Warm weather has finally arrived! We went for our first family hike of the year this weekend, driving an hour southwest to Shades State Park. Shades is one of our favorite parks in Indiana. It has many of the same features as it’s more popular neighbor Turkey Run, with deep ravines, canyons, creeks, and waterfalls. It also contains the state’s oldest and largest nature preserve at Pine Hills. What it doesn’t have are the large crowds, it’s not unusual to be out on the trails for hours without running into other hikers. Robin and I utilize hiking as a major part of our fitness plan, and this is the starting point for us to get into shape for the Warrior Dash later this year.
We parked in the small lot adjacent to the Shades Pond, and decided to just start hiking and see where we end up. We started on trail 9 and then headed down trail 6 into Red Fox Ravine. It’s not a long trail, but was hard to follow due to being covered by last fall’s leaves.
(Click on pictures to see them enlarged)
Many spring flowers and tree blooms along the trail.
From trail 6, we joined trail 1 and took a lot of steps to get over to Devil’s Punchbowl. This is one of the coolest geologic features in the park, as is most of trail 1.
Hiking away from the punchbowl on trail 1, you can’t help but feel utterly small surrounded by the high rock walls.
After splashing through the creek, we finally reach what is the true feature and inspiration of the park, Silver Cascade Falls. This is a different kind of waterfall, more like a slide, where the slate rock beneath the water has remained while the rock around it has eroded away. While awe inspiring, my complaint is that the state park restricts your view of the falls, only having an observation point above the falls. There once was a trail that at least allowed a view from the side, but the trail has eroded and the park apparently has no plans to fix it. The only way to get a view below the falls would be to either scale down (not recommended and against park rules) or to come from Sugar Creek, such as on a canoe, and hike up to the falls that way. Something I do plan on doing one of these days.
From here, we hiked on up trail 1, but it is a LOT of stairs getting to the top, which does require a stop or two for catching your breath, definitely feel the burn going up. A quick stop at Prospect Point affords a great view of Sugar Creek down below, which is a bit flooded currently.
From there, we continued to the park’s main playground & picnic area and stopped for a snack.
It was at this point that we couldn’t really decide where to hike, as we were limited to maybe two more hours in the park before we had to leave. It was also at this time that we were reminded that the park’s official trail map can’t be trusted. According to the map, the eastern most leg of trail 5 has no ladders, while the western leg of 5 and eastern leg of 4 do. So we started down the eastern leg of 5, only to discover there was a ladder, going down, and we simply couldn’t do it with Akira in tow. So we turned back up the trail, and headed onto a connecting trail until we reached the western leg of 4 and took it down to creek side on Sugar Creek. We spent some time on the banks of the creek searching through rocks, fossils, and shells. We could have spent all day looking through the rocks, it’s like a trip through time. Rocks that could only have been brought down by glaciers thousands of years ago; quartz crystals; and tons upon tons of ancient sea bed fossils embedded in rock from millions of years ago when the area was under a shallow sea.
From here we decided to hike up the eastern leg of trail 5, which we knew contained one ladder going up. It was rugged, lots of downed trees from winter and spring storms, which just adds to the adventure for us. We were sure Akira could climb the ladder (huskies are well known for their climbing and escape abilities), but she kind of froze up once she got on the bottom rungs, and I had pull her up much the way someone gets rescued out of the ocean by a helicopter, heh. Good thing we had that nice harness on her.
From there it was a relatively easy hike back across trail 1 and to our Jeep parked by the pond. If you haven’t hiked Shades State Park, I highly recommend it. What you see here just scratches the surface of what the park offers. There is a Backpack Trail that is a 4 mile round trip hike out to the canoe campsites; and Pine Hills Nature Preserve is one of our favorite hikes in the entire state, with sheer rock walls, a beautiful creek perfect for splashing in, and “backbones” 100 feet high and 6 feet wide for those brave enough to conquer them.