Hasn’t it been a great “spring” so far?! Brown County, McCormick’s Creek, and Prophetstown State Parks are a few of our recent visits. 

There is nothing like taking advantage of the Indiana Department of Natural Resources winter special of spending one night in a State Park Inn and getting a second night free. I believe this is year number seven of taking advantage of the deal and, in doing so, staying now at every one of the State Park Inns – Brown County, McCormick’s Creek, Clifty Falls, Turkey Run, Fort Harrison, Pokagon, and Spring Mill. I can’t wait for the newest addition at Potato Creek. The catch to this deal (if you call it that) is the stay must be during the week, in the winter, and not on a holiday. 

Brown County was our final destination to complete the cycle. Of course, there is no direct route to anywhere, so we wandered! The first stop was Low Gap Trail in the backcountry of Morgan Monroe State Forest. This is definitely off the beaten path and, for the most part, has no cell service. I like that! A couple mile hike and then onto wandering further. 

The next stop on the wander was Yellowwood State Forest. Don’t let the paved road from the north fool you. It becomes gravel on some of the forest roads, and it isn’t for the faint of heart. This particular Sunday afternoon was sunny and warm, so it was much more crowded than I am used to. There are several trails around and near the lake and dam that are enjoyable hikes. You can also take in part of the Tecumseh Trail. 

Brown County State Park has two entrances. Going through the west entrance allows you to view quite a bit of the park on the way to the Abe Martin Lodge. This windy, curvy road has many views and vistas, and a later sunset time of day shows off many shadows and interesting scenes. The Inn is great for relaxing by the fireplace, playing games, and swimming if you wish, although the pool is currently under construction. Breakfast and dinner at the Inn are mighty tasty. 

Our first hike was on a beautiful sunny and warm morning. You never would have thought it was still winter. We were so blessed with the weather, and to my enjoyment, we were next to nobody on the trails. Did you hear what I said? We were at Brown County State Park, next to nobody on the trails. We hiked Trail #5 and then a good portion of Trail #4 before we saw our first sign of humans. Unbelievable! In late winter, we saw deer, and we saw a snake, and we saw turtles, and we saw (and heard) thousands of frogs in Ogle Lake. The hike through Ogle Hollow was amazing. At one point, we saw the Sandhill cranes migrating back north. It was a wonderful, beautiful, and unbelievable experience. 

Throughout the weekend, we took on Trails #2 and #3. We drove almost every road in the park. We ate at Big Woods in Nashville (there are so many great places to eat). We even went through the horseman campground and out the “back” entrance to SR135 and headed to Story. We just had to wander into the backwaters of Monroe Reservoir and check out Elkinsville, or what was Elkinsville. This little town was moved because of the reservoir, but there are still remnants to see. The cemetery tells a story as you walk around it and tie the names of the former citizens to the erected monument in memory of the town. We traveled every backroad we could find, all of which are dead ends. Next time, we will hike Browning Mountain and the Indiana Stone Henge. There aren’t enough hours in the day, or maybe enough gas in the hiking tank.  

Southwestway Park in Indianapolis has always been a favorite of mine for running. I take in the mountain bike trails that follow the White River ridge and then dip into the floodplains. This is a great place to be in the middle of nowhere, but actually be in the middle of a huge city. You can also check out the golf course and watch/play some baseball, softball, or soccer. I coached my kids in soccer many years ago at this park. 

Prophetstown State Park Trail #3 in 70-degree sunny weather is quite the hike or, in my case, run. The wildflowers hadn’t started blooming quite yet, but the scenery without leaves on the trees gives its own unique beauty. If you aren’t familiar with this trail, traverse it clockwise from the parking lot trailhead, and you will go through the wooded portion of the route. It opens up into the prairie and floodplain of the confluence of the Tippecanoe and Wabash Rivers. There’s something about that sort of geography that I find interesting. I really enjoyed the wooded areas along the river as well. The birds were flying, the tree frogs were croaking, and spring really wasn’t too far away. Next time, I will bring my bike and ride the paved trail. 

So what is next? The eclipse on April 8th. Cicadas from April – June, and apparently this is the year! A lot of them, as a couple different broods come out of hiding at the same time. 

Send me some places to visit, and keep up the wandering! 

~ Jeff Banning