What a great couple of weekends we’ve had here in Indiana to get out into nature! Mostly sunny with highs near 70, and nightly lows around 40. You know what that means… Camping season has begun!
It’s been a couple of years since we’ve made it down to Turkey Run State Park. Last year (2013) the park suffered a flood that damaged their famous suspension bridge, which is the main gateway to the park’s most popular features, so we didn’t visit. How better to kick off the 2014 camping season than a beautiful spring weekend, EASTER weekend, set up at one of Indiana’s most popular and diverse parks? The campground features over 200 sites, so we had plenty to choose from. While there are some great wooded sites at the west end of the campground, we prefer to stay at the northeast end for the quick access to the park’s trail system. We spent Friday evening setting up camp and roasting hot dogs and marshmallows, though Kaden’s favorite were the S’moreos.
(Click images to enlarge)
Saturday morning we were slow moving, drinking coffee and eating donuts, until the temps crept up into the 50s and got our blood moving a bit quicker. We packed our back packs with some snacks and lunch, filled our water reservoirs, and hit the trail just before noon. The campground connecting trail meets up with Trail 7 west of the main park, and quickly descends to a creek bed in the first of many canyons we’ll be seeing on this day’s journey.
Trail 7 winds through this short canyon and comes out by Sugar Creek just below Lieber Cabin, where we take Trail 1 at Sunset Point and follow it past the bulk of the park’s visitor buildings (Nature Center, Pool, Pavilions, Inn) on our way toward the suspension bridge.
After stopping for last minute restroom breaks and our husky Akira cooling off in the creek, we crossed the bridge and took a left onto the south leg of Trail 3. It’s an immediate ascent that gets your blood pumping and your legs burning, just the first of many times on this hike. We pass through boulders and pass under giant sandstone cliffs. As we come down, off to the left is a feature known as the Ice Box, a squarish small canyon that got it’s name because of the immediate temperature drop you feel when entering it.
Shortly after, Trail 3 turns north but we continued west now on Trail 5. This portion of our hike mostly follows Sugar Creek, with the creek and sandy flood plain to our left and trees and cliffs on our right. Early spring wildflowers were popping up, but no sign of any mushrooms…yet. We took some time to climb trees, grab some lunch, and play in the creek.
After some rock and fossil hunting, we got back on the trail, now heading north on Trail 9. This is one of our favorite trails at Turkey Run, it starts out hiking a creek bed through tight canyon walls in Falls Canyon, levels off, then straddles the side of a ravine in Boulder Canyon, culminating in a scramble up a boulder field. What more could you ask for? Well, my son would ask for restrooms along the trails.
Once out of Boulder Canyon, it’s an “easy” hike east from here on Trail 9. And by “easy” I mean up and down lots of ravines, with more steps than you can count. One single stair case, which features both wooden steps and old stone steps first laid down when the park was formed nearly 100 years ago by the Civilian Conservation Corps, is actually called “140 Steps.” Fortunately, we were going down on that one. Just beyond the bottom of that stairway is the junction with Trail 5, where “the ladders” climb out of Bear Hollow beside a small waterfall. With our husky Akira along for the hike, we couldn’t do the ladders, but still a cool feature.
From here, we rejoined Trail 3. A few more up and down steps, and we finally reach a small creek bed that leads us toward Rocky Hollow Falls Canyon.
But before making our way into the main canyon, first some play time inside the Punch Bowl.
After the Punch Bowl, Trail 3 bottle necks. I lead Akira through, followed by Robin and Kaden.
Finally into Rocky Hollow, the canyon is expansive (by Indiana standards). Every time I walk through this canyon, I feel like I’ve stepped back in time. The steep cliffs, tree roots winding in and out of cracks, boulders strewn around. This would be an excellent site for a Jurassic Park movie to be made! Of course these canyons aren’t actually that old, most of them carved out by the melt water of glaciers from the last ice age. Still…
We came out of the canyon and crossed the suspension bridge, tired but loving the experience. The mile hike back to the campground was spent admiring flowers, and holding Akira back from all the squirrels hopping in the leaves.
There is something about Turkey Run that is inspiring, it is so unlike the usual boring terrain of our Hoosier state. It is generally crowded with weekend warriors like ourselves, but so worth it. We were out on the trail this day for six hours, probably logged somewhere around five miles of hard hiking (GPS says seven, but I doubt that). We ate good back at camp, colored some Easter eggs, and slept hard that night, knowing we get to do it all again the next day.
To be continued…