The Joplin Globe, Joplin, MO

Best of Branson

June 1, 2012

Dave Woods: Outdoor attractions provide fun away from theaters

Kayaking and ATV adventure offer alternative to music, comedy shows

BRANSON Mo. — It was a weekend of firsts for me. I headed to Branson last Friday for a Memorial Day excursion out in the Ozarks and checked in on a few outdoor attractions.

I usually spend my Branson weekends camped in a theater seat, checking out traditional music and comedy shows. I love them, but sometimes I want a change of pace, a little diversion and the opportunity for a quick sunburn.

I avoided the Strip on this trip. I scheduled an all-terrain vehicle tour of a Taney County ranch north of Branson and an afternoon kayaking on Table Rock Lake.

At Triple-G ATV Rides, around 10 miles north of Branson on Highway 176 in Walnut Shade, owner Doug Gaar took me on a guided tour of his family’s 400-acre, cow-calf, horse and hay operation.

Down on Table Rock, I set up a floating lake adventure with Kayak Branson. Both sounded fun.

ATV adventure

I had never dipped more than a toe into Table Rock or Taneycomo and had never been on a four-wheeler. I did have a Big Wheel as a kid. At Triple-G, Doug operates Polaris, Yamaha and Kawasaki quads. (That’s ATV talk for four-wheeler).

“It’s just plain fun driving ATVs,” Doug said following our outing. “People that are attracted to the zip lines or kayaking or bicycling trails really enjoy this. We customize the rides to whatever experience level our riders are. We take beginners who have never been on ATVs and we have rides for experienced people.”

Color me inexperienced. The trail rides lasted two hours, including an ATV safety session.  

Doug said that Triple-G’s seven-mile course offers something for every rider. On my trek I spotted deer, vultures, hawks, turkeys and big box turtles.

“Everyone tells us that they love the trail,” he said. “It’s the beauty of the terrain and the nature. We see wild life fairly often and that’s refreshing.”

Doug said he and his family have taken great care to preserve the landscape. The trail follows cow runs, Bull Creek and the old Harrison, Ark., to Springfield stagecoach line. The trail crawls up and down steep and rocky terrain, crosses wet and dry creek beds, fields of tall hay and Ozarks forest.

“It is definitely natural,” Doug said. “We didn’t take down any large trees. We just cut the trail through the natural terrain. You get a feel for what the Ozarks was like a hundred years ago.”

I don’t think my ATV driving skills embarrassed my family or the Globe. It was an adventure I’ll repeat, and best of all, no bones broken.

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