"Spring"ing Back to Branson - Regular Updates every 2-3 Days! - COMPLETE 10/15 - Page 3 - PassPorter Community - Boards & Forums on Walt Disney World, Disneyland, Disney Cruise Line, and General Travel
"Spring"ing Back to Branson - Regular Updates every 2-3 Days! - COMPLETE 10/15
About This Page: This is a discussion on "Spring"ing Back to Branson - Regular Updates every 2-3 Days! - COMPLETE 10/15 within the Globetrotting: General Trip Reports, part of the PassPorter Community - Boards & Forums on Walt Disney World, Disneyland, Disney Cruise Line, and General Travel; Day 3, Part 2 - another lazy evening at Big Cedar
This evening at the resort was very laid back. ...
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This evening at the resort was very laid back. We didn't cook tonight as we had two nights' worth of leftovers. I don't' remember who ate what, but there was vegetable soup and spaghetti to choose from. After supper Jay took Joshua to return the movies he had rented last night, and while there they decided to play mini-golf:
It was a 9-hole course, par 27. Jay scored 26, and Joshua scored 41. Afterwards, Jay let Joshua play on that playground for a while - it's a different playground than the one from yesterday.
Well, this has been a very short installment! So I will take the time to mention here that at least twice, and maybe even three different evenings we walked quite a bit around the resort. We even made our own path at one point! I guess they're going to build another lodge building, or some other type of amenity for the resort, because one end of the walking trail was blocked off. But since it was dark when we went through, we didn't see the sign that was posted. So we kept walking down the gravel portion of the trail, and just made our own path through the woods up to the back side of the clubhouse and lazy river area.
Additionally, one night I went in the clubhouse to get online. They had a couple of computers that were free to use, but with a 20-minute time limit. I really wanted to get on the message boards and try to keep up with the posts so it wouldn't be so much to read after we got back home. So I started reading, and it went fine for a few minutes, but then all of a sudden the pages started getting slower and slower to load. Jay suggested maybe they had some type of blocking software that was causing it, but I didn't think so. If so, why were the pages loading so quickly at the beginning? Anyway, I used my 20 minutes, then let somebody else take a turn. I had really wanted to get back online for another turn, but not if it was going to take so long to read the posts, so I called it quits and just waited until I got home to check out the rest of the message boards.
Another tricky part of our after-dark walks was trying to figure out the route that took us to the other end of our building, instead of going up by the access road like we did the first time. It was easy enough to figure out the first part: go straight upon leaving the clubhouse. But that service road ends between two buildings, and you have to walk carefully through the grass and between the lodges, coming out on the lower level of one. Next you climb the stairs to the second (entry) level, cross the parking lot, then up the service road to the level our building was on. I thought at first glance that you could take the first turn and come in on the first level of our building, but Jay pointed out that it was a dead-end at a maintenance area. So instead we had to climb the steep hill to the second level of the building, cut through a landscaped area and finally (!) we were back at our room. Quite an adventure, not to mention a workout, too!
We did our own thing for breakfast this morning, then got ready to head up to Springfield. We had wanted to go for the past several trips, but those trips were so short we didn't want to take the time. Well now we had a longer trip, so it was finally time to go North and check it out. Although we didn't take any pictures along the way, it was a very picturesque stretch of highway (65), and no traffic lights to slow you down, either.
Our first stop of the day was the Wonders of Wildlife Museum. Wonders Of Wildlife - Home They are right next door to the main Bass Pro Shops, and I believe owned by the same people. I was following the map on the back of their brochure, which of course did not show all the streets. I was a little worried about missing the turn, but I needn't have been as it was very obvious that this was the turn when this was the first thing looking you in the eye:
This thing was huge!
After taking pictures with the large deer we walked around to the other side of the building to where the entrance was, and saw this duck swimming in the small pool:
Joshua was ready to take some pictures:
You bought your admission on the first floor, then proceeded up the stairs or elevator to the second floor to begin your tour. Here's the logo for the museum:
Joshua took a picture of the banner:
And of the fish icon:
There were also a deer and a duck, each hanging on a different side of the building. At the top of the stairs I stopped off in the restroom before beginning the tour, and came out to find several photo ops set up. Because there was another family there at the same time, we only got one shot:
We pulled open the door to begin the tour, and I turned around to Jay with a big smile on my face - I loved this place! You enter a long room on the second level, on a boardwalk. You can look over each side and see large and small birds roaming free below. There are lots of exhibits scattered throughout. This picture will give you a good idea, since it shows Jerry, Joshua and me each interested in something different:
About halfway through you have the option of going through an enclosed rope bridge. I was surprised, but Joshua wasn't apprehensive about it at all:
An owl in his/her enclosure:
At the opposite end of the room was a waterfall that ended in a good-sized pool. Here's a couple of pictures of the turtles and fish that lived there:
The tour continued in the first of two large exhibit rooms. This one contained scenes featuring hoofed animals.
Me playing tour guide to Joshua, reading signs:
A close-up shot of a deer's antlers.
There was also an antelope, elk and buffalo. In between all the "live" "stuffed" animals were several exhibits to help you learn more about the animals and their habitat. I don't remember where this exhibit fell in the scheme of things, but here's an exhibit with a timer, where you could see how long you could hold your breath:
I don't remember how long we held our breath for (it wasn't long!) but Joshua thought it was pretty funny.
The second exhibit room on the upper floor was about bears. Even though they had just about as many exhibits as the other room had, we only got this one shot on the digital camera:
They showed lots of information about bears, including the radio collars that some are tagged with for research. There was also a safety exhibit, which included an ice chest that had been attacked by a bear looking for food. In other words, keep your food locked up where bears can't get it!
At this point you took an escalator back downstairs and continued your tour on the lower level, heading back toward the entrance as you went along. This room was devoted to waterlife. They had a couple of boats on display, and this huge fish you could walk through:
Joshua didn't like it for some reason. Next were several aquarium tanks where we found several familiar faces:
Continuing in the waterlife exhibit room, we also saw:
Joshua found an exhibit here that he really liked, not sure why Jay didn't get a picture of him playing with it! It was like an elevated trench full of water, with twists and turns in it as it descended a gradual slope. You could walk all around the twists and turns of the stream. There were fish made out of something like craft foam that you could put in the stream at the top and watch them float down. Along the way were fish mounted on movable pieces, you could move them to try to catch/eat the other fish as they floated by. There were some other things along the way, like information boards or something, it's hard to remember without any pictures. At the end the water dumped into a couple of pools. It seems like the pools were supposed to have something in them, but you could see where things had been broken off. That was my only complaint about this place: Everything overall about the place and its setup was so nice, but they needed to refurbish some of the interactive exhibits - you could tell they had been used quite extensively!
Finally you arrive back where you started, but this time you are on the lower level of the entrance/exit room, and the boardwalk is above you. When we were up there, I had seen some really large turkeys running around down here, so I was hoping to get a good picture. Unfortunately, they were nowhere to be seen once we made it this far. So most of the lower level of this room was taken up with small pools full of turtles and ducks. The neatest part was the tree root system. It was about lifesize, with you being in the root system, and all around the "walls" were various animals in their burrows. Seems like there was a light-up button to press to learn about each animal. Joshua thought it was pretty neat. And at the very end by the exit door, this guy had his very own cage:
We left out and looked in their gift shop for a few minutes, but didn't buy anything. We were very hungry, so we decided to leave. Upon leaving the museum, we walked across the drive to the Bass Pro Shops. This is the original location of this chain of stores, and the largest. Well, I don't know about this exact location, but Springfield was home to the first BPS. The door we came in was the boat showroom. We glanced at the boats as we walked past, but kept going in search of lunch. The brochures we had showed a McDonald's inside, so we went up to that level to find it. It didn't take us long to figure out that it had obviously closed, with no intentions of reopening anytime soon, as all the signs had been taken down. The only thing there was a sign telling where the other food locations were in the store. We didn't want to eat at the snack bar, and we didn't want to drive around town trying to decide where else to eat, so we just went ahead and walked back to Hemingway's at the top of the stairs.
They call Hemingway's an adventure in dining. It was good, but I don't know about adventure. There was an aquarium behind the bar, but I wasn't seated where I could see it, so I'm not sure what was in there. The brochure says it is a saltwater aquarium, and I thought I heard somebody say they had sharks. Joshua ordered a grilled cheese kid's meal, and the rest of us ate the buffet. Even with the tip, it only cost the four of us $40 to eat here. The buffet is definitely a great deal! They had carved meats, vegetables, soups, salad bar, pasta, and a little bit of seafood. Overall it was very tasty. I glanced briefly at their menu when we were seated, but I can't remember what they offered if you didn't want the buffet.
After a very filling meal we went downstairs to do some shopping. Next to the stairs is their signature exhibit:
You can't really tell from this angle, but the guy is falling through the bridge, and a bear is chasing him.
But they also have tons of exhibits all throughout the store. On the lower level is a large aquarium where they have a fish feeding show, as well as a few smaller aquariums and a stream that winds its way through the camping section, complete with stepping stones for those who want to cross. In the main shopping area was a large animal display in a wilderness setting, and a bald eagle landing on its nest at the very top. Next to this was a display case containing live snakes. It was fun trying to count how many snakes were in there, you know how they like to curl up together. In the hunting room were several animal scenes on the tops of the display cabinets that lined the walls. There were the usual deer but seems like I also saw polar bears and even a lion. We don't have pictures of all these because Jay was wandering around window-shopping at the time.
We spent a lot of time in the gift section before we left. Jay had been talking about getting one of those digital weather stations, and they had several to pick from. I was looking at books and wind chimes. Neither of us ended up with that, however. I picked out a T-shirt - I made sure to get one that specifically said Springfield, Missouri, because I didn't want people here at home to think that I just drove 10 miles down the road to our local BPS to buy a shirt! And I picked out for Joshua the stuffed black teddy bear wearing a green BPS logo sweater. He approved, so Jay went to pay for our things.
I really should mention one thing here that we didn't do. On the second floor of the boat showroom is a wildlife museum. It sounded really nice, but since we had spent all morning at the Wonders of Wildlife Museum next door, we thought we had seen enough animals for one day. However, the WoW Museum does offer a combo ticket for both museums so you can get a discount. We exited through the boat showroom to get to the truck, and stopped for one last photo:
Joshua thought it was cool that this one was just his size.
It was sprinkling rain, but not too bad so we just walked quickly to the truck and loaded up to head to our next destination.
I had forgotten to mention, I think, that the pictures are all courtesy of Jay. Unless, of course, I specifically stated that Joshua took a pic. That didn't happen too many times this trip, though. He took a lot of pictures of his hand one day in the room ... ... I spared you all those shots!
Day 4, Part 2: These caverns really are fantastic!
We left Bass Pro Shops with very full tummies, and I pulled out the brochure for Fantastic Caverns to determine to best way to get there from here. Fantastic Caverns - Springfield, Missouri USA - America's Ride-Through Cave We would need to head to the north part of town, just on the other side of I-44. We found our way there very easily, and turned down the winding country road that led to the cavern entrance. Just a few miles further and we arrived. I thought the entrance building was very nice, especially since, as they point out, they are a family-owned and operated business. The bathrooms also had several nice designer-type touches, such as granite-looking countertops and updated fixtures. Jay purchased our tickets and we looked around at the exhibits in the lobby while we waited for our tour to get started. On one wall was a map of the caverns, also it showed the route of the tour.
This cavern tour is the only ride-through tour in the country, and one of only three in the world. They have taken Jeeps and outfitted them with a clean-burning engine so as not to pollute the caverns and asphyxiate the tourists , and they hook up one or two trams to the jeep, as crowd levels call for. Our group had only a few people, so we got just one tram.
I was a little worried as I heard our guide say he had only been there a few months, but he was great. It was obvious he had been very well trained and felt at ease conducting the tour. He was a retired man and obviously enjoyed his work.
We went out the back door to load into the tram, and the tour started after a few minutes. Our guide drove around toward the front of the building, but just before reaching the parking lot the road went straight into the hillside:
Periodically the guide would stop the tram and point out various formations in the cave, or give a little history of the caverns and its tours. Here are a couple of pictures of formations from the first part of the tour:
I thought it was an interesting part of the tour, when our guide told us that coming up next we would see some formations, which they knew exactly how old they were. Now if you've toured any cavern anywhere, they will always give you as estimate as to how much a formation will grow over time, so I was curious.
Somebody decided they wanted to drill for a water well. They knew the cave was below them, but they truly thought they would miss it. As you can see, they hit the cave before they hit water! And since they knew what year this happened, they can accurately state how old the formations covering and surrounding the pipe are. The well was drilled in 1941, so the formations are a little over 60 years old, and as you can see the pipe is completely covered as well. (Calcite?)
Shortly after this point our guide gave a demonstration of how the earliest cave explorers came in with just candlelight, then progressed to headlamps and hardhats:
Next you crossed over two bridges that had to be constructed over sinkholes that made the pathway too narrow. The trail then ends and you watch a short video about the animal life in the cave. The video also explains how they put dye in the water to track where it goes, but they were unable to do so. The water comes in from Little Sac River, but they're not sure where it ends up; on the map it's called Lost South Creek.
Here are some more pictures of formations in the cave:
Some of the largest formations in the cave were at the very end of the tour. I think that's what amazed me most about this cavern - that so many spectacular formations were almost immediately underground.
I had forgotten to mention that at the beginning of the tour they took our group picture in the tram. So when we came out the exit our guide picked up our group's photos from the box and passed them out for us to look at and decide if we wanted them. While we looked, he walked around to show us the original entrance to the cave and told a little more about the area.
What the exit looked like
We decided to purchase our photo, so Jay took care of that as soon as we got off the tram. Then we looked around their gift shop. To be such a small business, I was impressed with the selection they offered, and with their sale items! I had a hard time deciding exactly what I wanted, but decided to go the economical route this time. Joshua picked out a small stuffed turtle, and I got a T-shirt that was on sale, as well as their souvenir booklet that contained a few pictures of the formations and a copy of the cave map that I had been admiring before our tour.