Exploring your Ozark options through our opinions may be fun, but eventually, you might begin to wonder who the voices behind these articles really are. It’s always a good idea to check that your information is coming from a credible source, and not someone thousands of miles away writing articles based on Google research! Well, we love to share our story and would be happy to introduce ourselves.
Who Are We?
I’ll start with myself. My name is Melinda, and I will be the author behind most of the articles and blog posts you read. I am a born and raised farm girl from northern Missouri who has always enjoyed an early morning gallop on my horse followed by afternoons exploring the creek beds.
I graduated from college with a Bachelor’s in Biology and piddled around with a few different jobs in a few different places, trying to figure out what I really wanted to do. I had magnificent dreams of moving somewhere to the far north and becoming an author, reclused in a tiny, snowy cabin…however, not even this lifelong dream could drown out the call of the Ozark Mountains.
My family had vacationed to this area all throughout my childhood. We always went to Branson, Missouri at least twice a year and, in my heart, it was always my home away from home. So, in an almost overnight decision, I made a U-turn on all my plans and preparations and started applying for jobs to anywhere in the Ozark region that was hiring. Within a few months, I suddenly had a job, an apartment, and a new life in the Branson area.
Maybe it was God. Or Fate. Or that lucky cat meme I posted once on Facebook years ago, but someone or something convinced me that this was the path to take. And I have never regretted my decision.
Now, let’s introduce my other half. David will be the photographer of all the beautiful pictures you will see on this site. Every picture we use has been taken and edited by him. David is a native of Arkansas and grew up in the heart of the rolling Ozarks. He spent his free time exploring the thick forests and hills, searching for natural oddities and any kind of rock formation that was climbable.
He has always described himself as the low-profile type. Quiet and withdrawn
around most people, he says he always felt like he lived most of his life in his imagination. When he was 18, the notion set in that he didn’t have to be trapped in one place his whole life and he wanted to turn those dreams into reality. Struggling to find that foothold in the world, he moved to Branson, following job leads with a determination to establish a new life for himself.
In the year 2019, our paths finally crossed. I was the restless soul from the north, seeking adventure and he was the wild heart from the south, trying to find his way. We met in the middle, at the theme park where we were both employed. At the time, we worked at completely opposite ends of the park, but our stories were always meant to collide and so, that summer we ended up in the same department.
We were coworkers, then friends, then best friends. Finally, over a year later, we started dating and we have never doubted our bond to each other.
What really helped our relationship bloom and grow to what it has become, was all the time we had to spend on our shared passion…exploring!
While the Covid-19 pandemic brought the world screeching to a halt, it gave David and I loads of time to kill. I had a long list of places I wanted to revisit or explore anew and David, as a native to the area, was the perfect guide!
Throughout a six-month period, we traversed every trail, cave, and state park that was still open. We searched for the little things you can’t find on the map: small, charming towns, hidden waterfalls, magnificent overlooks…but we also went to some well-known destinations too. As the year went on, more businesses and small parks started to open again, so we were able to check them off the list as a “have visited” as well!
By the time our lay-off period ended, we had explored a decent chunk of the Ozark region, including places we both knew and loved, as well as discovering little gems we’ve never heard about before! Once we returned to our full-time jobs, time to explore was a little harder to come by, but we didn’t let that stop us. We still tried to be out on the road or the trail every weekend and we were adding places to visit to our list almost as fast as we were checking them off!
So, what were we to do with all that information, experience, and overall knowledge that we have gained, and continue to gain? Well, the obvious answer is to share it with our fellow adventure-lovers! And so, Into the Ozarks was born!
What Are We Like?
On any given day off, if David and I aren’t on an extended road trip, or hiking a trail, or exploring a cave, or visiting a museum…you get the idea…then we’re probably frequenting a local coffee shop (we love trying out different places). We might be eating out with friends or strolling through malls and shopping centers. More likely than not, we’re
sipping coffee on the front porch and watching songbirds visit one of our dozen feeders. (Birdwatching is a new hobby for David, one I happily introduced to him and that he’s loved ever since!)
In my personal time, I am probably lost in a fictional world, either one I created or someone else’s. In short, I love to read and write. My dream to be an author has never left me and I am still working hard to get published one day. When I have the opportunity, I will be out on my horse, breathing in a crisp fall day or deep in the woods during hunting season, breathing in the silence of a frosty morning.
As for David, he can generally be found out and about, mastering his photography skill. He specializes in flowers, rocks, and panoramic views. Sometimes, his artist itch will kick in and he will draw building blueprints or landscapes so realistic, you’d swear they were photographs. He might be in the kitchen, coming up with a new fantastic recipe (his cooking is freakin’ amazing!) Or, if he’s in the mood to relax, he’ll just put in some earbuds and have a jam session of anything from acoustic guitar to German death metal.
Wandering Writer Segment
As a writer, I am drawn towards tidbits of fun literature and pretty words, and it is my tendency to add little segments to articles and blog posts if one strikes my fancy. As this is my first post, I think it’s a good place to try out the first segment, as it may help you get a better picture of us!
This segment is about what I like to call “aesthetic vibes”, which are the use of images and senses to get a feel for a person, without adjectives or the traditional personality descriptors. In fact, I think it’s easier to get to know someone based on their aesthetic vibe rather than someone explaining what they’re like. Just for fun, I added what I believe matches us!
Melinda: warm coffee on rainy mornings, well-worn books, bay windows, fields of wildflowers, bittersweet smiles, star-lit skies, bubbling springs, a cracked compass, empty canoes on foggy lakes, unfinished poems
David: frosty mornings, crows on bare branches, broken guitar strings, dusty maps, cups of tea gone cold, cloudy sunrises, the smell of pine needles, crinkled flower petals, crumbling castle ruins on snowy peaks, crackling flames
The Goal – To Help Folks!
Everyone has a sense of adventure. It runs in our blood, even if it’s buried deep. There will always be a primal call to return to the wild places our ancestors once roamed…
Even if that just means you’re looking for a nice museum or some natural waterfalls!
Having spent the last two years working in the Branson area, I have encountered a LOT of tourists looking for recommendations of cool things to do while they’re in town. I LOVE these questions, as it gives me an excuse to talk about all the places we’ve gone and things we’ve done. It sounds like I’ve done hours and hours of research for these folks, when in actuality, all that “research” was in the name of fun!
When you’re on a time frame and a budget, planning the perfect vacation (even a day trip) can be difficult. Rather you’ve been there before, or this is a first-time visit, it can be useful having a knowledgeable guide to help you with the decision-making.
That’s what we hope to achieve with Into the Ozarks. Our goal is to take the experiences we’ve gathered on our expeditions and present it you in a no-hassle, easy-to-read way that allows you to get a feel for the area and get some ideas on what would best fit the interests of you and your family.
How much time can you expect to spend at this park? Is this a good museum for kids? Is this tourist hotspot worth the money? We hope to be able to answer all these questions and more!
The Dream – To Really Live
In the time we spent exploring the Ozark region, one thing became very clear to us. This was what we wanted to do with our lives. This was the new dream I’d been looking for. For David, it was the chance to pursue the world he’d built in his head and see it in reality. Not just a writer and photographer couple…but a writer and photographer couple forever on the road! That sense of adventure had woken inside of us, a flame that has grown every day.
This website content is focused only on the Ozark Mountain region, as that is where a majority of our travel occurs and is the homeland we are most familiar with. However, our desire to explore has been pushing those limits and we have started making some excursions across the country! If you’re interested in keeping up with our road trip adventures, check out our Adventure Blog! You can follow our explorations on Instagram as well! (@_flannellwanderer)
We have big dreams to live up to, and you probably do to! So, as we all make our way forward, keep your feet on the ground and eyes on the stars! Stay steady on the highway, or veer off and forge your own trail! Either way, keep the wandering spirit alive and well. If you ever have any questions or want to leave some recommendations of your own, feel free to leave them below! And just remember…
We only have one life to live. So, get out there and live it!
All the best,
Melinda & David
Into the Ozarks (www.one-life-to-live.com)