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Opinion: Best places to check out of the office

Eyes & Ears

Posted online

Sh. There’s too much noise around us.

Peace and quiet, just my thoughts – that’s what we’re searching for here. No texts, no phone ringing, no drama and certainly no work.

It’s important we make time to get out of the office and away from the next thing on the schedule – and just be still.

I’ve found a few spots to help us disconnect from time to time.

1. Two Rivers Bike Park
. Even if you don’t ride or bring a bike, this nearly 400-acre place is a beautiful escape. Just walk. Soak up the peacefulness. The park’s developer, Matt O’Reilly has applied the phrase, “The dirt connects us all.” He’s created 14 miles of dirt tracks for mountain bikers, runners and hikers, at the confluence of the Finley and James rivers. Two Rivers welcomes visitors dawn to dusk daily at no charge. And when you leave, make sure to stop and park near the river and walk down to the water’s edge. It’s like the solitude cherry on top.

How to get there: Stay on state Highway M/Nicholas Road south from Nixa, until just before you reach the James.

2. Wonders of Wildlife National Museum & Aquarium. This one might not be expected. But it proves bringing the outdoors inside can have a similar effect. Just take it in. The natural elements on display turn us into strictly observers of the world around us. Here, we’re not the one to initiate, and we simply need moments for that. Our role flips and we may feel smaller – but we also know there’s something much greater at work among us. And it’s OK that it’s not us for once.

It does come with a cost – ranging $15-$40 for adults, or memberships starting at $95. Plus, temporary exhibits keep things fresh inside, and currently on display is “Year of the Bird.”

3. Ozark Greenways. This hard-surface trail network of 72 miles snakes throughout the city. They’re becoming more popular. If you don’t have time for more distant wilderness, these trails give you plenty of options in and around town.

Check the map at OzarkGreenways.org, and you’ll find one within a stone’s throw, as they say.

4. Busiek State Forest and Wildlife Area. Much room for physical activity here – actually 2,500 acres. The state Department of Conservation has created an 18-mile trail system through woods, glades and fields. The trails follow the hilly terrain and for significant portions hikers climb natural rock systems as if they were stairs. There’s also the historical appeal. Stop and walk through the small cemetery. Without getting morbid, sometimes it’s healthy to consider our own finite humanity.

I know it’s about 25 miles from central Springfield, south on U.S. Highway 65, so this one stretches us on proximity. But Busiek provides a place for an overnight option, if you’re up to packing a bag and tent. I’ve seen plenty of that activity out there – permit required.

5. Lake Springfield. Float on the water. Bring your own watercraft or rent a canoe, kayak or paddleboard from the boathouse. Seeing the waterfowl in action is a calming touch. Be sure to cap it off with a short hike up the bluff to the lookout point high above the water. Take a seat on one of the large rocks. I’ve found the challenge is to resist getting up and moving on to the next thing. Fight it. Stay. Whatever it is, it can wait.

There are plenty more to speak of throughout the region. But the emphasis here is proximity to the city. For many of us, that’s where we spend the most of our time and energy, so this one’s for a quick exit where it’s just us and nature.

The leaves are turning, the air is crisp and the days are getting shorter.

Now’s the time for wilderness.

Springfield Business Journal Editorial Director Eric Olson can be reached at eolson@sbj.net.

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