The Herald Bulletin

November 6, 2013

Jim Bailey: An extended glimpse of the best nature has to offer


The Herald Bulletin

---- — The leaves were just beginning to turn colors and fall at the time we spent three days amid the natural beauty of Whitewater Memorial State Park. But the process of an Indiana autumn was evident anyway.

The park is one of the younger ones in Indiana’s state park system, established in 1949 not far from the town of Liberty. It surrounds Whitewater Lake and stretches to the shores of Brookville Lake. The rustic but ample family cabins are within sight of the latter.

Keeping up with a granddaughter, daughter and son-in-law wasn’t easy for a generation starting to feel its age. Hiking the Veterans Vista trail, touted as “moderate” terrain on park maps, not far from the cabins seemed like a good idea at the time. And indeed the stretch from the road to the picnic area near the ramp on Brookville Lake did more to exercise our lungs than our legs and feet.

Then we started up the other half of the trail. Up is the operative word – and it kept on going up, and then down again, over roots and rocks and walnuts. Would it never end? By the time it did this veteran hiker was having trouble moving his feet and legs.

Roasting hot dogs over the campfire put the cap on a busy day, topped off with s’mores for those who liked them (I passed, settling for a couple of raw marshmallows). The fire took the chill off the night air, though only on the side of us that faced the fire.

Plenty of wildlife was evident during our visit, including several deer and a white-topped skunk that fortunately kept its distance from our fire the first night.

The next day’s rain was a blessing in disguise for those of us whose aching legs and feet were slower to recuperate than the younger ones. Games of Yahtzee, Mexican Train Dominoes, Apples2Apples and a homemade game of Whoopee provided plenty of indoor entertainment. Eddie had never played Yahtzee before. Guess who won?

The rain left the trails dampened, but our legs were feeling a little better so we decided to tackle the trails again. Red Springs trail is half easy, half rugged. The easy stretch winds through the Hornbeam Nature Preserve along Whitewater Lake not far from the dam, a beautiful stretch filled with a variety of trees. The rugged half descends past large seep springs that gush from the hillsides, their red color resulting from minerals and iron deposits. I opted to return to our car via the easy trail, beating the rest by about 25 minutes.

A gorgeous sunset over Brookville Lake capped our third day, along with a moon in the clear sky approaching the full phase.

Rain on the last morning scratched our last day of hiking, much to the unspoken delight of the tired elders. But our days in Indiana’s nature proved refreshing indeed.

Jim Bailey’s column appears on Thursday. He can be reached by e-mail at jameshenrybailey@earthlink.net.