Playing and pickin’ is part of the heritage here in south central Missouri. Just as often as Texas has country dancehalls, Missouri has little country opries. Tucked away in the tiny town of Northview, MO, every Friday night the soul of this little town comes alive, and the rhythm rocks into the night, like a heartbeat. Known by the locals as the “Northview Jam”, folks come from parts around to gather weekly for a call to community to pick, play, sing, and strum.
Nestled into what seems like an almost abandoned town, located just past the center, is a little converted country church just off State Route B in southern Webster County – with a sign that reads “Country Music Jam”. The parking lot is packed. The show starts at 5 pm, but many come earlier. Come on in, everyone is welcome. When you arrive, you’ll be greeted with a welcome smile and asked if you can sing, strum, or maybe even clog a little. If you can’t, not to worry... sit on back and enjoy the show.
There is a smattering of eclectic old theater chairs adding to the flavor. Most don’t match and are bolted the floor. There are rows of stacking chairs off to the right, a colorful stained-glass window near the back, and the aromas of appetizing dishes wafting from the kitchen - for the potluck held at intermission. An old, etched, wooden sign above an outstretched American flag reads “Northview Jam”. This is true Americana.
As folks take the stage, an almost intuitive connection happens. Like muscle memory, the next act takes the stage, a key is called out, and the music begins. Birthdays and anniversaries are celebrated... doesn’t matter if they’ve known you a while, or they don’t know you at all. You are welcomed into the fold and serenaded. As the evening progresses, the more the audience sings along.
On this particular night, coming away from my first Missouri Cherry Blossom Festival, where history meets pop culture, and Mayberry comes to southern Missouri. A time-honored tradition takes shape. Small town meets celebrities, but status doesn’t matter – only home-grown hospitality.
This I was told, was a highlight for the honored guests to sneak away from festival festivities and join in with this jam. For some of the guests this was the first time, for others this is a yearly pilgrimage. For the rest of us, it was a night to be remembered where the cast of the Waltons crooned "I'll Fly Away", as the band belted out the melody, and the audience sang along boldly. It speaks highly when the hospitality rings so strong that it’s the highlight for honored authors, presidential descendants, historians, and celebrities is to come back time and time again to this tiny town. Where the people are real, and music is interwoven into the fabric of the community.
Looking for more hiking haunts in the tri-county area?
Missouri is touted for it's trails, and here in south central Missouri, we can definitely help cure your hankering for hikes. Tucked off Hwy 60, just off State Hwy O, about an hour east of Springfield is Cedar Gap Conservation Area. Between Seymour and Mansfield is a local little gem. It's not a big hike, but it sure is pretty, and definitely worth the go.
Touted as Missouri's second highest point in the state. You'll enjoy sweeping vistas, quiet creek beds, a old prospector's cabin (heading left on the trail, when you get to the intersection), an old oak hickory forest, and a walk along the train tracks. Full of camera ready shots, so don't forget the camera. Bring a lunch, picnic on the ridge, and take in the full view. The trail is fido friendly, just make sure to have a leash handy. Great for a group of friends, or hiking solo.
This hike is great for a quiet stroll to soak up some nature love, a place to clear your mind and get creative, or a good spot to stretch your legs. Hit the the trail twice if you want to get some extra mileage in.
Whatever suits your fancy, we recommend taking some time out and exploring this local hike.
Lace up your boots and grab your friends! Whether you are an avid adventurer, day hiker, or just want to get out and soak up some sun. The Mark Twain National Forest has got you covered. But, before you trek into the Twain, there are some things you need to know.
Hercules Glades, part of the Ava-Cassville-Willow Springs wilderness district – located in Douglas county, has 12,413 acres of the most scenic and unique country in the Midwest. It’s combination of open grassland, forested knobs, steep rocky hillsides, and narrow drainage offers unusual beauty and a measure of solitude sought out by nature lovers of all sorts.
Best seasons to go. Spring, fall, and winter. It's officially springtime in Missouri, so it's time to go now and start exploring.
If you’re headed to the Hercules… plan for a full day out. You’ll be met with unsurpassed beauty including bird watching, wild flowers, waterfalls, open vistas, and dense forests. There are 32 miles of maintained trails which are great for day hikers, birders, wilderness explorers, and backpackers alike.
Some of the best treks to take: (Top eight rated by Alltrails)
The Long Trail (mentioned twice – so it must be that good!) – This is a 10.3 moderately trafficked out and back trail that features a waterfall. Dogs and horses are available to use this trail, and it is accessible year-round. There is 1,361 ft elevation change, and the trail is ranked as moderate.
Coy Bald – This is a 6.7 mile lightly trafficked loop trail. There is a waterfall. Dogs are allowed on leash, and the trail is available year-round. There is 767 ft of elevation change, and the trail is ranked as moderate.
Pole Hollow Loop – This is a 4.6 mile moderately trafficked loop trail that features a waterfall. Dogs are allowed on leash, and the trail is accessible all year. There is 590 ft elevation change, and the trail is ranked as moderate.
Pees Hollow – This is a 5.7 mile moderately trafficked loop trail that features wild flowers and bird watching. Dogs are not mentioned for this trail. The trail is accessible year-round. There is 774 ft elevation change, and the trail is ranked as moderate.
Hercules Glades Backpacking Loop – This is a 9.9 mile moderately trafficked loop trail that features a waterfall. Dogs area allowed on leash, and the trail is available year-round. There is 931 ft elevation change, and the trailed is ranked as moderate.
Blair Ridge – This is a 6.2 mile moderately trafficked out and back trail (mileage takes into consideration full length going in and turning around to go back.) The trail features a waterfall. Dogs are allowed on leash, and the trail is available year-round. There is 705 ft elevation change, and the trail is ranked as moderate.
Firetower Trail - This is a 10.2 moderately trafficked out and back trail that features wild flowers and bird watching. Dogs are not recommended on this trail, and the trail is accessible year round. There is 1,361 ft elevation change, and the trail is ranked as moderate.
(Photos taken from the winter season.)
What to know before you go. Always check the weather and be prepared with layers and rain gear. It’s Missouri, and it’s spring time. The weather, like many places, wobbles. One day it’s hot, another day it’s not. If you’re out for the day, you’ll want to know before you go. Don’t forget to hydrate and bring water for the trail. Bring a day pack with some snacks and pack your lunch, and don’t forget the camera… you’ll be glad you did.
Make sure to have good hiking boots / shoes for rocky terrain. Don’t leave home without the bugs spray as tick season is right around the corner, and remember… leaves of three, let them be.
Practice Leave No Trace when out on the trail – pack out what you pack in. There are no bathroom facilities, or water collection en-route. Maps are available at the trailheads, but it’s best practice to download the map ahead of time using an app like Alltrails. Some of the trails are not well maintained, well-marked, and can get fairly primitive. So sneak some surveying tape in your bag in case you get off track. It’s a good way to mark the path, to help you get back on track and going the right way.
It’s well worth the time to trek the Twain. Head to the Hercules and have a great hike!