'I love the peacefulness'

Passing paddler's comment captures essence of Eminence trip

by Valerie Mosley, originally published in the Springfield News-Leader

Planning an outdoorsy trip in mid-January seemed a little dicey.

But that was our opportunity to meet up with friends visiting Missouri from Germany. So my husband, Jamie, and I booked a cabin and crossed our fingers for good weather.

When we arrived at Round Spring Retreat, just north of Eminence, our host said, "You must have been born under a lucky star."

Still a little too cold to float, the weather couldn't have been better for our trout fishing and hiking plans. Waiting for Beth and Jakob to arrive, we admired the view from the cabin, overlooking the Round Spring Campground of the Current River, part of the Ozark National Scenic Riverways system.

I had heard about the area's beauty but was surprised by the number of springs and scenic areas to explore.

We considered staying at Montauk State Park, but it was catch-and-release season, and Jamie always prefers to keep his fish. Consulting the Missouri Trout Hunter website, he settled on the White Ribbon area of the Current River between Cedargrove and Welch Spring.

We greeted our friends and set out to make the most of the remaining daylight. While the men fished at Welch Spring, Beth and I explored the half-mile trail to the spring. The level, gravel path was an easy walk.

Arriving at the spring, we were surprised to see building ruins on the other side, almost blending in to the bluff. Welch Hospital was built by C.H. Diehl, a doctor from Illinois, after he bought the property in 1913. Diehl believed the cool cave air could cure consumption (tuberculosis). We wanted a closer look, but locals later confirmed the best way to access the spot is by canoe.

Successful and happy fishermen greeted us upon our return. Jakob had caught one fish, and Jamie, four. Back at the cabin, we immediately cooked them all, and savored every bite.

The next day, looking for a new fishing spot, we drove a little farther to the Cedargrove river access and campground. Beth and I set out exploring again, and discovered huge icicles hanging from a tall bluff across from the campground. As I stopped to take pictures, a few canoes with brave passengers floated under the icicles.

The fish weren't biting, so we headed back to Welch Spring. This time, Beth and I went to check out some creepy abandoned buildings. Tattered Tyvec wrapping hung over windows and doorways like a grass skirt. I talked Beth into walking inside the main building. It looked like an old lodge, with long corridors and a kitchen with a derelict oven. Curtains and a broken plate looked like they were from the 1970s.

We returned to the cabin for a hamburger lunch with baked beans and homemade potato salad. When the men left to resume fishing, Beth and I drove to see the aptly named Round Spring. We saw a beaver at the Round Spring river access and looking up, could see our cabin.

To delay our departure, we made several stops on the way home. First, we drove east of Eminence to Two Rivers Campground, hoping to catch a glimpse of the wild horses of Shannon County. No luck with the horses, but we did find another gorgeous view where the Current and Jacks Fork rivers meet. We took pictures and said goodbye to our friends.

Our next stop was the gorgeous Alley Spring, where an average of 81 million gallons of water flow per day. The spring is a beautiful shade of green, contrasting nicely with a red grist mill built by settlers around 1868. The site was one of the first state parks in Missouri and in 1964 became part of Ozark National Scenic Riverways.

Our last stop, the Bluff View access on the Jacks Fork River, was more out of the way. After driving a few miles down a gravel road, we found the bluff view. Two kayakers passed, and we heard an echoing voice say, "I love the peacefulness."

Our only regret was the same one we always have after a weekend trip. We wished we'd had more time with our friends to explore such a beautiful place.