“Hailey, Ben proposed!” Meg screeched through the phone. After several minutes of excited chatting, she dropped the bomb: the wedding would be at Table Rock Lake, where she and her family vacationed each summer and where she had met Ben. The stories she’d told me about her time on the lake made me really excited about seeing it for myself.
As Meg and Ben stood in Chapel of the Ozarks at Top of the Rock, framed against the backdrop of the beautiful lake, I fought back tears. Their vows talked about how Meg and Ben had met on Table Rock Lake and how they couldn’t imagine getting married anywhere else. My boyfriend, Michael, squeezed my hand as I lost my battle against crying and dabbed my streaming eyes with a tissue.
After the wedding, we went back to our hotel and plotted our next moves. After experiencing the natural beauty of Table Rock Lake firsthand, there was no way we could leave without visiting all the places Ben and Meg had raved about. Wanting to see as much of the area as possible, we decided to stay somewhere centrally-located, the Port of Kimberling Marina & Resort. We booked a room for two more days and grabbed a few brochures and a vacation guide so we could start planning.
Our first item on the agenda? Silver Dollar City. We hadn’t been to an amusement park in years, but I still felt like a little kid the moment we hit our first roller coaster. We started with the Outlaw Run. A true old west experience, a rogue outlaw and his gang waiting to ambush our cart, we teetered at the top of the first hump and then hurtled downward. I put my hands up and screamed in delight as Michael laughed with me.
Next, he dragged me to the Time Traveler which has the exhilarating distinction of being the World’s Fastest, Steepest and Tallest Spinning Coaster. We watched, open-mouthed from the line as the rollercoaster set off, the carts moving not only forward, but spinning as they hurtled onward. I wasn’t sure if my stomach would survive, but when it was our turn I climbed into our cart and we were off. With wind-blown hair and silly grins on our faces, we ran from ride to ride seeking the next burst of adrenaline, swings and drops. We decided to end our visit on a sweet note, by splitting a massive funnel cake covered in powder sugar.
After the park, we hurried back to the hotel for a quick change of clothes and were off again. During the wedding reception, we’d chatted up a few locals at our table about the top things to do at Table Rock Lake. A couple, Sam and Marie, had offered to take us out on their boat. Michael helped slather sunscreen on my shoulders, and I returned the favor. Giddy with anticipation, we walked down to the dock at Port of Kimberling Marina. Marie and Sam greeted us like old friends and helped us into the boat.
Although it was a warm June afternoon, the breeze off the marina whipped through our hair and kept us cool. I leaned back in my seat, contented. After our adrenaline filled morning, a scenic boat ride was just what I needed.
As we went speeding along, Sam and Marie pointed out highlights of the lake to us.
“This is one of our favorite spots for fishing.” Marie said “We see a lot of different species out here, like the Largemouth bass, Bluegills and Flat Head catfish. We try to host a big fish fry at least twice a year.”
After an hour or two of exploring and chatting, Sam bought the boat to a stop. The sun was beginning to set, the rich pink and red sunset hues skipped across the water’s reflection. Around us, I saw that other boats and even the jet skiers had slowed to a stop to admire the beautiful view.
Michael put his arm around me and kissed my forehead. Sam chuckled.
“Maybe we’ll be seeing you all back in Table Rock for your own wedding one of these days?”
I laughed. “Maybe! It’s certainly tempting.”
With only one day left, the next morning Michael and I headed to Dogwood Canyon, as we’d heard it was one of the best things to do outdoors at Table Rock Lake. We’d booked a Wildlife Tram Tour so we could see the park up close. During the 2-hour tour, the guide took us across the canyon to see breathtaking waterfalls and bluffs and animals like bison, elk, whitetail deer and Texas longhorn. While I took endless photos of the natural beauty surrounding us, Michael was all about the wildlife. At this point our Instagram feeds would be full for months.
When the tour dropped us back off at our starting point, we decided to get a bit more up-close and personal with a horseback ride. Michael had never been on a horse before and I snorted as he ungracefully bounded into the saddle. He gave me a look of mock disdain, but it was his turn to laugh when my horse jerked his head around and I dropped the reins.
After we had situated ourselves on the horses, our guide led us out into the canyon. We wound through ridges and old trails that the horses seemed to follow by instinct. Their slow, steady pace was calming and this time, we got to experience Dogwood Canyon a little more intimately. The guide told us how the park promotes environmental conservation and prides itself on offering an unspoiled view of the wilderness.
We finished out the day by stopping at Vino Cellars for happy hour. I’ll drink almost anything in a bottle, but Michael has a more discerning tongue and he looked forward to trying a glass of Burgundy which he’d heard great things about. As we got our glasses of wine and swirled them, watching the legs slowly fall, our waiter mentioned Two-fer Tuesday. Michael raised a brow as the waiter told him that each Tuesday Vino Cellars offered BOGO wine. He turned a crooked smile on me, as if asking if we could stay a few more days to come back for Two-fer Tuesday.
When at last we headed back to our hotel room, we were exhausted, but happy that we’d extended our vacation. We packed our bags, preparing to head out in the morning and Michael casually suggested that we should come back again next summer, just like Meg’s family always had. I had just been about to suggest the same idea, so I eagerly agreed. It could be our own family tradition.