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!

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.

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!

Knobstone Trail Oxley Memorial to Leota Trail Head

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Headed out this holiday season to visit family in my home state of Indiana.  While there I was hoping to get down and hike a bit of the Knobstone Trail.  I have heard this trail is used to train for the AT and as an AT section hiker I wanted to check it out to […]