Saturday, June 27, 2015

South Central Indiana Part 1

 Michiganders are Wolverines and Ohio folk are Buckeyes.  We ALL know what a buckeye is and what a wolverine looks like but what about a Hoosier?   In 1833 it was said that Indiana folks would answer a knock at their cabin with “Who’s Yere?”.  Someone else said there was a contractor named Hoosier and his laborers were referred to as Hoosier’s men.  Then there is the rumor that the pugnacious habits of some early settlers who were enthusiastic fighters would gouge, scratch and bite off noses and ears.  It was so common an occurrence that a settler coming into a tavern the morning after a fight might touch it with the toe of his boot and ask “Whose ear?”  Whatever its origin, the nickname “Hoosier” has had a lasting appeal for Indiana folks!  For more than 100 years it has continued to mean friendliness, neighborliness, an idyllic contentment with the Indiana landscape and life.  We were going there to go find out!
Brown Co. State Park

Sunday, June 14 we set our course for south central Indiana and the Brown County State Park, with a brief stop on the way for ice cream at the historic old canal town of Metamora.  Brown County as a whole is almost as magnificent as the Smoky Mountains of Appalachia with her hills, valleys, ridges and gorges, babbling brooks and waterfalls, deer, turkey and even fox that peek out at dawn and dusk!  The park is Indiana’s largest state park at 15,000 acres of dense forest, winding roads, 500 campsites and the Abe Martin Lodge.
Nashville, In.
Nashville, In.
 While based at the park we returned to walk the quaint streets of Nashville and saunter in and out of all the eclectic shops!  Out exploring the backroads down off of St Rt 446, we stumbled upon the Hoosier National Forest campground at the Hardin Ridge Recreation Area and drove thru with the approval of the folks at the gatehouse.  We picked out our 1st choice for a campsite and said we would return the next morning!  Instead of returning to the state park on the highway that we now knew – we dared venture off the well-paved and well-marked road to trek down a “shortcut” to enter the state park from the other side.  Sometimes the “road” was just a bit wider than a 2-track path.  Sometimes it went east, sometimes north, several times west and even curved a lot to the south!  It seemed like the mileage, via the GPS, kept growing instead of decreasing!  But we finally made it back to the park and we each released a big sigh.

South Central Indiana Part 2

Monroe Reservoir
Tuesday morning we moved over to Hardin Ridge and H deftly backed it into our selected site.  Harding Ridge is built high on a RIDGE and every campground loop winds along one of her thin knarly fingers.  Each site is filled in to allow some semblance of being level!  The tent sites are leveled just down and off a parking pad. Each has a view of the forest and gorge just below it.  Many marinas and campgrounds, including Hardin Ridge, cling to the edge of Indiana’s largest lake – Monroe Reservoir, which, like Cumberland Lake in Tennessee, is formed by damming up a river and letting the accruing water fill in the valleys - forming nooks and crannies for fish and birds and boaters to hide.  We did manage to locate the dam after a few attempts of meandering around and around and up and down the narrow forest roads, thru small agricultural areas with their flooded fields (thanks to all the rain the area was enduring).

Wednesday we headed further south, thru Bedford and located the French Lick Resort in West Baden Springs.  The West Baden Springs Hotel was built in 1855 but burned down in just 2 hours in 1901.  A year later it was rebuilt with a 200 foot diameter central atrium encircled with 4 floors of opulent rooms and suites, some having balconies that overlook all the splendor.  Down the road was the almost as opulent French Lick Resort, built in 1845 with a front porch second only to the porch on The Grand Hotel on Mackinaw Island!  Each of these magnificent resorts has had a troubled past but are now owned by the same company and share the same name, a connecting trolley line.

Bloomington is west of Nashville and is the home of the bustling Indiana University.  NW of there is the Cataract Falls State Park.  Straddling the swollen Cataract River is also the 1938 restored red covered bridge.  The only thing that kept the angry rushing waters within its boundaries was the large sandstone boulders and slabs.   On our way back to Bloomington we used the state park pass we had purchased earlier to now enter and explore the McCormick Creek State Park – also with a VERY raging water fall that had, over the ages, dug it’s way down thru the rocks to form a deep gorge.   The stately old lodge with tall white pillars provided a tasty buffet in their dark wood paneled dining hall.  We were seated out on a long narrow enclosed porch with very large windows from end to end.  Each over sized window had a bird feeder hanging in the middle of it and the selection of flitting, brightly colored finches, woodpeckers and cardinals kept us entertained while we enjoyed our delicious meal!

Tropical Storm “Bill” had roared thru the campground all night Friday and Sunday looked like more of the same was on the way so we chose to pack up and head back north, towards home.  First, we needed to make one more stop at the Monroe Dam.   We had been wondering how much water it would take to affect the amount of water that was being released.  The picture here is one that we took earlier in the week.  By Saturday afternoon, the water level had risen to the darkened line that is half way up the stone
embankment.  The tile was half way to the top with gushing brown water and the retaining wall at the bottom of it was no where to be seen.

 An overnight stay in Grand Lake St Mary’s State Park in St Mary’s, Ohio proved to be just as soggy.  If the fields in southern Indiana were bad – western Ohio was even worse.  Several small RV communities that sit on the edge of the Maumee River had been evacuated.  Their tiny “homes on wheels” had been moved to higher ground just in time!

Maybe we should let the earth dry out for about month and then return to wandering the back roads once more.  In the meantime – I’ll go weed the garden!