visit

Saturday, September 5, 2015

Artistry from Spare Parts

Like most folks, I appreciate artistic talent. Whether it's my friends in the Laguna Madre Art League, photographers or someone like Matt Faupel who works with wood, I admire their concept of beauty.

We've been friends with Paul and Evelyn Harless for a number of years.
They have served as officers in the Arkansas MVPA (Military Vehicle Preservation Association). I've admired Paul's ability to restore old Army vehicles and Evelyn's photography. She also wrote a book, Pip Squeek, The Half-Size Jeep, about one of the vehicles he restored.

However, this summer I discovered Paul possesses another talent. Evelyn had told me he can fix anything and loves creating things. A couple of years ago, his good friend, Sedric Wirt, passed away and his wife Phyllis gave Paul some of Sedric's spare watch parts - Sedric owned and operated a jewelry store in Arkansas.

Paul made these vehicles from the spare parts. I find not only the detail of each item fascinating, but also the creativity to look at a box full of parts, imagine and then create these beautiful pieces.

Way to go, Paul!

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Missouri Outdoor Communicators conference in Branson

Why am I excited? Cast, knee scooter and all, I plan to attend the Missouri Outdoor Communicators (MOC) conference in Branson September 11-13. (
Lake Taneycomo below Table Rock Dam

Through my outdoor writing, I've met a fabulous group of people - writers, photographers, editors, radio and TV personalities, and lovers of all things outdoors. Some fish, some hunt, some (like me) take photos - some even do all three. Whatever their interest, I've found them to be friendly, conservation-minded, curious and intelligent.

I'm excited to return to Branson because there are always new sights and attractions - plus the beautiful Ozark scenery that never loses its appeal. The photo of Lake Taneycomo is just one example of the beautiful waters to be found in and around Branson.

I hope to visit Dogwood Canyon, the Butterfly Palace and Top of the Rock. As part of the conference, we will have lunch on the Showboat Branson Belle and a couple of events at the Chateau on the Lake. Our host site is the beautiful Village at Indian Point on Indian Point Road.

Any one of those is enough to generate excitement. Travel and outdoor writers are an extremely fortunate group of people and I'm proud to be part of the group.