I led a group of 10 people on my third installment of Tune-up Hikes on a beautiful Saturday Morning. Overnight we had unseasonable temperatures in the low 30’s but the forecast called for temperatures upwards of 50 degrees by the end of the hike. Before I start with my description of the hike, I have to tell you how impressed I am with the comradery I find on these hikes. I see that people will talk to those they are familiar with to start the hike but then start talking to other people during the hike. I seem to end up talking to everyone at one point or another. It happens on every hike and I just love seeing it.
We met up at the Nature Center at Potato Creek State Park for a six mile hike. It was a beautiful day and the sun was shining bright! We took the Southern portion of Trail 1 which gave us an excellent view of Worster Lake over to the Southern portion of Trail 2. From Trail 2, we hit Trail 4 and heard the sounds of spring! It almost sounded like dozens of birds chirping but we were hiking past a rather large pond, it was actually Frogs/Toads welcoming us with their sweet sound! We took a short break near the Porter Rae Cemetery which was about half way through our hike. Some took the opportunity to explore the early inhabitants of the area. Potato Creek at one point was farm land but the residence left the land to develop a park. More information on the early inhabitants and a copy of the original plat can be found at the Nature Center.
You can find evidence of homesteads as you hike through the trails. There are still some stone walls, a left over drill that was likely used to find ground water on trail 2. While on Trail 4, there is a Spring House that was recreated from pictures of the original. A Spring House was used by early American’s to store their food. A natural spring ran underneath the house, the cold spring water kept the contents of the house cooled. You can still see a stone wall as you walk past which includes a set of steps which led to the original homestead. Continuing along Trail 4, there is a path of Pitch Pine/White Pine that likely was the driveway of one of the early settlers. Once we finished Trail 4 and headed up the service road back to Trail 2, you find that there are a set of Cedar trees and further on, on Trail 2, there is another line of pine trees, again, this is from the original settlers in the area, it is not something that occurs naturally. In fact, if you walk this very path in the spring, as we did, you will find wild growing Snowdrops, Crocus and Tulips. Again, these were planted by the early inhabitants. We also saw skunk cabbage and I showed the group the “Onion Grass” that was growing. (Sorry, I’m just impressed by this stuff, lol )
As we continued on Trail 2, you have the option of climbing up a set of steps that appear out of nowhere, or you can continue down a side path for another 100 yards and take “Steam Boat Hill” which is an uphill incline, about 25 yards in length that will make your thighs burn! We had a good group and everyone took “Steam Boat Hill”. From Steam Boat Hill, we continued on to the “Rugged” portion of Trail 2 that leads to “Vargo Hill”. Vargo Hill is at an elevation of 883 feet and I am told it is the highest point in St. Joseph County (I haven’t been able to confirm it). I had mentioned in the description of the hike, we would stop off here and have a Picnic because it was the highest point and it has a deck where everyone could sit and rest a while. From Vargo Hill, we finished off that last portion of Trail 2 and finished the last mile on Trail 1.
From start to finish, we covered 6.25 miles in less than 2 hours and 45 minutes. Thanks to everyone who came out today, including 1 member on his first group hike. To close out the blog, here are some pictures taken along our path today, Enjoy!