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As much as I respect the power of Instagram and tolerate Facebook, Twitter has always held a special place in my heart since I joined in 2007. On a random day in August, while trying to escape my depression by planning a road trip, I saw a photoset from writer Sarah Kendzior stream through my Tweetdeck.
Haunted? Castle? Cursed? Within driving distance of Northwest Arkansas? Sign me up. I mapped a route to Kansas City that allowed us to stop at several sights along Route 66 with a final stop at Ha Ha Tonka State Park in Missouri exclusively to take photos at the castle.
The story of the castle is as romantic and tragic as the best stories tend to be. The imposing ruins sprawl across a bluff overlooking a lake, allowing the light to stream unobscured through the remaining castle walls and down into the stables as a lingering reminder that something beautiful once existed there.
As golden hour approached and the sun’s rays moved further from reach, the bricks softly began to glow. I have memories tied to the emotion that the light at that moment made me feel, and the afternoon glow at Ha Ha Tonka has left an indelible mark on me.
The interior castle remains are fenced off from public access as the Missouri parks department asses how to stabilize the remaining structures. Although we visited on a weekday, the park was filled with fellow visitors taking in the splendor and the sadness. I highly recommend adding the castle ruins to your next road trip if you have the opportunity. Be sure to give yourself ample time to look, listen, and feel the stories the ruins have to tell.