First Hike, January 1st

Last year, we had a very successful, January 1st “hAnGoVeR hIkE” but this year instead of leading an event, I piggy backed on a hike offered by the DNR at Potato Creek County Park. While it was a chilly morning, it was great to see the sun shine on this first day of the year.

“Maggie” (DNR Interpreter) led the hike, which was an easy hike, probably about a mile but we stopped off along the trail several times to find out information about animals, fowl, fish, amphibian and insects that live in the park as well as their hibernation and winter activities. Of special interest to me was finding out that Bees tend to hibernate on the north side of a hill, in soil that drains well. This is done so that a warm sun beating down on the south of a hill does not trick them into thinking spring has arrived. The well drained soil helps so when the snow melts, it does not drown them! (layman’s terms, lol)

Approximately 25-30 people attended this hike, of which six South Bend Adventure Club members joined us, including Outdoor Adventure columnist Joe Dits of the South Bend Tribune.

At the end of the hike, we went back to the Nature Center where some joined in on “Cocoa with the Birds”, we talked, got warm and then headed home. See some pictures below!

Some may notice that I have spent less time leading events and I will be leading less events in 2017. Having a son in High School Orchestra, who also plays with the South Bend Youth Symphony Orchestra AND has been spending more time with Piano lessons and after school activities, it is really hard for me to commit to creating events. This is one one of the reasons we look to our membership to create outdoor related events! If you wish to lead an event, please see our easy how to guide! (Click here “Leading Trips” ). We are down to only two or three admins — The blog needs to be updated, links need to be fixed, I’d like to work on an “Event Calendar” for all Outdoor related activities, so any help that anyone can give is a gift we will accept 🙂  I may stay behind the scenes for now working on all this and occasionally do an event, I’m hoping our membership can fill in the gaps on events.  We may also have a membership meeting within the next few weeks so people can share their thoughts on the club.

That being said… Here are the pictures!

Categories: Adventure, Hiking, Potato Creek State Park, South Bend Adventure Club, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , | Leave a comment

#OptOutside with the SBAC!

It’s been a while since I led an event. I’ve been doing my own thing as of late, hoping that others would take the opportunity to lead events but I just couldn’t let this opportunity go by, to get people to… #OptOutside on this extended holiday weekend!

Today it was a 3.5 mile hike at Ferrettie Baugo Creek County Park, tomorrow I will host a running event followed by a 2.5 mile walk. Both events will be around the Mishawaka River Walk.

We had seven people show up for this event, two who were attending a South Bend Adventure Club trip for the very first time! Unknown to me, Joe Dits, who writes about Outdoor Adventures for the South Bend Tribune, joined us for this adventure! It was a pretty decent late November day in Northern Indiana, it was an overcast day, temperatures in the 40’s, the sun peaked out from time to time to check in on us and to make sure we had some warmth on our faces.

We started in the parking area, hiked towards “Baugo Station”. Before arriving at Baugo Station,  we visited the Saint Joseph County Parks Department official Geocache. From Baugo Station, we headed south along the creek. We crossed the old bridge (pictured below) and continued south along the trail that closely followed the creek. We took some pit stops by some of the areas where the creek got it’s name “Baubaugo”… or “Devil Water”. Despite the fast moving water, the usual areas where the trails get flooded were in pretty good shape. Despite the recent rains, it wasn’t muddy at all. Since I last blogged about the park, it appears they have placed gravel under the Railroad bridge and Washington St and this has kept the area, on the most part, from having standing water or slick mud. (Thank you!).  In early 2016, I agreed to Adopt the trails in this park and to do maintenance where I could. At the end of the hike we got to talking to one of the park employees, it turned out, it was Shelly, who I report my time spent volunteering at the park. It was nice meeting you (Again) Shelly!

After the hike, most of us headed to Bravo Cafe (Lincoln Way, Osceola, Indiana) for some post hike nourishment. Excellent food! We took the time to get to know one another better and to discuss some of the adventures we went on. I’d call this group “Cohesive”, we got along and I think everyone had a great time.

In this day and age, technology is a big part of life and I just can’t help but use technology to track my steps and to give people a perspective of where we have hiked. The Featured image on the blog today was the tracks from my Garmin Forerunner watch exported to Google Earth.  In fact, I had both my old Garmin Forerunner (for GPS) AND also used my Fitbit Charge HR to get steps and heart rate. I’m a gadget geek! I can’t afford all the new technologies that are available but I love tracking everything I do!

I hope you enjoy the few pictures I took. Hopefully you will join us on our next adventure!


Categories: Adventure, Baugo, Hiking, South Bend, South Bend Adventure Club, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , | 1 Comment

4 Mile Hike at Potato Creek State Park

It was an excellent morning for a hike! Nine people met up in the parking area near the trail head of trail 4. The temperature was in the low 70’s when we started out and remained pretty steady throughout our hike. Much to my surprise, two of the hikers wanted to find the geocaches along the way, I’m no stranger to geocaching so we added that to the hiking adventure.

We started out the hike at the trail 4 trailhead by Porter Rea cemetery and followed the trail along Worster Lake. We didn’t see anything nesting in the Osprey nest but just a bit past the bird watching deck, we found a geocache nesting near the spring house. The spring house is a house in which food is kept cool by a spring that runs underneath or through it. I took a picture of the sign by the spring house for more information.

We took trail 4 to trail 2 and that took us to Steam Boat Hill, usually I like to take the trail to the right and “climb” up the hill but the trail appeared muddy and overgrown so we opted for the staircase. Not too far from the stairs, we started towards Vargo Hill which lists an elevation of 883 feet. I am told it is the highest point in St. Joseph County and that brought some debate about the highest point in Indiana.. Hoosier Hill is the highest point in Indiana at 1,257 feet and perhaps an upcoming SBAC Event??

We arrived at the deck at Vargo Hill and enjoyed the snacks we took along with us. It’s somewhat funny that the deck was build as an observation deck but in the years since it was built, the trees have grown and has blocked the view, still, it Is a great place to stop and rest!

We took the second half of trail 2 back to trail 4 where we took some pictures by the creek that goes along the trails at that point. (Son pictured below) Then stopped off again for a short break by an area I call “Tranquility Base”, which is the featured image. There is a bench at that location that I like to stop and reflect at 🙂

During our hike we found crab apples and enjoyed eating blackberries we found along the way. Other than seeing birds and frogs, the only other animals we came across were a few horses being ridden on the nearby horse trail. The only slight annoyance was the mosquitos buzzing around us. Cutting down the hike from my usual 6 to 4 miles and hiking earlier in the day was definitely beneficial. We hiked during the cool part of the day and were home by about noon! Thanks to everyone who joined me on this adventure. Pictures are below!

Categories: Adventure, fitness, Hiking, walking | Tags: , , , , , | Leave a comment

Fernwood Botantical Gardens Tour and Hike

I was watching the weather closely coming up to this weekend and had we listened to the forecast, this adventure may not have been taken. Today was suppose to be a day or rain and thunderstorms and instead, it was a day of Adventure.

Thirteen people met at the visitors center at Fernwood Botanical Gardens in Niles, Michigan with the threat of rain. We had a few members taking their first trip and a few who had never been to Fernwood. We started in the main gardens and one of the first places we visited was the “stick garden”


According to Fernwood’s description: “Artist Patrick Dougherty created Fernwood’s new stick sculpture, Take Five, in April 2014. Made from locally harvested willow and dogwood, Take Five is composed of five rooms that lean into each other connected by doorways and alleys. The roof is an oculus, as in an eye, opening at the top of each room, providing views of blue sky and sunshine. People are amazed at the size, sturdiness, and sweeping design of Take Five.”

From the Stick garden, we went to the Railway garden, which you can see in some of the gallery pictures. It was eye candy not only for the kids but the big kids too 🙂 From there we ventured through the Japanese garden before taking a break at the Nature Center. At the nature center you can watch the birds get seed from the feeders but our added bonus was seeing a huge Raccoon devouring the food meant for the birds as well as some chipmunks. From the nature center, we hit the trails and our first stop was the water wheel. The water wheel is a location that two natural springs meet, I am told that there are a total of six natural springs on the property that flow into the Saint Joseph river.

After we left the water wheel, we took the Ecology Trail and as soon as we arrived at the dock at the ‘Big Pond”, we noticed two Turkey’s crossing the trail ahead of us, as we stood quietly, we noticed another four or five turkeys deeper in the woods. from the Ecology Trail we walked along the Saint Joseph River on the river trail. I sparked some interest when I mentioned a geocache up ahead. I gave one of the members my cell phone which was running the geocaching.com app. Not too long afterwards, we found our first of two geocaches on the day. We left the waters edge to head through the Wilderness Trail and then through the Old Field Trail. Tons of Ferns and Skunk Cabbage could be found alone these paths. We visited the Tall Grass Prairie, which at this time of the year is ankle high 🙂 We then took a shortcut through the service road that goes around the arboretum back to the main grounds. At the main grounds I introduced everyone to the Sensory Garden. This is a garden that has plants and herbs that can appeal to ones senses. We found Lemon Balm, Lemon Grass, Licorice Basil. Peppermint, Spearmint and various other fragrant plants.

The trip at this point was two hours. We headed back to the visitors center where I showed everyone the Library, an indoor Fern Garden (with more trains) and we finished off at the café.. I forgot to mention that when we first arrived, the café was cooking up a carrot cake! We couldn’t leave without sampling it! Based on the feedback, everyone had a good time! As a people watcher, I really enjoy how people who hardly know each other interact with everyone during the course of a hike. While I enjoy the hikes, I enjoy seeing the camaraderie people share! Join us on our next adventure…and enjoy the pictures of what we saw during the hike!

Categories: Adventure, Bird watching, Fernwood, Hiking, Life, South Bend Adventure Club | Tags: , , , , | 1 Comment

Potato Creek 6 Mile Tune-Up Hike!

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!

Categories: Adventure, Hiking, michiana, South Bend Adventure Club | Tags: , , , , , | 2 Comments

Trail running on a 2000 year-old celestial calendar

This weekend, as usual, we tested our endurance and explored more of Indiana. Our journey began Friday night when we drove to the town of Muncie. There was a frigidly cold rain that was expected to last all night, so we reassessed our plans to camp. Instead we ended up couch surfing at a historic house from 1890 with a couple of gracious hosts. If you still don’t know about the website couchsurfing, do yourself a favor; get on there right now and make an account. I’ve lost track of all of the great experiences I’ve had with couchsurfing and it can make trips way cheaper. We were given an entire bedroom with a king sized bed and a view (for free of course).

We woke up before the sunrise to drive to Mounds State Park and prepare for the DINO race we had come to do. DINO (Do INdiana Off-road) is a group that runs a series of trail races across the state. The registration money goes towards trail maintenance and it’s a fun way to stay in shape and see some parks. Due to the previously mentioned rain, the trails were muddy and messy, but we charged onward undaunted. Kerry ran the 15k (winning 1st in her age group despite losing her shoes six times!) while Tim and I ran the 5k. By the end of the race, the sun was out and the day was beautiful. We were joined by two more club members and went on a hike through Mounds State Park. The park gets its name from the large earthen hills that were built by Hopewell natives thousands of years ago. Their positions line up with the sunset during the summer and winter solstices, making them ideal for predicting the timing of seasonal changes. We saw several and they were pretty amazing. Evidently, many of these mounds could end up underwater by the proposed construction of a dam which you should be opposed to – see more details here. After our hike, we set up tents at the campground. That night we had a blazing fire on which we cooked a big batch of vegetarian chili. The night was cold, but survivable.

Sunday morning we packed up and headed to our final stop, Ouabache State Park. At Ouabache we went on a 3-mile hike. Highlights along the way included a 100-foot fire tower and grazing bison. Long ago bison were abundant in Indiana until they were exterminated by obnoxious European colonists. This small herd was introduced by park staff to re-establish the original grazing regime and give visitors a glimpse of the Indiana that once was. We had fun watching them munch on grass and wallow in the mud. Finally, satisfied with our explorations (and out of weekend) we returned to South Bend.

Categories: Adventure, Couch Surfing, Hiking, Mounds State Park, Oubache State Park, Running, Trail Running | 1 Comment

Tune-up hike at Ferrettie/Baugo Creek County Park

This past week everyone was feeling good about the constant above freezing temperatures, the snow that seems to have been around for months has been slowly melting away. The snow around my house has totally melted except for the snow that is on the north side of the house which doesn’t get any direct sun. I figured we would see pretty much the same thing as we hiked at Ferrettie/Baugo Creek County Park.

Baugo is short for Baubaugo, which is a term the Indians used to describe the creek. Baubago means “Devil Water” and the Indians called it that due to the way the creek swells after a hard rain (or snow melt!) That summed up part of the hike. The park was once a garbage dump site and it is on the tail edge of a EPA Super Site. They offer seasonal activities such as a Tube Hill, Cross Country Skiing, Snow Shoeing and Frisbee Golf. For those of you who kayak or canoe, they have a canoe launch which leads to the St. Joseph River. Or visit the park from the St. Joseph river!

The beginning of the hike was promising, the dirt road and the trail head had no snow! But when we crossed under the bridge under Lincoln Way and the Railroad crossing, it was flooded and muddy. Beyond that, the trails were a combination of snow, ice and wet ground.

We had 14 members on the hike which was meant to be a 4 mile tune up hike for those who want to stretch their legs and start working towards longer hikes in the future but we had a pretty lively group, including two youngsters who I told, if their parents were older than them, they had to assist them along a part of the trail that went along the edge of a drop off. Because of the stops along the way to take some pictures, the hike took us less than two hours and we covered about 3 miles.

I am planning two other hikes at Potato Creek in a few weeks which will be a bit more challenging due to slight elevation changes, we welcome you to go! To find out the latest information on events, join our Facebook page.

Here are some pictures and the trail of our hike today:

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Categories: Adventure, Hiking, South Bend | Tags: , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Icy wonders of Lake Michigan in winter

A day at the beach for fun in the sun may sound completely ridiculous this time of the year. But ice is a strange thing. It can be beautiful and create jaw-dropping formations. It can transform a place that you’ve visited a hundred times into an alien world. It’s certainly worth donning a jacket and driving an hour. So this Saturday, 17 people (and 1 husky) from the club got together for a day of ice-watching. We started out by driving to Tiscornia Park in St. Joseph, MI. Just across the river from Silver Beach, this park is usually less crowded and has access to the lighthouse pier. We walked out (careful not to slip) to the far lighthouse, which was completely covered in ice and looked like an monstrous creature rising from the frozen lake.
From there, we grabbed some sandwiches at Baguette de France, a cute little shop also in St. Joseph. The food was tasty, fast, and cheap.
Finally, we moved on to Grand Mere State Park. We hiked a 3.3-mile loop that took us out onto the beach and along a ridge line (part of a parabolic dune). The snow-covered trails were a challenge, but we plowed through.
It takes a bit more will power for most people to get outside these days, but its rewarding. And if all 17 of us did it, then so can you. There are sights to see that aren’t going to be there in the spring, so now is your chance. Take it.

Safety tip: It can be dangerous to walk out onto the frozen lake. It isn’t always as solid as you think and hills can have pockets of air that collapse from your weight. People die out there every single year. That isn’t a reason not to go, just stay safely on solid ground. Also bring hiking or skiing poles to avoid slipping.

Categories: Adventure, Dunes, Grand Mere, Hiking, Ice, St. Joseph River, Winter | 2 Comments

Hiking at Ferrettie/Baugo Creek County Park

Fourteen South Adventure Club members met up at Ferrettie/Baugo Creek County Park (aka Baugo) at 10am this morning to hike and geocache. It was a bit misty as we were heading to the park but it cleared up for our hike. The temperature was near an unseasonable 45 degrees. The park was not charging an admission on this day so that was an added bonus.

We took a short hike to the first geocache (http://www.geocaching.com) and found what is considered a “pill bottle”, well hidden in the branch of a pine tree. We then went to a trail head where we met up with an additional three members of the adventure club. Early on the trail was a bit muddy, we headed under a train trestle as a large locomotive train passed over head. We Followed Baugo Creek as it wound through the woods south Of Lincoln Way. If you have every looked at a map of Baugo, it appears to be a rather small park but the park continues South of Lincoln Way and Washington and there are 1, 2 and 4 mile trail loops.

As we followed a creek, we noticed a bridge ahead. Before we crossed the bridge, we took some pictures (see below) along the bank of the creek. After we crossed the bridge we followed a narrow trail that followed the creek. The trail has been narrowed due to erosion on the bank of the creek. We followed the Portage Trail to the Tumpline Loop Trail where we spent time enjoying where the creek flows to a quicker pace. We could see trees in the creek off in the distance that the park has manually placed. This was done to re-introduce the beaver to the area. The Trumpline Loop Trail is somewhat difficult to follow at times as the creek rises a great deal due to rain and snow melt. You will see some pictures in the gallery that will show that. I’d like to take the opportunity to thank Aditi Kelkar, who took about 3/4ths of the pictures in the gallery.

We continued back to the Portage Trail before taking the Palisades trail through the outside portion of the property, which loops back to the Portage Trail. The building you see in one of the pictures is “Baugo Station”, This is a place where you can rent snow shoes, cross country skis or other seasonal activities. We continued on to a little known trail west of Baugo Station to find another geocache, the trail continued to the North West of the property and then we followed it to a pier on Lake Osceola to search for another geocache. We finished off the hike by hiking up the Tube hill and hiking down the other side searching for another geocache. It was a slower paced hike that included many great places to take a picture, again, I didn’t take many but I thank everyone for (again, such as Aditi Kelkar) for allowing me to share them.

After the trip, we stopped off at “Bravo Café” (Highly Recommended!) which is similar to a Greek Diner. I had a Beef Shish-kabob which was a massive plate of Steak, Onion, Potato, Green Pepper and Rice. Someone else ordered a Chicken Salad (that too , pictured below) A great day with a great group of people!




Categories: Adventure, Baugo, Geocaching, Hiking | Leave a comment

Muddy monks, ammunition depots, and boba tea

On Saturday, a small group of three headed west to Joliet, Illinois. Kerry and Kelly spent the morning racing the Muddy Monk trail 10k, which turned out to be more of a challenge than expected but still fun. After wolfing down complimentary veggie hot dogs, we drove to Midewin National Tallgrass Prairie where we hiked a bit and explored an eerie field of cement bunkers once used for ammunition storage. Next we hit Kankakee River State Park and enjoyed a walking path along the river with views of rocky cliffs. Finally, dinner at Joy Yee, a pan-Asian place that had way too many boba tea flavors on the menu. Fun stuff.

Kerry’s Blog about the race
Joy Yee’s absurd drink menu

Categories: Adventure, Day trip, Hammell Woods Forest Preserve, Hiking, Kankakee River State Park, Midewin National Tallgrass Prairie, Trail Running | Leave a comment

Thrusting the Throne

The adventure club excels at seeking out the strange and unusual throughout Michiana, so it should come as no surprise that a group of twelve of us found ourselves on a Three Oaks farm Saturday, eagerly awaiting the launch of a rocket-propelled port a potty. Despite the frigid temperatures and over an hour of delays, we stuck it out. Finally, the countdown began. 3…2…1…Blast off! The rocket reached a height of over 1000 feet, landed ungracefully less than two feet from some lucky person’s truck, and history was made!

After the launch, we headed to Galein River Country Park. Although small, the park offers a 60 ft tall canopy walkway which gives you some pretty spectacular views of the river and surrounding trees. It’s also a totally handicap-friendly park.
Finally, we headed to one of our favorite local eateries, Pleasant House in Thee Oaks where we dined on little pies and really filling desserts.
For more exciting rocketry events, check out Michiana Rocketry: https://www.facebook.com/groups/236125588554/

Categories: Adventure, Day trip, Galien River County Park, Hiking, Little pies, Rockets | Leave a comment

Sandhill Crane Migration

North Indiana didn’t always look the way it does now – in fact it wasn’t even close. There was a time, a mere 200 years ago, when it was covered by wetlands and served as an important stopover for endless flocks of migrating birds. Fortunately there are still rare pockets of preserved marsh wilderness where you can go to experience the environment the way it existed for thousands of years before human development arrived.

This weekend, the adventure club returned to Jasper Pulaski Fish and Wildlife Area to witness the amazing sandhill crane migration. Just like last year’s trip, they did not disappoint. The most recent count was over 24,000. At peak viewing time, the skies were pretty impressive and the sounds were wild. Despite the rain forecast, there was barely a light mist. A total of 38 club members made it out, setting a new all-time trip attendance record!

This is a trip in which perfect timing is absolutely critical. Here is the schedule you’ll want to follow for maximum craneage.

12:00 (eastern) – meet in South Bend
12:30 – leave South Bend
2:00 – arrive at crane observation tower.
2:00 – 3:30 – hobnob with club members on the tower while waiting for others to arrive. There are birds to watch at this point, but nothing too spectacular. It’s mostly just a convenient meeting place.
3:30 – drive 1.75 miles north to the corner of 700 N and hike out to the secondary site and wait for the show to begin. See the map below for specific directions.

It’s all about the timing. If you show up just a half hour too early, there will be no cranes in sight. If you get there half an hour late, it will be too dark to see them. Mornings are probably awesome too but we haven’t tried that yet.

The crane migration is an awesome opportunity for anyone living in the area to see a very large animal migration (some people travel the world to see this kind of thing). The numbers should still be pretty high for the next month or so, so get a group together and go check it out!

For periodic updates on crane numbers, check out the Department of Natural Resources


Categories: Adventure, Autumn, Bird watching, Cranes, Day trip, Hiking, Jasper Pulaski Fish and Wildlife Area | Leave a comment

The Ozark Trail, ???, Proffit (Mountain)

This past weekend, eleven human SBAC adventurers and two canines carpooled to the Missouri Ozarks. Our trip organizer, Kelly, found a great resource we used to tailor our own custom Ozark Trail backpacking experience, http://www.ozarktrail.com/taumsauk.php. Regarding the Taum Sauk Section of the Ozark Trail we hiked, the site says:

  • “It’s hard to understate how great this section is. You have 1.5 billion-year-old mountains, igneous glades, springs, grand vistas, odd rock formations, and a swimming hole complete with natural flumes. This trail will slow you down– you’ll find your average speed drop a mile-an-hour for your normal pace as you negotiate the rough terrain. One person described the tread as “a natural stair-stepping machine.” Look for the cairns in the igneous glades, as it’s easy to get lost.”

The rewards for navigating the rocky trail and challenging terrain included beautiful autumn vistas.


We encountered a variety of flora, fauna, geological formations, and other sights, including bear scat, a three-toed box turtle, the Devil’s Toll Gate rock passage, and Mina Sauk Falls.


The real story behind a “mystery structure” and the “Scour Overlook” turned out to be more epic than our hypotheses, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Taum_Sauk_Hydroelectric_Power_Station.

  • “The upper reservoir can hold about 1.5 billion gallons of water (5.7 million m3; 4,600 acre feet (5,700,000 m3) behind a wall nearly 100 feet (30 m) tall. It sits 800 feet (240 m) above the 440 megawatts (590,000 hp) hydroelectric plant, which gives it a greater head than that of Hoover Dam. The two are connected by a 7,000-foot (2,100 m) tunnel bored through the mountain.”
  • “At 5:12 a.m. on December 14, 2005, the northwest side of the upper reservoir was overtopped when water continued to be pumped from the lower reservoir after the upper was full. This lead to the catastrophic failure of a triangular section of the reservoir wall and the release of a 1,000 million US gallons (3.8 Gl) of water in twelve minutes. The sudden release sent a 20-foot (6.1 m) crest of water down the Black River.”


On the way home, four of us stopped in St. Louis for several local specialties, root beer http://fitzsrootbeer.com/, barbeque http://saltandsmokestl.com/, and of course, the big arch http://www.nps.gov/jeff/planyourvisit/gateway-arch.htm.


Following is a small sample of the many other pics snapped by the group along the way.

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Categories: Autumn, Hiking | Tags: , | Leave a comment

Adventure to Mammoth Cave, Kentucky

The South Bend Adventure Club took a trip down to Mammoth Cave Kentucky to camp and to take a few cave tours. In all, nine people arrived safely from early to late evening and setup camp. It’s funny, no matter how you prep, you may forget something or mistakenly bring the wrong tent poles. One picture bellow shows how as a team we jerry rigged a tent! Good thing we all got setup in time as although the day the temperatures were in the mid sixties, night temperatures fell into the forties. We built a campfire, had some food and drink and then settled in for the night. During the night I woke up a few times in my one person tent and just looked up at the amazing light show of stars and occasionally off in the distance you could hear the howl of Coyotes.

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In the morning we had varying breakfasts. I was up early to start the fire and cooked eggs for my family. Others made things such as bacon and brewed coffee by the fire. We needed to get ready for our big day of caving so we got the day started on the right foot. For those who are hesitant on cooking on the fire or camping in the wood, Mammoth Cave National Park does have a hotel and restaurant. One of our fellow adventure club members arrived after midnight and stayed in a cottage the first evening. I took my family out to lunch at the Mammoth Cave hotel since we did not have a great deal of time between cave tours.

If you read about our earlier trip back in April 2014, we went on the Violet City Lantern Tour:
The Violet City Lantern tour was three hours and three miles and our guide was very knowledgeable about the history of the caves and we thoroughly enjoyed it. We wanted to see the cave lit up and figured the Historic Tour (2 hours, 2 miles) would fit the bill. While we enjoyed the Historic Tour, we thought we received more of a historical perspective on the Violet City Tour. There are two places on the Historic Tour that were worth going through, “Fat Man’s Misery” and “Tall Man’s Misery”, they were a few tight squeezes, a few places you really needed to duck your head but all in all, nothing that this claustiphobic, fear of heights, heart palpitation, somewhat exaggerative person couldn’t handle

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The second tour we went on was the Great Onyx Lantern tour. Between the bus ride to the cave opening and getting back to the hotel, the whole trip was 2 ¼ hours but covered only 1 mile of cave. This tour was mostly by lantern. At the start of the tour you get to see beautiful dripstone formations and afterwards you will see of Gypsum and Helictite formations. We enjoyed the tour but felt it was a bit short and the best sights were in the beginning but we had enough time and the guide took us through “Fools Alley”, another somewhat tight squeeze through a portion of the cave that I must admit I enjoyed going through.

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Saturday evening we met up at the camp, started a fire and I started making Tortellini soup. Everyone took turns making their own meals such as beans, mushrooms, tomatoes, potatoes, hot dogs, and popcorn. We had two different types of hummus, beer, wine and the standard fare. We looked over and one of our campers had a Stick bug walking all over her. It ended up camping out on one of our battery operated lanterns but in between, it led to about 20 minutes of our entertainment! We had another clear night, it was a bit warmer than the previous evening. I woke up again around 1am to the sounds of Coyotes howling, this time it sounded as if they were nearby.


Sunday morning arrived and everyone set out to make breakfast. One person made pancakes, another made bacon, the coffee was percolating but my family and I skipped the campground coffee grounds and went to the camping store to grab a cup of coffee there (for the cream and sugar) but after walking there, we found they opened later. We ended up going to the hotel and filling up on coffee and their buffet. On our arrival back, we started to take down our tents and clean up our area in preparation for leaving. We had one more tour to go on before heading out.

Domes and Dripstones! We took the Domes and Dropstones tour which was a 2 hour. ¾ mile tour. Don’t let the ¾ mile fool you, it was actually my favorite. You take a bus from the visitors center to this cave and once inside, you about 300 feet by stairs. It is a vertical drop that you can look over the railing and see down the nature made shaft. While we headed down, I noticed a horn corral fossil in the limestone. This is a short tour at ¾ of a mile but it has plenty of eye candy. If you have ever seen one of those large holiday display of buildings, villages, ice skaters and winter scenes this will keep your eyes busy, but this one is Nature Made! After heading down the stairs, you make your way through a few tight squeezes before arriving at “Grand Central Station” from there it appears you go through some parts of their “Frozen Niagara”, “Moonlit Dome” before heading out.


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Mammoth Cave is about 6 hours south of South Bend (and about an hour and a half north of Nashville, TN! Maybe another adventure??) It really didn’t cost my family of 3 much. It is generally $20 a night for a group site if you want to combine resources. Cave tours vary in price but my family of 3 enjoyed 3 cave tours for a total of less than $100. As long as you pack your meals and essentials, the only thing you have to pay for is your gas. They door have a store inside the park where you can pick up items that you may need. We picked up a few cords of firewood inside the park. They do have cottages and a hotel inside the park as an alternative. Thanks to all those who joined us in our adventure. It was great to share it with great people! Which included two members making their first South Bend Adventure Club trip!

Categories: Adventure, Autumn, Caving, Hiking, Mammoth Cave | 1 Comment

Bike South Bend to Potato Creek

This weekend we had a pretty awesome trip to Potato Creek State Park. Four of us decided to bike there from South Bend. We met Saturday morning with rain clouds covering the sky. A sensible group would have called off biking and just driven. But at that point we had spent a good amount of time Jerry-rigging all of our camping gear to our bikes and didn’t want to back out. The weather held out for most of the trip. We took a series of back roads that had relatively little traffic and beautiful forested areas that were painted bright with fall colors. As soon as we got to the park entrance, the rain started coming down pretty hard and the last five miles were a struggle. But soon we were at the nature center, where four other club members joined up with us. A Boy Scout event was being held at the park this weekend, and so we were literally swarmed by rambunctious children. We took refuge by huddling in the corner of the salamander display to dry off, warm up, and eat peanut butter sandwiches to replenish our energy.
The rain wasn’t stopping, so we all just donned our rain gear and took off for some hiking. We covered all of trails 1, 2, and 4 which totaled to 9.5 miles. After that, some headed home while the rest of us headed to the campsite to cook up a tasty dinner and sit by the campfire.
After waking up, we wasted no time, packed things up, and three of us got back on our bikes to return to South Bend. The weather was much better this time around and we might have spotted a bobcat at one point, although the jury is still out on that. We got back to town just after noon, pretty much exhausted but feeling good about our adventure.

Categories: Adventure, Biking, Hiking, Potato Creek State Park | Leave a comment

Lost ruins of Warren Dunes

This weekend’s adventure club destination was Warren Dunes State Park. Although we had been there before, I wanted to try some deeper exploration. Instead of going through the main entrance and following the signs like good park visitors, twelve of us (and four dogs) parked at an alternate lot on Floral Lane and set off on a backwoods route to the lake to see what we could find. We followed the shore north until we noticed a brick structure in the woods. Investigating further, we found an old abandoned pump house with two floors of creepy dark rooms below it that some of us descended into. Further up the slope, there were many crumbling concrete remains of what we were told was once a Christian church camp. We cut straight into the woods to loop back. Several members of our group had taken alternate routes and we quickly lost track of them, but eventually everyone rendezvoused at the cars. Despite it being a three hour, rugged hike, we only managed to cover about three miles. We really weren’t going for distance on this one. It’s a common misconception that once you’ve hiked every mile of trails in a park, you’ve seen it all. In reality, even the tiniest strip of land generally has something worth seeing, you just need to dive in and get lost. For our post-hike meal, we returned to one of our favorites, the Pleasant House Bakery in Three Oaks (also known as Li’l Pies).

Warren Dunes Hike

Categories: Adventure, Day trip, Dunes, Hiking, Little pies, Warren Dunes State Park | 1 Comment

Cowles Bog Trail – Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore

Back in July, the club attempted to hike the Cowles Bog trail in Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore, only to end up discovering the lesser known Heenan trail and a few other random spots without finding the Cowles. Trips don’t always go as planned, but it was still a fun day of hiking. This weekend a group of 14 returned with better intel and succeeded in hiking the 4.6 mile long trail. Cowles Bog is a pretty interesting little wetland. The trail eventually took us out to the lakeshore where the waves were unusually rough (unfortunately nobody remembered their boards) and we had clear views of Chicago.

We had intended to revisit the amazing sandwich shop Panini Panini (discovered on the last trip), but it was closed. Instead we crammed into Octave Grill and feasted on delicious specialty burgers.


Categories: Adventure, Cowles Bog Trail, Day trip, Dunes, Hiking, Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore | Leave a comment

St. Pat’s Bike Ride and Potato Creek Hike

Last weekend was one of our most active yet! We had a total of 25 people attend at least one of the two trips. The new faces and beautiful summer weather certainly didn’t hurt to make this an awesome summer weekend.

Last Saturday, a group of about 10 people met at my apartment and we took a leisurely bike ride to St. Patrick’s park. The ride was abut 7 miles to the park and was mostly along the St. Joe river, which provided some nice views. We met up with a few others at the park and hiked along some of the trails for a few hours. The trails at St. Patrick’s park are very beautiful and are worth a daytrip if you have not already been there.

The next day, a group met up at Potato Creek State Park, just south of town, for some hiking and trail running. Potato Creek is a particularly interesting park because it was once farmland and has been restored for both wildlife and recreation purposes. I always find it amazing to see how fast land can bounce back. During our visit, we hiked and/or ran about 6 miles of trail. Although a small group of us did get lost, after a wrong turn on to the mountain bike trails, everyone had a great time. I’m sure Potato Creek will see the Adventure Club again soon!

Thanks Sheila for your photos from Potato Creek!

Categories: Adventure, Biking, Hiking, Trees | Leave a comment

Road Trip to Zingerman’s

“Zingerman’s, the deli of my dreams.” – R.W. Apple, The New York Times

On Saturday, June 7th, two adventurers embarked on a 340-mile round-trip journey to Ann Arbor, Michigan, for a culinary experience beyond compare.

Our gluttonous duo made their first stop at the University of Michigan’s Nichols Arboretum, to explore some of the finest hiking trails in Washtenaw County and hopefully create a calorie deficit that could later be remedied. “The Arb,” as it is colloquially known, is a 123-acre preserve bordered by U of M’s central campus and the Huron River. Stephanie and David began their hike near the peony garden and continued down to the shores of the river, through open prairie land, and back up some steep hills surrounding the main valley, for a total of 2.67 miles. The paths were wide but winding, with many smaller unmarked trails branching off at odd intervals, so it was easy to find yourself utterly lost even with the help of the complementary map. Luckily, our adventurers found their way out before succumbing to starvation.

One highlight of the hike was when David spotted a doe and fawn about 40 yards away on a section of trail adjacent to the railroad tracks. Later, David successfully located a Geocache in the trunk of a fallen tree. The large peony garden was also in full bloom this time of year, and many visitors to the Arb were enjoying its 800 blossoming plants.

After hiking the Arb, it was finally time for some world-class sandwiches. David and Stephanie arrived at Zingerman’s to find the line out the door and around the building – something Stephanie hadn’t seen since before the building was remodeled with a large addition in 2012. The wait was only about 30 minutes, though, and the line stretched past shelves lined with olive oils and baked goods – like a gastronomic version of Disney World. Finally, it was time to order. David, a newcomer to the deli, requested a custom-made roast beef sandwich, while Stephanie opted for her all-time favorite Tarb’s Tenacious Tenure, a mouth-watering medley of turkey, avocado, tomato, cheese, and Russian dressing. David was pleased that after almost a decade of living in Northern Indiana, he had finally found a deli somewhat close by that lived up to his New York standards.

All in all, it was a beautiful warm day for exploring these Southeast Michigan gems. We will definitely return, and encourage all of you to join us!

Photo credit to Stephanie and David’s iPhones


Categories: Adventure, Geocaching, Hiking | Leave a comment

Bonnyville Mill

Saturday a group from the Adventure Club made the trip to Bonnyville Mill. After touring the 150 year old still functioning mill we hiked several miles of trails around the area which included climbing a lookout tower and crossing the Little Elkhart River. Afterwards we fired up the grill and enjoyed a delicious communal meal, drinks, and great company.

Categories: Adventure, Bonnyville Mill County Park, Day trip, Hiking, Picnic | Leave a comment

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