You’ll probably never find the place, because it’s in the middle of nowhere, 35 miles from somewhere, and a good eight miles off the nearest paved road.
The only way to reach it is by spending the final mile or two negotiating a barely discernable strip of road covered by a deep layer of leaves that winds tightly between the trunks of tall trees and shrubs, and is far too narrow for a big SUV or pickup.
But if you ever had the chance to witness the breathtaking view of the many huge bluffs, miles and miles of forest and dozens of mountain-like hills adjacent to this incredibly unique piece of real estate in southern Phelps County, your jaw would drop and your voice would involuntarily utter a quiet, “wow.”
I know, because I did, and mine did.
Lifelong Texas County resident Joe Richardson bought the 40-acre tract about 25 years ago after coming to realize it was one of the most beautiful and picturesque places he had ever seen.
And for good reason. Perched atop a nearly vertical incline well over 300 feet above the Big Piney River, and surrounded on virtually all sides by hundreds of square miles of pristine, undisturbed Mark Twain National Forest wilderness, the strategically located spot is pretty much one of a kind.
Standing next to the “Turkey Track Lodge,” an unassuming shack Old Joe put on the property for the purpose of having a place to eat and sleep on hunting outings, it’s impossible to not be in awe of the natural wonder that lies before you. I would compare it to scenes I’ve witnessed in the Great Smoky Mountains region, and other parts of the North Carolina high country.
Obviously, the elevation of the landscape isn’t of the same magnitude, but it doesn’t matter. It’s the same kind of example of God’s immense handiwork, just on a slightly smaller scale.
Richardson says that more than one United States Forest Service employee who has seen the Turkey Track view has told him it’s the most beautiful panorama they know of. I know he’s not exaggerating.
It’s crazy pretty, and I’m so glad to live in a place that’s in close proximity to such natural wonders.
I don’t regret in the least that Joe and I went out there on that one-day winter we had last week, when the temperature never got above 40 and rain drizzled down the whole dang day. But I want to go back someday when the temperature is warmer, so I can just sit down on the pine straw carpet provided by numerous native shortleaf pines and enjoy the grandeur without being concerned with hypothermia.
I want to watch a hawk glide by without having to flap its wings for five minutes. I want to see a deer walk along the edge of the precipice, looking for succulent acorns.
And I want to hear the breeze blow through the trees along the edge of the bluffs.
There are great views and there are greater views. There are great feelings spurred by those views and there are greater feelings.
I’ve seen many a big view in my time, and few have been more profoundly captivating and produced stronger feelings than the one from the Turkey Track Lodge. With the gleaming waters of the Big Piney twisting through the valley hundreds of feet below, with ancient rock walls lining the river’s path in almost every direction, with winged carnivores majestically soaring by like participants in a natural air show, and with numerous species of trees adding the finishing touches, this stunningly beautiful Ozarks scene earns the “greater” label, hands down.
Thank you Lord.
Some photos and a short video of the view are posted on the Herald website, www.houstonherald.com. They don’t really do justice to the real thing, but they offer a glimpse.
Oh, by the way, one needs to act with care when standing beside the Turkey Track Lodge. The edge of the cliff is close by, and it’s a long way to the bottom.
There’s an old saying a co-worker recently reminded me of: It’s not the fall, it’s the sudden stop.
Doug Davison is a writer, photographer and newsroom assistant for the Houston Herald. Email: email@example.com.