(Note: these are camera phone pictures as I did not bring my camera equipment)
I spent my second weekend ever in Indianapolis this weekend. Hopefully, I may remember this one. My first trip here was for the Indy 500 in 1991, during which my hand was always kept busy with a memory destroying beverage. This trip was a lot calmer and I hope more memorable.
I had a free day on Saturday and decided to get out of town to do some hiking. While I did rack up about 15 miles of walking about track & town Friday, I was ready for some Vitamin N (nature). While browsing a magazine in my hotel lobby, I saw a few pictures of Turkey Run State Park, with its beautifully carved ravines. I had not realized that central Indiana had such natural features. It was an easy choice to make the 1.5 hour drive west. It would prove to be well worth it.
The drive to the park was very peaceful. I avoided highways, as I had the whole trip down from Michigan, and instead found myself on beautiful two lane highways through picturesque farm country. I passed through several small towns with requisite cheerleader car washes (no, I did not stop) and local ice cream shops (OK, I did stop at one of these!). I listened to the Dan Harri’ book “10% Happier” as I drove.
I had no reason to know what to expect, and so I expected to find myself at an out of the way state park that would be virtually deserted. Nope. While in Michigan, it is common to go “up north”, in Indiana they must head west. The park was packed. It had a large campground, an inn, a pool, along with a nature center and lots of trails. It also had lots of people. And great variety. I also did not know from my brief look at the magazine pictures that a wide, slow river ran through the park. Wide and slow and water tends to result in floating cities made up of tubes and happy people and this river was no exception. In typical rural Midwestern fashion, the people near and on the river were not shy about exposing as much flesh as possible – no matter how old, young, very large or small that flesh might be. It was hot and that was certainly understandable.
As soon as you leave the parking lot is when you find yourself crossing the river on a suspension bridge. Again, the river, the bridge, and the shores were packed with happy people drinking, eating, and enjoying themselves. I did not see anyone out of control and I did not see any litter whatsoever. Nice job, Indiana! While I am not sure how I would best describe the crowd near the river, once I worked inland from the river the scene changed to much more of an REI crowd. Lots of hikers, young and old, many in sizable family packs. Most looking like they have enjoyed many a hike before. There was one unusual theme I noticed early on though – sweat, and lots of it. It was about 85 degrees and as a storm had passed through earlier it was humid. I did not think much of it and just figured these people must not have been in too great of shape. Little did I realize I was about to enter a hot, humid, and very hilly rain forest. Not Sierra Nevada hilly, but very much so for this part of the country.
The park does not have a clear loop trail system. Rather it has a series of about 11 interconnecting trails. Thus, without sitting down and studying a map and making a plan, it is hard to tell how far you may be about to hike (and as much as my awesome wife may think I am a planner, I really do prefer to get an overview, then wing it). That said, the interconnections are frequent enough to where you are probably never more than a mile or so from the parking lot so it is easy to bail when you get tired. I decided to wing it and let the world bring me what it had to share. I would not be disappointed.
Once across the suspension bridge, I headed left on the trail (#3) along the river. It quickly climbed a bit and scampered up and down and around cool rock formations as it hugged the river. At this point, you could still hear all of the traffic on the river and there was plenty of river traffic up on the trail. The activity lessened as I moved from trail 3 to trail 5 along the river.
I found myself mostly alone once I moved onto the “very rugged” trail 9, which passed through Falls Canyon and Boulder Canyon (it would appear I was too busy playing on boulders to take many pictures). I was surprised to still see some young families in the stretch. Again, nice job Indiana!
After that, I followed the rest of trail 9 back to short stretches of trails 5 and 3, past the ladders, which would look like fun climbing if there were not 30 people waiting ti come down, then hopped on trail 10 out to the Camel’s Back lookout.
From there, I continued on trail 10 to trail 4, eventually finding myself getting tired and cutting back on trails 8 and 4. During this last stretch I did not see one person. It was also on this stretch that I realized that I was not only joining the sweaty masses, but had in fact become their leading caricature, as I realized that I had been sweating so much that my shirt was soaked and soaking into my shorts, making it look like I could not control my bladder. Pretty funny, but I was still not seeking the limelight on this count, so I made my way quickly back to the car (past the thankfully now deserted river!) and blasted the air conditioner as if I thought I could personally make hell freeze over. I then joined the shirtless masses for about the first 5 miles of my drive until I cooled down and dried out.
All in all it was a great hike. Tiring at first, but I quickly got my legs. I hiked for about three hours, ending around 6PM when fatigue probably accelerated by my skipping lunch caught up with me. My FitBit said I logged about 8 miles. I made up for skipping lunch by hitting the Lizton Dairy Bar on my drive home. Well worth the stop and far better then waiting to be back in Indy. All in all, a great day!