Let me preface this by saying, I’ve looked through 400+ pictures, I have read my review and with that I can easily say that pictures and words are only half the story. You have to go out and experience this yourself. But if you can’t, I hope to do a good job of painting the picture for you.
The South Bend Adventure Club took a winter trip to Turkey Run State Park a few months ago and while we hiked through the beautiful snow and ice covered canyons, I wondered how much more beautiful this place would be in the spring. It was on the drive home that I devised a plan to get my family out with me for this experience. I called it a Family Mini Vacation and made it a South Bend Adventure Club event for the weekend.
In order to have some family time, my family and I arrived Thursday afternoon before the rest of the Adventure Club (slated to show Friday night or Saturday morning). I knew I had to set the tone. My wife does not enjoy nature like I do, she seems to attract snakes on every trip! I knew the first hike would need to start off with one of the most beautiful areas of the park. We set out on Trail 6 and 7 towards Turkey Run Hollow. As soon as you walk into this area you are met up with an eye popping sandstone cavern. From the moment she walked in, her camera was popping photos left and right (over 250 in total for the weekend!). I had told my son and wife that they need to expect their feet to get wet and to bring extra socks! After hiking through the cavern and crossing the stream of water going through it, no one was complaining about wet or muddy shoes! The evening ended with dinner at the Turkey Run Inn and afterwards we headed to Sunset Point to enjoy the sunset.
We took full advantage of the amenities the park has to offer. Friday morning after breakfast we headed to the Bridle Barn and took a 50 minute horseback ride. I have to admit, it was my first time on a horse and was feeling pretty intimidated but our guide was great, matched the horse up with the person and after about 5 minutes on the lead horse, I was feeling pretty confident. Later in the day we went to the Nature Center to check out a list of their interpretive services. While we were there we attended a free Planetarium Star Show, it lasted about 40 minutes and covered many constellations you would see in the current night sky. Afterwards we went back to the inn, took a dip in the swimming pool and had a lazy evening at the inn.
Saturday morning prior to meeting up with the Adventure Club, we took advantage of another Interpretive Service the park has to offer. We went on a Hike and Fossil hunt while learning the history of Turkey Run State Park. We learned how the park and it’s landscape came to be through the Glacial Period. Among items we spotted along Sugar Creek: Crinoids, Geodes, Coral and even a piece of Horn Coral. Afterwards we met up with the Adventure Club (Brian, Frank, Kerry, Jen, Josh and Rachel) and hit the other trails I was eagerly waiting to bring my family on.
We started off behind the nature center, walked over a Suspension bridge to trail 3 to get to the first cavernous area called the “Ice Box”. Although it was near 75 degrees, you could feel the coolness of the Ice Box that was along Sugar Creek. After leaving the Ice Box heading on Trail 3 until we reached a series of ladders, yes, ladders! You have to climb up a set of 20-25’ ladders to get out (or in- depending on which trail you take) of the canyon we were in. It was pretty busy with people going up and down so we had a chance to rest and take pictures. Watching the water fall as you climb up the ladder sort of takes any fear of heights away J after going up the ladders we followed trail 3 to trail 5 through Bear Hollow. We hit trail 9 to Boulder Canyon which is exactly like it sounds. As you head into this canyon, each foot step is pretty much a different boulder. We missed the trail out and had to circle back and as we did, my son Joey ended up getting stuck in the mud!
After finding our way back to the trail, we ended up going through Falls Canyon which as described, there was a nice water fall going through it. Oh, I guess I should also point out that we did not see any Bears in Bear Hollow and no Turkey’s in Turkey Hollow but rumor has it the Indians would use Turkey Hollow to trap and hunt turkey.
The Adventure group and I took the trip to Trails 6 and 7 since my family already hiked through it on our first day there, they got cleaned up and headed to the pool. Afterwards we enjoyed free coffee at the Inn! We headed to Shades State Park that evening for a meal cooked at the camp ground that Kerry, Frank, Rachel and Joshua stayed at. A homemade Tortellini and vegetable soup!
Sunday we met up for one last hike. One of the other bonuses of talking to a person in Interpretive Services is finding out where some of the other breath taking areas are in the nearby parks. Barbara told us of another canyon in Shades State Park which was only about 4 miles away. They have a new road going up to Pine Hills Nature Preserve. She stated there was a trail that a portion of is only 5 foot wide with a 100 foot drop off. After we got through the woodsy area, we hit a creek bed that not only had sandstone but also appeared to have slate in it as well. After crossing over we headed up the side of a cavern of sandstone, years of wind and water erosion created a delightful eye popping view for visitors to see. Natures art! We headed further up the path and we met up with that 5’ with a 100” drop off. Yeah, I have some fear of heights but wow… again, the beauty of it all took any fear I was experiencing at the moment. It is described in the PDF below as “The steep-sided wall you see before you is another back bone. This is Devil’s Backbone. At one point, it is 6 feet wide and 100 feet high. Groups with small children would be advised not to attempt to cross it.” – (more information at: http://www.in.gov/dnr/parklake/files/shades_pine_hills_np_trail_map.pdf)
Be informed, there are tons of details and pictures I, unfortunately, had to leave out due to time and space constraints. If you have any questions you can “Friend” me on facebook: (David Krachenfels). I hope you enjoyed the story!