Where to start? So many places wandered too this past month. Summer has come and gone. Fall is upon us, and there is nothing like an afternoon drive with the season changing and cooler temps in the air. Read on for some of Jeff’s October Wandering suggestions … 

Let’s start with finishing up our Duke Site Readiness duties. The last presentation was at Purdue University. There’s nothing like being on campus at a large university when school is back in session. West Lafayette is a great place to visit in the fall, whether walking some of the many urban trails within the Greater Lafayette area or riding a bike on the paved trails at Prophetstown State Park and enjoying the flora and fauna. Lunch at 8 Eleven Bistro at the Purdue Memorial Union was a treat. This restaurant celebrates the trailblazing tradition of two of NASA’s most daring aerospace programs, Gemini 8 and Apollo 11, as well as the missions’ command pilot, Purdue alum Neil Armstrong. Wonderful atmosphere and great food.  

One of my favorite things to do in the fall is to wander in the country and on county roads when the farmers are out harvesting their fields. Something about that fall scene really resonates with me, especially when the sun starts setting and putting off those long shadows. The walnut leaves start turning and fall early, and walnuts are found at the tree’s base. Cagles Mill Lake and Lieberman State Recreation Area became my destination after watching the harvest occurring in Morgan and Owen Counties. There were many campers on this visit. The campfire smell and seeing families having fun is so refreshing. There is little to no internet, no TV watching, just family fun.  

My latest trip lasted seven hours. Wandering at its best! A Sunday afternoon driving around listening to the Colts (loose) on the radio in the first part of the trip and then Tom Kent Radio (oldies music) in the latter part. First, it was Morgan Monroe State Forest. I did a little hiking on the Tecumseh Trail and saw the route markings for the Hilly Hundred. Riding through Morgan Monroe was always one of my favorite legs of the Hilly.  

Next, I was off to Bedford, Lawrence County, and then west to Williams Dam State Recreational Area. This former hydroelectric power dam on the White River is now a boat launch, fishing, and picnic area. Unfortunately, after years of being open, the park appears to need some love, however still a great spot to stop for lunch. A couple of miles from the dam is the formerly used Williams Covered Bridge. It was a nice remote and short hike off the beaten path. The next stop was Martin County and Shoals. Overlook Park was a quick stop. I have often driven past this scenic view and never stopped. Unfortunately, this was another spot where, over the years, it has not been kept up,  but none the less has a beautiful view. Jug Rock Nature Preserve is nearby with its short hike. This geologic feature is unique and the namesake for Shoals High School 

My favorite part of the trip was finding the Bluffs of Beaver Bend Nature Preserve and hiking the Nubbin Ridge Trail. I read an article in Outdoor Indiana about visiting this place. The 2.5-mile trail was very scenic, climbing up out of the White River floodplain and onto the ridge overlooking the River. The wooded hike with no one to be found made my day. Alone in the woods with yourself, seeing God’s nature is enjoyable, relaxing, refreshing, and so spiritual. No outside interruptions. Just you and the great outdoors. The trail eventually descends back to the start. There are many outcroppings that are unique in nature, several caves, and I would guess waterfalls after rain events.  

On the way home, I had to take in one more site. Martin State Forest is located along US50. This winding, curvy state road bisects the forest and is quite a scenic drive. With it getting later in the day, I didn’t have time for any hiking, so I decided to climb the Willow Valley Fire Tower. The views at the top were spectacular! Unfortunately, the leaves just hadn’t started to turn much. In another week or two, this will be the place to be. Martin State Forest has many trails to hike and mountain bike. I intend to visit again in the future.  

Pass on your places to visit. There are many great places to see, which are so different depending on the season you visit.

~ Jeff Banning