Indiana Tourism welcomes today’s guest blogger, Evan McBrooom:
There are places in the U.S. where I’ve traveled – a special handful of places – where I’ve truly felt as through I’ve traveled not only to a place, but to another time. Indiana’s Shades State Park is one of those places.
As the school year started, I was searching for a place to camp and hike with my 10 year old son and his friend. The trip was to be a time of male-bonding and mentoring – and I wanted it to have a special focus on how to treat the environment as we camped and hit the trail. And I wanted it to be fun. A couple weeks before I attempted to book a campsite at nearby (and better known) Turkey Run, but found them full-up. I launched a message through Twitter and Facebook, “Looking 4 gr8 IN StPark 4wkend camp/hike with son&buddy.” Several suggestions rolled in, but one from a neighbor held special promise: “Shades. Gotta hike Devil’s Backbone.” Another rolled in: “We’ve family camped at Shades. Primitive and fun.” I jumped online and from the DNR site and from personal blogs it looked perfect. The campground reservations were nearly full, but I grabbed one of the last sites and our plans were made.
Here’s what we discovered. A very natural campground. Lots of tents and pop-ups. Clean facilities and frequently placed water spigots. We met a friendly family who invited us for s’mores. We noticed couples quietly camping and gatherings of families and friends who, for the most part, quieted down their fun around 10pm…a few laughing ‘til 11, but all were pretty well behaved. As great as Shades camping was, the true magic of Shades (and neighboring nature preserve – pine hills something-or-other) are the topography and mystery of the dozen or so well marked hiking trails. Most trails are loops, and provide awesome views from narrow ridges followed by incredible creek-bed stone-hopping as you return up a parallel ravine. These are narrow, deep canyons with ladders and strategically placed stairways – just enough to protect the landscape from erosion. A bonus of several trails includes sandbars full of skipping stones at Sugar Creek. The thing that took my breath away though was the green. Moss, ferns, lichen, more moss. Spring-fed creeks teeming with frogs. Rock outcroppings oozing with mineral deposits the flow and bring the downstream creek bed to life. And Devil’s Backbone – worth the drive wherever you are. But ask my son and his friend, “What was your favorite trail?” and you’ll get differing opinions. There’s so much to see, experience and soak up. (my faves are 4, 5, 7, 8 and Devil’s Backbone…and my top vote is 8) Trail 8 was our last trail of the trip. A beautiful August Sunday morning. Temps in the sun were probably mid 70’s, but in the forest there was a coolness. As the boys hiked up the fern lined, moss laden creek bed, they began to make up a song. I can’t recall it all, but it included the chorus, “it’s a magical, mystical, mystical, magical, magical, mystical place.” And it is.