The Ozarks (from the French ‘aux Arcs’ short for ‘out of Arkansas’) is a hilly plateau that stretches through southern Missouri and into Arkansas. It is known for its rolling forested hills, rocky plateaus, caves and ‘hillbilly’ culture (as depicted in the show The Beverly-Hillbillies, who were supposed to have come from the Ozarks). I am staying in a campground on the Lake of the Ozarks, which is a fingery lake surrounded by hills. Fall is nearly at a close, and the leaves are shades of golden brown. Most of them are oaks. It rained for several days, cold, with large drops hitting the trailer roof over and over, making me nearly insane. After the rain, however, I was able to explore a bit.

Unlike northern Missouri, which is very midwestern (I say this with a hint of distain, even though I am from the midwest), the hills of the Ozarks are a bit more romantic, not only because of the culture and lore (tales around the fire, square dancing, that kind of thing), but also because of the geology. Hiking around the lake I could explore not only rolling hills and sparse forest, but also beautiful rocky cliffs with spots where wind had worn them away and holes where I am sure animals lived. I can almost imagine all the pioneers and travelers that came before me, picking their way along the paths over the gravelly chert, searching for shiny flint to strike with steel in order to light their tinder. I even found a picturesque little nook in the cliff, where I imagine many travelers have spent the night under the overhanging rock. Again, I think of the Hobbit’s adventure, and the rocky pass through the mountains, even though the Ozarks are hardly mountains.

I’ve seen probably a dozen whitetail deer here, although I woke up this morning to the sound of LOTS of gunfire, so I doubt they are sticking around. I am also headed out, still in search of pie (which has been more of a challenge than I thought) and maybe a few caves (if I can bring myself to pay the fee). More rain the in forecast later this week, so hopefully I am west of here by then!