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.