Morn of Thanksgiving

Thank you farm for welcoming me back.

Thank you sun, I see you peaking through the trees.

Thank you trees, with your long, morning shadows that cut across my path.

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Thank you frost for giving me diamonds.

Thank you birds for singing me home.

Thank you sky for holding me so gently in your space.

Thank you air, so crisp as I take you in and warm you.

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Thank you rocks for sparkling and meadow grasses, with long icy tendrils, reaching out to caress me as I pass.

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Thank you brown hard ground waiting for sun’s magic touch that will turn you to squishy mud once more.

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Thank you deer for greeting me at what will be the sacred resting spot for my Dad’s ashes.

Thank you Daddy for showing me how to appreciate Mother Earth with all her gifts.

I know you can now go anywhere, but this is a nice spot to rest awhile.

See you on my next walk. Hike on.

Hoosier Hikes: Indiana’s First State Park

Semester over, I jumped on my escape vector … I70 West to Indiana!

Most of my week was spent visiting with my sister, Rowena, in Bedford, and my Mom’s house on the farm in Springville. Tuesday, however, was reserved for hanging out with my son, Logan, who had the day off of work!

Logan met me at the Bloomington transit center after taking the bus down from Indianapolis. On the way up to the transit center, I had stopped off at Kroger for a few snacks…a tub of hummus and loaf of pita. We were set!

Off to McCormick’s Creek State Park! This is Indiana’s first state park established in 1916 and lies just off of Highway 46 between Bloomington and Spencer. I must also add that this is the first state park I ever remember visiting. I remember a family reunion at which I was allowed to drink whole bottles of pop WITHOUT sharing with anyone and a playground that included a “tornado” slide. 🙂

My son had never visited this park and I had never done any hiking here, so this was a great opportunity for both of us!

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We pulled into the gate, paid our $7 entrance fee, and found the trail head for Trail 5 to Wolf Cave. I believe I have mentioned the pragmatic trail naming in another post about a visit to Indiana State Parks… 😀

This trail is wide, flat, and impeccably maintained. I heard that one can rent an all terrain wheel chair at this park and go out on the trails in it. Impressive! Now, that I see the condition of the trails, it makes a lot of sense! Although, there are a few places along this trail that could be challenging regardless.

We started down the trail, admiring the sinkholes on either side of the path. Significant dips, honestly, it makes you wonder about the ground you are on! Sinkholes are typical for the southern Indiana karst landscape. This is limestone country and this park contains a limestone canyon, complete with waterfalls and interesting rock formations.

Reaching Wolf Cave, it looked unimpressive to me. A slit of an opening down low on the hillside. We crouched down and entered the cave. Ahhhh, a small puff of cool air hit my face, nice! We pushed a little further into the cave but did not go through to the other side because the opening requires a bit of wiggling…yeah, not really into the claustrophobic squeezing through small openings things. So we backed out crouching, into the sunlight, saying goodbye to middle earth for the moment.

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The trail took us around the hill and descended down to a creek on one side. Then, oh wow, the back of the cave loomed on the hillside! A natural bridge opening with chambers that jutted off to either side. This is beautiful! I would love to see it after a hard rain as it looks as if the water runs right out of the cave into the creek. Absolutely gorgeous area!

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We spent some time exploring before trudging back up the hill to the car. It was now getting muggy, so we took a short break before heading across the road to Trail 7 that would take us down the hill to the White River.

Trail 7, another beautifully kept trail, follows the edge of the canyon on its way down. There is one steep, rooty part of the trail, just before the river, but it is short and at the bottom, one can take a left to take Trail 10 across the creek and beyond. Of course on the way down, I managed to start choking on a bug that had made the unfortunate decision to plunge itself into my throat. That was seriously unpleasant and no amount of drinking water was washing that bastard down! I was tearing up, choking up, practically throwing up, and still…ugh. I finally shook the coughing after I found a place to sit and eat a snack of hummus & pita.

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My son was still standing and I asked if he wanted to sit on the bench to which he replied, “I don’t sit in the woods in Indiana.” I should have heeded that advice…chiggers got me on my foot and around my waist. Yes, I had on bug spray that specifically indicated that it repelled chiggers, in addition to ticks, mosquitoes, … WHY DO I GET CHIGGERS EVERY TIME I HIKE IN INDIANA??? WHYYYYYYYYYYYYY?

Putting aside my issues with bugs on this hike, it was lovely. It is obvious that a lot of pride goes into the maintaining of the trails at this park. Very much looking forward to a return visit! Hike On!

An Hour in Hautia

Yay! It’s visit Logan day! I rolled into Terre Haute at 9:00 am, right on schedule.  Rang the bell at the house…no answer. Rang again…still no answer. Sent text and made myself comfortable at the table set up on the porch.  My son isn’t a morning person particularly,  but he texted back in about 10 minutes. 

“Working on life, be with you shortly”

Eye roll and slight grin, I went back to searching for somewhere we could take a walk. Fowler Park looked like it might be nice and was not far away.

In a relatively short time we were headed south on US41 towards Fowler Park.

Entering the park,  I headed around the lake to the parking lot nearest to the Pioneer Village.  Two fawns watched us curiously as we got out of the car, then bounded further back into the woods, leaving us to explore.  

The Pioneer Village is so cool! I would have loved it if there had been a living history exhibit today!

This park has a great campground, as well.  I made a note since it would be a great overnight spot when I visit my son. Very clean facilities and the campsites are beautifully situated along the lake. 

We walked around the lake, and noticed a few trails headed into the woods.  I am staying out of the woods until the chigger bites and poison ivy I picked up last weekend have completely healed! 

Taking the asphalt trails for now! Hike On!

First Solo Backpack – Adventure Hiking Trial, oops, I mean Trail!

The Adventure Hiking Trail provided me with some unique challenges during my first solo backpack this weekend.  I couldn’t anticipate all of what was in front of me, but I did research the trail as extensively as possible.  It is a 22 mile loop around O’Bannon Woods State Park.  A big shout to Ron White of the Ohio Valley Backpackers for the heads up on the trail head parking, recommendations for water caches, and some other general stuff!  The Hoosier Hiker Council website was a great resource as well with links to a few good maps of the trail.

I had never hiked a trail where I had to cache water and was a little nervous that my cache would disappear before I got to it!  Didn’t happen, my water was waiting for me!

This trail is in southern Indiana, which has a Karst topography.  This topography includes highly soluble rocks such as limestone.  There are many underground drainage opportunities, in addition to caves and sinkholes (of which I saw several).  The water just doesn’t hang around on top, so all the creek beds are dry.  Oh you might find a small pool here and there, but not nearly enough to keep one hydrated.  Thus the water cache.

Friday night I checked into the Forest Office, then stashed water at two trail crossings, the crossing on Cold Friday Road and the one on Old Forest Road.  Driving down Cold Friday Road was an adventure unto itself! Gravel, rutted in spots, and with one place where the road fords the creek (must happen only in a big storm because it was just a low bridge when I went over).  As I placed my gallon of water, with my name and date of pickup labeled clearly, a rumble of thunder sent a chill up my spine.  Okay, good enough, behind a tree…now for cache number two!  Old Forest Road was a regular paved road. What a relief!  I pulled off the road, thunder and clouds rolling, threw my gallon up in the woods and ran for it!  I swear, I love and I hate thunderstorms and it all depends on where I am when they hit.

Anyway, water cached successfully so I headed back to Corydon, Indiana where I had a room at the historic Kintner House Inn.  No hiker trash hotel for me!  The woman who owns place is super accommodating and I recommend it to anyone coming to this part of the country.

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The Joe Zimmerman Room at the Kintner House Inn.

They made me a special early breakfast so I could get to the trail early.  It was a decent day for the middle of summer, mid-80s, low humidity, and no storms!  My car parked at the 462/Old Forest Road lot (space for maybe 3 creatively parked vehicles), I did a last minute check of gear, then headed in a counter-clockwise (west) direction headed for the Ohio River Shelter.

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Test #1: Do you like spiders?  Or rather do you like spider webs…in your face, in your hair, draping from your nose and your cheeks to your ears and your chin to your chest?  I looked like a freaking drum major marching down the trail raising first one hiking pole and then the other in  quick succession in order to catch as many of the webs as possible before they hit my face once again.  Every once in a while, I’d get lulled in a false sense of security, then WHOP, right in the face, spider on my eyeglasses, ugh.  After about the billionth spider web, I gave up.  I just started to plow right through them, with my lips tightly pressed together.  NOTE TO SELF: Buy a hat with a brim and put mosquito netting over it.

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My hiking poles were used as weapons of mass destruction. Sorry to the Spider Subdivision.

Test #2: Do you like wet feet?  My feet were wet from dew in about 30 minutes of starting my hike and they didn’t dry out all day.

Test #3 Do you like to bushwhack?  Because if you don’t, then stay off the trails in southern Indiana in the summer.  All those winter pictures of the Adventure Trail that I found online…yeah, totally get it now.  In general, I backpack at an average pace of 2 mph.  It took me 5 hours to go 5.5 miles!!! Holy moly! When I reached the Iron Bridge, I sat down to have lunch just shaking my head.  Was the rest of the trail going to be like this?  Bushwhacking takes a lot out of you!  On the positive side, the trail is extremely well marked!  After I would fight through another bunch of overgrown grasses, briars, and young tulip poplars I was immediately rewarded with a trail marking.  The emotional gratification of that trail marking cannot be overstated here!

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A lesser bushwhack that greeted me just after starting the trail.

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A more substantial bushwhack…do you see a trail…THAT’S BECAUSE THERE ISN’T ONE (or so you think)!  This was on day 2 between Homestead and Indian Creek Shelters.

The trail improved after the Iron Bridge, so I was able to make faster forward progress, which put my head back in the right place.  I followed a nice wide fire road from the Iron Bridge up to the Horseman’s campground.  This was a planned water stop for me.  While at the campground, I also took the opportunity to wash the spider webs out of my bandannas and clean my glasses which had so many webs crisscrossing them it was hard to see! Felt like a new woman!

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The rest of the trail to the Ohio River Shelter was lovely.  Well marked, well maintained. I reached my destination at 3:30pm.  Shortly, afterwards, two guys came in from the other direction and we had a fun conversation about what we each had experienced thus far.  They were out for a long day hike.  In fact, I had just passed their water cache, which they had put in a tote bag, and chained to a tree…omg!  I told them, “I was wondering about that bag and thought, wow, there must be something pretty special in that bag.  I might have just found a use for my pocket knife…”  They were good guys!  Terrible, I can’t remember their names now…I’ll just call them the Evansville crew.

The Evansville crew gave me some good info on the trail ahead.  There is more bushwhacking and the last two miles (their first two miles) was like my first 5.5.  They also said, “There will be a place where you literally can’t see which way to go.  Go straight ahead. It won’t look like it, but go straight ahead” I gave them my map and they pointed approximately where they thought that place was located. God, I felt like I was in Hunger Games.

The Ohio River Shelter is a popular spot.  I was visited by a bunch of trail riders, a fellow backpacker from Indianapolis who I continued to leapfrog with all weekend, and a nice family who were taking their kids on their first campout.  I tented, Adorable Family got the shelter, and I was totally okay with that!  The shelters along the Adventure Trail are nice, but too closed in for my liking.  They seem dark and dank.  I preferred my tent.

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Please don’t let that horse poo by my tent!!!

It was a beautiful first night out, with a bright moon shining down on me.

The next morning I was up and on the trail before anyone in the Adorable Family was stirring.  It was going to be very hot today and I was hoping I could finish hiking at about 2 pm.  First stop was Cold Friday Road to get my first water cache.  Yay! There it was, waiting for me!  I filled up my 3-liter bladder and 1.5 liter bottle, then drank what was left.

While I was there, my Indianapolis buddy came by.  This is when I found out he had not cached water.  He had a filter and thought he would be able to get water on the trail….oh, buddy.  He started up the next hill and I followed after smashing the now empty gallon jug and attaching to my pack.  I caught up with him again, sitting on a slab of limestone in the middle of an almost dry creek.  He had found a small pool at which to filter water.  Thank goodness!  I continued on up to the Homestead Shelter for a lunch break.

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Homestead Shelter, great tent sites here! Also, a little history behind this site…original chimney!

Indianapolis buddy passed me while I was munching away.  However, it wasn’t long before I caught up to him again.  Honestly, I was kinda worried about him.  He definitely was not drinking enough water, but I didn’t have any extra to offer him, but would have given him some if he had asked.  The bushwhacking had come back full force today and it was freaking hot, like 95 degrees.

We hiked together then until we reached the Indian Creek Shelter, my stopping point.  I know my limits…and heat is one of them.  The bushwhacking was a trial for me and for Indianapolis buddy.

Ohhh…I forgot Test #4!

Test #4 Do you like climbing over blowdowns?  If so, then you would love this trail!  I lost count at 50.

It was nice to have to someone to share the bushwhacking and blow down hopping experiences with, for sure.  I mean, here I am, in the middle of bushes that are taller than me, and I have to decide what to do when I don’t immediately see a blaze.  It’s unnerving.  I had to backtrack at one point to regroup and think it through.  God, and it was so hot! I was so glad to stop hiking that day! Poor Indianapolis had to hike out…5 miles and less than a liter of water.

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Very little tent area at Indian Creek Shelter, but I managed!

I took a look inside the shelter, immediately saw spiders.  I sat down at the picnic table, immediately had a teeny little tick crawling up my leg.  What is this place?????!!!!!  Ummm…I think I’ll tent again.  When I rolled up my tent the next morning, ants everywhere…I knocked off as many as I could…the rest have met with an unfortunate demise within the folds of Big Agnus.

Officially ready to end my first solo backpack, I headed down the trail immediately meeting my first blow down of the day.  Despite the blow downs, this section from Indian Creek Shelter to Old Forest Road is definitely the prettiest section I hiked.

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Gorgeous morning view!

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Last Bushwhack!

There was more bushwhacking, and it took a while to get to the road, but it wasn’t as bad as day 1 or 2.  I had my last water cache at the road.  However, when I exited the woods the weather had taken a turn.  Thunderstorm was on the way!  The wind picked up and I left my cache and took off down the road to my car (1.5 miles away).  Walking as fast as I could, I watched the clouds blacken and start swirling around.  Thunderstorms in Indiana, oh god, yeah, great, a fitting end.

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Angry clouds!!!

Test #5 Do you like hiking in Thunderstorms?  Me either.  After I passed a field of cows, I started looking for houses.  The sky was seriously black now and really scary.  I pulled in to a house and knocked on the door.  Thank you, thank you, thank you to Carol K. for going out of her way and giving me a ride back to my car.  Whew! That was a close one!

This trail tested me and I rose to the occasion, but I am paying an itchy price.  Chiggers, poison ivy, ticks…and despite my using copious amounts of bug spray, my waistline is covered with red welts where I plucked off one little bugger (could have been a tick, could have been a chigger).

So while I dab on another layer of Calamine and pop another Benadryl…Hike On!

 

Guest Post: A Slice of Central Indiana at Elliot Woods State Nature Preserve

I’ll start by introducing myself here: I’m Logan, Girl Gone Hiking’s child. This past weekend offered a very much welcome respite from the cold, and the roommates and I decided to take advantage of the beautiful weather. We couldn’t get going until almost 3:00p, so the destination would have to be close. From our home in (scenic) Terre Haute, IN, that doesn’t leave many choices. Even Turkey Run is an hour away, so the search was on to find some unexplored options. That’s when I stumbled upon the Elliot Woods Nature Preserve, less than 15 miles away from us. There was very little about the preserve online, but it seemed there was at least one loop trail, and I’ve had good luck with relatively unknown nature preserves before (check out Green’s Bluff near Spencer, IN for a short and very out of the way hike). If you’re slightly challenged on the geography on Indiana, I don’t blame you … in fact you’re probably better for it, so I’ve gotten you this handy map to help you get a hold of the park’s location.

Still lost?

Any how, after a lovely and brief drive through the Indiana countryside, and past everybody’s favorite federal penitentiary, USP Terre Haute, located conveniently along IN 63, we arrived at Prairie Creek Park. Prairie Creek Park is part of the Vigo County Parks Dept., and is located directly across a small road from the Nature Preserve. This is where we parked to access the preserve, and as it turned out there is also a short loop trail in this park as well, along with lots of maple trees and a large camping area. Prairie Creek Park , in addition to camping, features some quite nice pavilions and tables for gatherings, and picnics, as well as several playground areas and fairly new looking basketball courts.

From the parking lot, we headed to the trail.

But not before I made them pose for a group photo – Hey Luke, Hey Nick.

One of those rumored pavilions.  I don’t think Luke was ready. That’s okay.

Aforementioned small road, and I sign confirming all of my suspicions that I had in fact found the nature area.

The loop trail is just shy of two miles long, and is actually quite well maintained. It is wide and meandering. While it passes up and down several hills none of them are worth mentioning. I’m sure that this would a really gorgeous fall hike. And while I’m hoping I won’t still be here in the fall to find out, we shall see.

A brief background on the Elliot Woods property, it was only acquired by the county earlier this decade from the Elliot family, which had owned the property since the mid-1800’s. According to the Indiana DNR, the property “contains a high quality mesic and dry-mesic upland forest with at least 26 species of trees and a small prairie restoration.” The property also enjoys permanent protection from future development or logging thanks to a state conservancy easement.

We start in what presumably used to be a field before splitting in two directions for the loop.

There’s a ton of these bridges, which I found pretty surprising.

And everything is graveled!

THIS ONE EVEN HAS FREAKING GRIP STRIPS ARE YOU KIDDING ME. Plus if you want to you can even sit on them and look pensive for a while.


The consensus at this point was that this was really nice place to be able to just go out nearby and get outside when you don’t have all day to make an event out it.

They look so very engaged.

Eventually the trail comes out into another clearing, and there’s a signpost with two arrows, one pointing each direction. No words, no further guidance. To be clear this isn’t where the loop closes, so see a split in the path was really kind of unexpected. We took a guess and went left, and everything worked out. Going to the right might just join up with the trail again, but we didn’t try following it to find out.

Lest you thought you would get away from the crap rotting in random fields (a hallmark of Indiana), let go of that thought now. Also featured along the way was a long ago abandoned washing machine.

We may have ventured ever so slightly off the trail  to take this picture. Don’t worry about it. But it’s nice right?

Don’t worry, we safely returned to the trail. I could feel everybody’s anxiety levels rising, so I just wanted to address that concern real quick.

I made art!

Back in the field.

Having walked for nearly 45 minutes, we decided that somehow we could handle another short trail, so off to the little pond we went. Not quite as well maintained, but there were still lots of bridges for stream crossings and the likes. The pond itself was quite sad looking, but you can’t win ’em all I guess.

That isn’t Little Pond. Big Pond maybe?

Seriously, this park would be a really nice place to hang out on a summer day, even if you weren’t into walking.

There it is! Little Pond! The roommates aren’t so sure about it.

More little bridges, as promised.

Sorry ladies, he’s not single.

I told you that would be a short walk to Little Pond! Back already.

We really enjoyed getting out for a little bit, and Elliot Woods fit the bill. Close, not crowded at all, and generally very pleasant for a low-effort walk. We plan to come back. Maybe when there are leaves. That would really spice things up here in central Indiana.

Holiday in Hoosierland

Hoosierland is always a fun time visiting with family!  This year, amid the craziness of Christmas preparations I was able to take a hike the Milwaukee Rail Trail with my son, Logan, who is finishing his senior year at Indiana State, and my niece, Isa, who is dreaming about life after grad school.

Headed east to Bedford!

Headed east to Bedford!

I was staying at the Sheriff’s House B&B owned by none other than host extraordinaire, Rowena Cross-Najafi, my sister! If you are interested in checking out the rail trail or hiking in the Hoosier National Forest, then this is a perfect spot to go glamping! I stayed in the “World Traveler Room” this time, but the “Princess Room” is just as fun…and no one should be staying at a chain hotel when this costs $75 a night with an awesome home cooked breakfast in a beautiful setting. Who knows…she might even give you a ride to the trail. 🙂

Sheriff's House B&B...my sister will treat you well!

Sheriff’s House B&B…my sister will treat you well!

After Rowena dropped us at the Coxton Road trail head, we walked east on the Milwaukee Trail along the White River.  It was full and flowing fast from recent storms. Storms that produced a few tornadoes. In December. While we were out on the road. Yep. Thought I was gonna die.  HOOSIERLAND!  But the storms had moved south taking the drama with them into Mississippi and Alabama.  This day, Christmas Eve, was absolutely gorgeous.

Logan and I on the trail!

Logan and I on the trail!

The White? River

The White? River

The Milwaukee Rail Trail will eventually extend further west, but for today we were happy to stroll a relaxing five miles back to town along the river and through some pretty interesting geological formations.  Isa is a geology major and was happy to give us the geological tour through centuries of limestone.  Very cool stuff!

Isa and Logan and LIMESTONE!

Isa and Logan and LIMESTONE!

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It was a beautiful walk.  We stumbled upon an abandoned river cabin and poked around a little before continuing our way east.  We all wondered about the family who came to hang out at the river.  What a nice life!

There wasn’t much left…a torn lawn chair complete with discarded old beer can, a dilapidated swing set frame, and a house that was partially collapsing…but it sparked the imagination none the less.  I probably could have sat there for hours just writing in a journal…and it would have all been depressing (because abandoned houses just bring out the sad in me).  So I am glad I wasn’t by myself, because this was a day to rejoice!

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Wilson Park Trail

We exited the trail at Wilson Park and walked through Bedford on our way back to the Sheriff’s B&B.  Thankful to have such a wonderful Christmas Eve! Hike on!

Browning Mountain and Basketball History (yes, Still Exploring Indiana!)

Down the road that goes to Elkinsville (or went to Elkinsville) is Browning Mountain.  At 920 feet, I am not sure why it is called a mountain.  I thought 1000 feet made a mountain…but I got that info from a movie in which cutie pie Hugh Grant played the lead … so you know, there is a slight possibility I am wrong!  I am not bothered by that in the least. 🙂 Hugh Grant is “The Englishman Who Went Up a Hill and Down a Mountain” and very persuasive!

Over the years, I have heard some mysterious, almost magical, stories about the stones on top of Browning Mountain.  These stones, which are quite large, are not native to the area and no one really knows how they came to be on top of Browning Mountain.  Today was my day to climb the mountain!

Getting to the trail head was not a problem.  We followed Elkinsville Road through Story, passed the Nebo Ridge Trailhead (stopped to get a map for future hike!), then went another mile or so until we saw the canoe rental place.  We turned around there and backtracked about a 100 feet to find a spot to park on the side of the road next to the trail.

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Headed up the Mountain

The first part of the trail is pretty steep, then you continue to climb along the ridge.  We encountered several blow downs … seems to be a pretty regular occurrence on the ridges in Indiana.
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It was a great day though, blue skies, gentle breezes, so the climb up was mostly delightful!  We missed a right turn onto the trail that goes to the mysterious rocks somehow and kept walking for quite some time until we came to a fork in the trail. At this point, my sister, Rowena, was pretty sure we had come too far but wasn’t completely and totally sure, so we took the trail marked with two orange ribbons which headed to the left.  When we started to go steeply downhill, Rowena decided indeed this was not the right way.  So we back tracked to the fork and took the other branch…after another 15 minutes…nothing.

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This is a trail marking???

Rowena had cell service so we looked on line for a website that might have a map or clues for which to look.
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A geocache site stated that “There is a hidden intersection on the trail (look for the large, fallen tree that blocks the trail).”  Okay, that is the STUPIDEST clue ever!!! There were at least FIVE THOUSAND large, fallen trees on the trail!!!

At least we knew two things now 1) the trail to the rocks was behind us and 2) the trail to the rocks was near a fallen tree.  Alrighty-let’s go!

On our way back, we met a nice family from Cincinnati with two young girls. Together we found the trail without too much drama, Yay!
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The rocks were pretty cool…but the whole spot is beautiful.  Both my sister and I took some time to lay on the rocks and look up at the sky.  Very nice!

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BoobOnARock literally…

The adventure did not stop with Browning Mountain! On our way back home we stopped in at the Freetown History Museum, a one man operation in Freetown, Indiana.  My sister volunteers at the Lawrence Co. Historical Museum so this was especially interesting for her!  I wasn’t expecting anything, so of course, I end up finding something amazing!

Basketball history! But not your typical basketball history.  The history of basketball in Freetown, Indiana.  And…here’s the thing…the girls had a basketball team in Freetown BEFORE the boys! Check out the girls bball team from 1921 or 1922 in the photos below.

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Mr. Fritz (to the right) unlocked the doors and gave us a personal tour!

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This is so cool…and if Freetown had a girls team, then that means other towns would have had girls teams also, right?  They had to play other teams!  I want to know more…so if anyone out there knows anything about girls high school basketball teams in Indiana…let me know!!!

Keep exploring, learning and as always, Hike on!