It’s getting close to camping season! The parks are starting to open back up and reservations are becoming available. I’m hoping to hit my southern Indiana favorite Indian Celina North Face Campground soon to shake down some new gear. It’s not a fancy campground but it’s clean and usually really quiet. I also discovered a Disc Golf course at the Saint Meinrad Archabbey 25-minutes away from camp so that’s going to be a must-visit.
Also this week I give you the “Porks & Rec” Tenderloin sandwich at Big Lug Canteen in Nora. Recommended by my good friend Rick from The Tenderloin Guy. Dressed with all my favorites, Lettuce, Onion, Tomato, Mayo & Mustard. Served with a side of herbed mayo that was excellent on the waffle fries I ordered as my side.
Keeping this post a little short because it’s already past due to be published. Look for more pics and reviews in the coming weeks!
We just had 2-3” of snow hit the Indianapolis region last Tuesday evening. Snow, in Indy, in April, is not that uncommon. In fact according to weather.com we have a 10-20% chance for snow in April. The average date for the last snowfall is March 19 and the latest snowfall ever recorded was May 9, 1923
I finally ate at Loughmiller’s Pub & Eatery on West Washington in Indianapolis last week. I was out for a lunchtime walk and decided to stop in. They had a decent lunch crowd with a lot of people (at least around me) from out of town. The menu had a nice variety and the service was very good. I enjoyed the Skillet Burger which is an open faced sandwich on Texas Toast covered in house made chili and cheddar-jack cheese. Crinkle fries were included and were cooked and seasoned perfectly. The gentleman next to me ordered the Fish & Chips and they looked amazing (he really liked them too). That’s a reason to go back!
Finally, we had some amazing weather yesterday so I took advantage and drove up to Morse Beach in Noblesville to check out their Disc Golf course. It’s a 9-basket course but they have 2 Tee Pads for each hole for a total of 18 holes. You basically make 2 rounds. It was more challenging than I was expecting and is considered a “beginner” course. Either way it was a great way to spend a few hours outside getting some much needed exercise.
So we’re down to 16 teams in the NCAA March Madness Tournament. It’s been a year of upsets as some of the top teams (including ALL of the Big-10) are knocked out. It’s going to be an exciting weekend along with an even more exciting round next week!
YOU get a Shot, and YOU get a shot. Ads of March 31 anyone 16 years old and above is eligible for a COVID vaccine. I’ve been trying to get one for a while now but the demand far outweighs the supply. Governor Holcomb just announced there will be a mass vaccination clinic at the Indianapolis motor Speedway starting on 4/1. I’m scheduled to go on 4/2 for the J&J shot which I’m assuming will knock me on my butt the following day. Good thing there’s basketball to watch!
If you know me you know I have a few hobbies. Camping, Hiking, Cycling, Kayaking, Photography, Cooking (and eating)… I have a new interest this year and it’s Disc Golf. I’ve only just started but I’m very intrigued with it and have a few trips coming up that I plan to play while out and about. I like that it’s an inexpensive sport to get into and the courses are 95% free or only $5-6 where there is a fee. That makes it very accessible to people and easy to walk away if it becomes boring. I’ll keep you posted on the progress.
Speaking of Disc Golf I found an app called UDisc that makes finding courses and leagues, scoring games, and tracking your stats possible (and fun). All that for only $5 a year (it even has an Apple Watch app included! It’s well worth the price and I’ve really enjoyed using it so far!
Finally, for my Mac friends out there here’s a short video explaining 13 Keyboard Shortcuts you might not know about.
I’ve been planning an overnight getaway to the Hoosier National Forrest (HNF) for a while now. I prefer weeknight trips to avoid the rush of weekend warriors that fill the campsites throughout the US.
It was funny (and totally coincidental) to see a writeup in the latest Indianapolis Monthly this month. Even more so that they featured one of the areas I was going to visit. Kind of made me feel better that I’d picked a good spot to visit!
I started southeast of Bloomington in the Charles C. Deam Wilderness area. Specifically at the Hickory Ridge Fire Tower. This is one seriously tall tower! My plan was to make the trip to the top after some exploring.
After checking my map one more time I headed down the Out-and-Back Terrill Ridge Trail. I had been told from a co-worker that there were some good camping areas at the end of the trail as well as a pioneer cemetery.
As you van see it’s a pretty flat twin track trail that is used to access the cemetery. There was a sign indicating you could drive back there with permission. At the end I found the cemetery but there were N0 Camping signs everywhere so I continued to scout around.
About a 1/4 mile back there was a bend in the trail and I totally missed the sign that showed the spur trail that take you back to a Lilly pad covered pond and several disbursed sites.
Having marked a few GPS waypoints for future reference I headed back to the car. Unfortunately my IT Band started to act up half way back to climbing the tower was out of the question. I just wanted to get off my feet! It’s kind of funny an IT Guy ends up with IT Band issues…
I decided to head down to the Saddle Lake Recreation area and scope things out. They have 2 camping areas. One that’s primitive (North Face) and one that has electricity (South Slope). I decided to drive through the first one and see if there were any spots available. Sure enough the weekday excursion paid off. Plenty of sites! Since I didn’t have a reservation I stopped by the Camp Host site to see what I should do.
That’s where I met Wendy & Jerry. The had been hosting at the North Face campground since April and the had a pretty nice little setup going. This was Jerry’s first year as a host and he said he was really enjoying it. Wendy had been hosting for several years prior.
They bickered a little about which campsite to assign me, each thinking the one they had in mind was better than the other. In the end we ended up in North Face Site 18 in the and it could not have been more perfect. It was a big site with plenty of room for my 3-man tent. You could have setup a 10-man tent and still had room.
I purchased a couple of bundles of firewood and Jerry offered to bring them by once I got settled. He came by about 20-minutes later to deliver the firewood and see how I was getting along.
After a filling meal of Mountian House Chili Mac, a few IPA’s I brought back from San Antonio, and a nice campfire I retired for the night to rest up for Day-2. The tacos dipped into the 50’s and it was a very comfortable night.
As usual when camping nature is usually your best alarm clock. I was awakened by numerous song birds each singing their identifiable melody. The air was cool and, as usual, a little damp. The tree cover helped minimize the dew and kept things a lot drier than I was expecting.
I packed up camp and made sure the fire was completely out by stirring up the ashes with a stick and feeling for any warmth. We were all good!
I was heading back to Indy today but I wasn’t in any hurry. I remembered seeing an interesting rock slide the last time I was in the Marengo, Indiana area and decided to check it out before taking a tour of the Marengo Cave U.S. National Landmark.
The rock slide was right next to the road (Highway 64 near Milltown, IN) and it looked like a huge hole deep into the rock. There was a mining operation in the area as well so that might have caused the cave-in.
Marengo Cave is a nicely run operation. The whole property is clean and very well taken care of. They have camping sites available as well as places to hike and have a picnic. There are 2 tours available and you can buy a discounted package to tour both. Since I want to visit again I choose to take the shorter of the 2 tours that lasted about 40-minutes.
The Cave was discovered by 2 kids in the late 1800’s when the took a candle down into a sink hole and eventually found the first of dozens of rooms in the cave system. It’s an interesting story and the caves are worth a visit if you’re in the area.
I was passing through a little town when I saw the sign above. I had to turn around to come back and get this shot. I thought it was pretty funny.
So all in all I’ve only scratched the surface of the Hoosier National Forrest and I have several trips in the planning stages for next year (maybe one more this year if the weather cooperates). There are so many trails and places to camp it could take years to see them all. I feel fortunate we have such a well run National forrest in Indiana and I plan to visit again soon!
This trip came about from a casual conversation with a co-worker and the tips and suggestions he provided made this a very enjoyable few days! Do you have a favorite place in the HNF? I’d love to hear form you.
This is the 3rd and final part of the Red River Gorget Trip Report. Lot’s of pictures and a few videos in this one. Enjoy!
Waking up early
In order to beat the heat of the day I was up at the crack of dawn and out the door by 7:30. I had packed everything but water and food the night before so it was pretty easy to hit the road early. Temps were in the low 70’s and the humidity was at least 80%.
Props to the new Subaru for handling the Kentucky roads, paved and unpaved, like a champ. This car is a MUCH better fit for my lifestyle than the Mercedes Sedan I previously owned, but not nearly as much fun to drive…
Driving to the Trailhead
I’m still amazed how un-congested the whole Red River Gorge was during the 4th of July holiday. I expected a lot more people to be out and about in the area. I was pleasantly surprised at how few people I saw on the trails.
The Nada Tunnel separated be from the trailhead. As mentioned in Part-2 this is an old rail tunnel that’s been converted into a one-lane road.
Auxier Ridge to Courthouse Rock Trail
After driving for about 30-minutes I was finally at the trailhead. It was a very well groomed gravel lot with a pit toilet in case you needed it before/after your hike. There were 2 other cars parked here when I started about a dozen when I left.
I changed into my Hiking Shoes, threw on the day-pack, and headed out. Almost immediately I was greeted by a Rhododendron grove still in bloom.
The trail was in great shape and had a layer of sand that was soft to walk on but not so thick to get into your shoes or be a problem. I’ll take this over a gravel or muddy trail any time!
The views along this trail were amazing. You would have a little stretch of a green tunnel that would open up into view after view of the nearby ridges and valleys.
It’s pretty amazing to think about what it took to carve out the Gorge and create the arches that are hundreds of feet in the air. This place was created over thousands/millions of years and, in a way, feels ancient and new at the same time.
As the trail continued I had my head on a swivel as there were things to see on both sides of the ridge. It was nice to see a little wildlife in the form of a baby bunny along the trail. He was pretty calm and allowed be to get closer than I thought I could to get a picture. As soon as I passed he took off into the brush.
There were many outcrops along the trail and you could see where people had been camping. You’re supposed ot be a minimum of 300-feet from a trail when you camp, but that’s pretty difficult to do on a 200-400-foot wide ridge with a trail running down the middle.
In the distance I could see “Double Arch”, one of many arches in the area and a place I want to check out when I return.
I found a great area to get close to the edge of the ridge and take a peak at Courthouse Rock which is off in the distance in the picture below.
As I worked my way closer to the end of the trail it was time for a snack and water break. I wasn’t sure what to expect from my package of “Dietz Nuts” but now was the time to find out…
Other than the some greasiness on the surface (from the warm temps) these meat bites were really good! I think they could use some work on their naming/marketing but I’d pick these over traditional beef jerky every time.
Finally at the end of the ridge it’s time to descend into the Gorge and get out of the sun and into the humidity!
Descending into the Gorge
I took the steep stairs down to the bottom of the gorge and was met with cooler temps. Everything was wet from the humidity and I quickly learned that being the first one on the trail isn’t always a good thing. Someone has to break through all of the spider webs for the day and it was my turn today! I ended up with several spider bites form this experience, not very fun…
It was very interesting to see the dynamic change of my surroundings. There were mushrooms everywhere and the trail was a lot less obvious than what I had been hiking on 150 feet above on the ridge. I walked along the contour of the ridge bottom and headed back towards the starting point.
Climbing to the Top
Once I reached the end of the lower ridge trail I was expecting to see another set of stairs but instead I was greeted with what looked like a steep washout. That was the way back to the top of the trail and it was a pretty tough climb to get to the top. Time for another snack and water break!
I’m a fan of the RX Bars but I’ve found from others it’s something you either love or hate. They’re very dense and sticky chewy. The flavors are pretty tru to the description and this Peanut Butter & Berry flavor was no exception. You definitely need something to wash these down with but I really enjoy them and they keep for a long time.
After completing the hike I took some time to explore the area some more and identified several places I’d like to camp when I return next. Disbursed camping is pretty much everywhere. I wasn’t expecting to see so many places along the roads. There are NO amenities when you camp like this so if you want a bathroom and running water your best bet is to stick with some of the established campgrounds in the area.
I was expecting to do some fishing when visiting the RRG but quickly found out that it’s not really possible. The Red River is VERY muddy and the other streams in the area too shallow. I’ll leave the fishing gear home next time and just focus on hiking and camping.
I packed the car up the next day and headed north towards Morehead and Maysville, Kentucky. I wanted to stop by a family gravesite to pay my respects as well as visit the American Sign Museum in Cincinnati.
I really enjoyed driving on the back roads of Kentucky and twisted my way up and over the hills along my journey. I finally made it to Cincinnati after lunch and checked out the Museum.
The American Sign Museum is a really cool place. They’re preserving a piece of American history. It’s been so popular they’re expanding into another space with will double the existing square footage and allow them to continue to add to the already amazing collection. If you’re in the area and have an hour to kill I recommend checking it out!
I wasn’t sure what to expect when visiting the RRG area. I was VERY impressed with the number and quality of trails in the area. I wasn’t so impressed with my cabin rental but it could have been worse. The crowds were way less then I expected, especially for a holiday weekend. I want to return in the fall when the leaves are changing, the temps are cooler, and the humidity lower.
If you’re looking for a very low key get away and want to spend some time enjoying nature RRG is a nice, inexpensive place to visit. It’s 4-hours south of Indianapolis and an easy morning/afternoon drive. There are lots of places to stop along the way to make the trip even more interesting.
That’s it for this trip report. I have a few more trips in the planning stages as well as more gear reviews in the works. If you have any feedback about the review or questions about the RRG area please leave your comments below. Thanks for reading!