Family fun is in full bloom
Sunsets over Lake of the Ozarks are nothing short of spectacular. One night the orange sun might be ablaze against a clear sky; the next night it might hint at its presence with shades of magenta and lavender streaking the sky, muted by cozy, billowing clouds. We chose this location for its beauty as much as the available fun.
About 30 minutes into our 3-hour drive to Lake of the Ozarks, I realized I left my cell phone at home. I lightly pounded my fist against my knee in frustration, then reminded myself that my phone isn’t a vital organ, and refocused on the purpose of our spring getaway.
We made it to our cabin at Lake Breeze Resort on the edge of the Niangua Arm just in time to see the sun drop behind the horizon. This part of the lake is serene, away from the lovely, but touristy condos and the houseboat partiers that pepper other parts of the lake. Randy and I had been a part of the Spring Break scene back in college, and had an unforgettable time along with our crazy, close-knit group of friends. Though still out for the fun and adventure, our agenda for this trip was more about quality family time. That’s one of my favorite things about Lake of the Ozarks: a different experience every time you visit.
With daily highs in the low 70s, the forecast suited our planned activities perfectly. Our itinerary started with a series of short hikes in nearby Ha Ha Tonka State Park.
A Concerto of Colors
Colosseum Trail, a 40-minute figure-eight loop that goes both over and under a natural stone bridge, was our first destination. From the moment we reached the trailhead, we were in awe. The diverse mix of trees preened in the gentle breeze, some of which showed off their new spring flowers. The leafless shoots of redbud trees were exploding with pinkish-red blossoms in the early-morning sun. Delicate white flowers were beginning to emerge on a group of dogwood trees.
As we navigated the trail, our children—ages 7, 10 and 14—bantered with each other. Randy walked quietly behind them. It didn’t take long for us to reach the 70-foot wide stone bridge that spans 60 feet in length. We had to pause to inspect the natural wonder. After a moment, Randy put his arm around me and nodded toward the kids. Blake, our oldest, allowed his youngest sister, Brinlie, to show him a fern growing from the base of the bridge.
Randy whispered in my ear, “Score!” I winked at him in acknowledgement of this parental victory. Watching your kids at peace is a beautiful thing.
The other hikes we took that day were equally amazing. One of the hikes was a 20 minute out-and-back path displaying green undergrowth blanketed with an unbelievable number of wildflowers. Another boasted more than three hundred stairs that fit so naturally in the landscape they could have grown into it. Our children somehow picked up on the sanctity of nature and acted as caretakers. Whenever Blake spotted toppled rocks that were meant to mark the path, he stacked them back up to form cairns. For a kid who never seemed to be able to keep his books on the bookshelf or his video games stacked neatly beside his console, this was remarkable.
We spotted a few rabbits and a variety of songbirds. By far, the wildlife highlight was seeing a graceful doe and her scrawny-cute fawn bounding across our trail. The fawn bumped into its mother when she paused a second before changing directions. All five of us stopped in our tracks, our gazes following their path. After a moment of reverie, we exchanged glances and laughed—not in humor, but in admiration.
“That was soooo cool!” our 10-year-old, Leslie, exclaimed as we continued on our journey. No arguments there.
We were on the lake every day for the rest of our trip. Some days characterized by swimming and lounging on the beach, others were more exhilarating. One day we rented two Jet Skis and sped around the water exploring Lake of the Ozarks’ countless coves, twists and turns. The trees, the water, the sky—this spot was nothing short of amazing.
“Do a doughnut!” Brinlie shouted from the Jet Ski passenger seat between me and Leslie.
I took a sharp left whipping the watercraft into a tight spin. I felt like this was an educational moment about centrifugal force for the kids (I’m sure they picked up on the physics lesson).
“Now zigzag!” Leslie called.
The nose dipped as I maneuvered out of the circle to a slalom pattern.
I turned back to watch when I saw Randy drive his Jet Ski around with Blake to ride over our zigzag wake. Randy timed the ramp just right popping the nose of the Jet Ski as the wake moved out from under them—they were airborne!
When they completed the move, Randy “skidded” to a stop and Blake threw his arms up in victory, while Leslie and Brinlie enthusiastically cheered. You can bet Randy and I were beaming too.
A Fresh Perspective
I realized how much our family benefited from this quality time together, free from distractions, busyness and cell phone notifications. As we wandered through the Osage Beach Farmer’s Market perusing the wares of friendly, local vendors and noshing on some freshly baked cookies, I realized I didn’t miss my phone at all. Randy and I talked about carving out “lake time” every evening at home. It would be a protected 20 minute no cell phone zone. Our spring vacation at Lake of the Ozarks will always be an important cairn on our family’s path.
Direct your family’s path toward happiness at Lake of the Ozarks!