by Jose Kevo
December 13, 2005
Highway 62, west of town, has developed into a bonafide tourist trap with wall-to-wall accommodations, restaurants, shops, and attractions competing for travelers' attention. Numerous lookout towers and free scenic overlooks flaunt the best of Ozark panoramas, but proceed with caution. Roadside parking areas are small, congested, and situated along blind curves on the busy highway. Pulling in/out can be rather risky.
Heading towards town, just beyond Leatherwood Park entrances, an unmarked turn-off on the left is easily missed, so look for the tall embanked wall that plainly states Thorncrown Chapel. Tucked away in the dense forest is an architectural marvel. The 48-foot-high chapel is encased with over 6,000 square feet of glass, accented with girders and beams, which complement natural vistas beyond.
Advertise a Featured in Ripley's Believe or Not sign and they will come. Why, I'm still not sure. The Balancing Rock and Stone Bridge characterize the term Tourist Trap! Entry is through a general store loaded with hillbilly-related kitsch crap. Once paying the $3 admission, patrons exit through a side door basically left to their own devices.
A paved trail weaves through woods along massive bluffs when coming to a covered opening in the rocks, which turned out to be the highly touted natural bridge, which was rather pathetic looking compared to photos. Just around the bend is the Balancing Rock poised atop another boulder but appearing unnaturally positioned just for the sake of luring tourists in. Actual highlight of the effort was the brief 5-minute walk through the woods from start to finish. Simply put, look at the picture below and save the $3!
The name says it all, with everything imaginable imported from the Hawaiian Islands, whether expensive jewelry, handcrafted artifacts, and accent pieces or cheap plastic leis and hula dolls. Candies, coffees, and other food items are also worth consideration. I've gotten to know the transplanted owners about as well as they've came to understand that Hawaiian doesn't always jibe with Caribbean just because they're tropical islands. Still, I've never been disappointed finding unique items for Jose Kevo's, including island holiday decorations. Inventory is constantly growing, and a sewing shop on the side specializes in island prints, fabrics, needle point, and related handiwork items great for tablecloths, curtains, and upholstering.
From journal Town & Country in the Ozarks' Alps