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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

We have a blog!

 

Once upon a time… We had a blog! When people would host a South Bend Adventure Club trip, they had the option of writing about the trip and adding pictures!

The blog would not only be featured on our Facebook page but it also served as an advertisement for our club to people outside of Facebook.

We can give club members two options. If you want to write up your own blog, add pictures, make it fancy, we can give you Contributors rights. If you don’t think you are accomplished enough (or shy!) you can send your South Bend Adventure Club trip report and pictures to: sbadventureclub@gmail.com

Using the blog helps to keep our facebook wall clear of clutter, resulting in members being able to find out about upcoming trips easier.

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A wild flower tour

IMG_9563Our group of 11 Adventure club members set off on the Hardwood trail of Bendix Woods County Park. Probably most known for its “STUDEBAKER” word etched with live trees and its Maple Syrup festival in early spring. What this St. Joseph County Park also hosts are beautiful short-lived wild flowers. We set out at 4pm, when the sun just started to give off triangle rays hitting hardwood trees that were just beginning to sprout. It allowed us to note the contrast between the green understory that hosted many wildflowers including hepatica, Dutchman’s breeches, and the most beloved of all, trillium.   Our, truly, ~1.5 mile stroll through the woods allowed plenty of time for many-a-photo snaps, tree climbs (by the 3 boys in the group), and good conversation. I heard lots of comments about the perfect weather, the relaxation, and the stress release that seemed to float into the over-story. We ended our journey at a finale of trillium, which someone termed “trillium hill.”

My guess is that these short-lived beauties will only be around for another few weeks (if that). I understand now the Japanese sacredness of the Japanese cherry blossoms. In that country, the short-lived cherry blossom represents the fragility and the beauty of life.

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A Weekend of Adventure!

This past weekend was an active weeked for the the South Bend Adventure Club. One group went to Chicago for a Triple Header Adventure which involved Rock Climbing at Vertical Endeavors, following by Go Cart racing at K1 Speed and finally Gaming and Food at Dave and Busters. Some pictures from the event:

We had another group who enjoyed a sunny, relaxed wintry cross country skiing trip in the woods at Love Creek Nature Center in Berrien Center, Michigan. The spring conditions could not have been better that allowed for smooth gliding and views of snow-kissed trees with a clear blue sky backdrop. Afterwards they warmed up at one of the member’s houses with homemade Turkish Lamb Stew.

On Sunday, I took my son on a trip to Warren Dunes which seems to be a popular stop these past few weeks. As opposed to Saturday, Sunday brought a sunny 60 degree day with melting snow.

I also wanted to mention the previous weekends “Take Your Dog Hiking” at St. Patrick’s Park in South Bend, Indiana. This was the second such Dog Hike and both were a huge success!

Thank you to everyone who has been leading these adventures lately and thanks to those who attended making these events a success!

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Warren Dunes State Park- Michigan

This is a tail of a trip that gave us lemons. The organizer could not make it to the start of the event, so we took lemons and made lemonade! Okay, it wasn’t THAT bad but without our fearless leader, we wandered around aimlessly! (All who wander are not lost!) In all seriousness, we actually had a great time.

We started up a trail that seemingly went into the woods and that’s where the trail ended! But from our vantage point, we found what was to be trail 1. We followed Trail 1 into the woods. The trail started off with a quick elevation rise which got our heart pumping and warmed us up in the 20 degree morning temperatures. During this portion of the hike, we found the strangest one person bench seat that was near a creek on an eroding hill.

From Trail 1, we hit trail 3. We spied a pretty decent dune to climb but it would have had us going back to the parking area. We figured if we couldn’t find any good and challenging dunes, we would stop back to hit this one. Towards the end of trail 3, we found what appeared to be a triangular foundation and couldn’t make heads or tails of what it might have been but there appeared to be a hole in the ground that inside had a brick foundation in it..? A Basement? No one ventured down but we figured maybe at one time it was a shelter of sorts.

From Trail 3, we hit trail 4 and I believe trail 8, it was a bit sketchy because we were overwhelmed by the view of a spectacular dune near trail 14. We were in awe of the challenge it would be, every picture we took did it no justice but we needed proof of our challenge. I took a GPS Coordinate which showed our original elevation was about 578 feet. JohnR and I headed up the dune while SharonK took some pictures of us heading up.

It was a struggle, John made it up first and he wasn’t so sure I was going to make it as a had 20 pounds in by backpack (Training for an Appalachian Trail hike) and Sharon who was nice enough to take pictures was not too far behind me. The cold weather actually helped us a bit because the sand was not as loose as it was during the summer but we still practically took one step back for every step we went forward! When I got to the top, my GPS read about 790 feet. Almost 200 feet of an incline in what I estimate about 100 yards! Take a look at that last picture, we had some great views! (See also pictures below)

After taking in the beauty, we didn’t take the steep climb down, we meandered through another path which led us down the hill and over to the final leg of our journey, the beach trail. Usually this part of the lake is frozen over but there was little ice coverage by the shore. The ice coverage was two or three feet thick! The waves crashing against the ice made for some great pictures.

We never found our fearless leader, we sent the search dogs out:
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All in all, we hiked about 5 miles and had a great time!

Categories: Adventure, Day trip, Outdoors, Save The Dunes, Uncategorized, Warren Dunes State Park | Tags: , , , | Leave a comment

Our Adventures/Our Parks

Originally we planned to go Cross Country Skiing this weekend but unseasonably warm weather changed those plans. We hiked at St. Patrick’s County Park in South Bend, Indiana and after hitting most of the trails, we hiked into Madeline Bertrand County Park in Niles, Michigan. Two great parks, two great states.

We met at the Red Barn and headed through the trail loops on the west end of the park, trails 1, 2, 3, 4 and 5. Trails conditions in some spots was muddy, others were icy but mostly a combination of both. From the pictures, you will we found a tipi made of wood branches at the start of trail 1. Trail 2 there is an Osprey nest that we thought we might find a Bald Eagle that has been spotted in the area but we only found the empty nest. A young “Luke Trailwalker” led us down a path that brought us to an area of water with a small waterfall. (See pictures below). I made him honorary hike leader and like a champ, he lead us on the path back to the Red Barn, where we passed the tubing hill and an old fashioned gas pump.

When we made it back to the red barn, we had hiked about 2.5 miles thus far. Some used the opportunity to head out for other adventures.. we were lost without “Luke Trailwalker”. We headed along the river on trails 7 and 8 then into Madeline Bertrand County Park. After hiking around Madeline Bertrand County Park, we returned to St. Patrick County Park where were finished out the day with about 6.5 miles. My Fitbit showed about 14000 steps.

Before we get to the pictures, I did want to bring up “Our Parks”. I’ve been following along with some park information and some recent items either in the news or posted on our facebook page. I don’t want to get political about things, I always try to remain neutral but your parks are calling and want you to visit them. Many of the parks depend on the snow (In Winter) for additional revenue streams. Their budgets are tight because they usually are not revenue makers and local governments are looking for ways to cut costs. They end up cutting staff hours, reduce activities…especially when the weather does not cooperate. Show the various Parks Departments that you treasure them, before there is further cost reductions.

Aside from our local parks, there is plenty of action you can take for our local parks:
Elbel Parks Discussion on Sale/Lease of Land
Save The Dunes (Facebook)

On to the pictures!

 

 

 

 

Categories: Activism, Adventure, Elbel, Madeline Bertrand, Save The Dunes, South Bend, South Bend Adventure Club, St. Patrick's County Park, Uncategorized | Tags: , , | Leave a comment

This club is going to the dogs!

One of our members, Natasha,  created an event inviting our club members to bring their dogs on a hike. It was a huge success!

We met up late this morning at the trail head at Potato Creeks trail 4. We had snow covered trails and the weather was cool but the sun was out which led the way to a temperature rise during our hike.

In all, there was approximately 10-12 dogs, a few extra humans who then proceeded to hike 2.25 miles in the first ever, South Bend Adventure Club Pooch Parade! I hope everyone understands there will be some Alpha’s in the group… so I will have to apologize if I seemed a bit pushy! 🙂 Ah… for the dogs. Seriously though, there was a period where there was some canine tension but as soon as the hike started, most everyone was the best of friends.

At the end of the hike, a few people hiked an additional 6 miles along trail 4, trail 2 and trail 1, including a walk on the frozen lake. I’m always amazed to see ice fisherman since it was not something I saw growing up on Long Island.

Not sure about other dogs but our dogs fell fast asleep when they arrived home. Hopefully we can have additional pooch parades in the future!

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3 Dune Challenge at Lake Michigan/Indiana Dunes

Source: 3 Dune Challenge at Lake Michigan/Indiana Dunes

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Confessions of a US 31 Day Dreamer

Over the past 10 years I have utilized US 31 for various trips starting in the South Bend, Indiana area. As I traveled south to Indianapolis, there have been many places I have driven through that have earned my mindful future pit stop consideration. Two years ago, we traveled down to Mammoth Cave, Kentucky and while we had an amazing time, there were other places we passed along the way that we were interested in seeing. After making the trip a few times, we realized it is not just the in between trips that were fresh in our minds but there are destinations a few miles ahead that warranted our attention.

I have a friend who over the course of two years made two visits to Nashville Tennessee. While on our last trip to Mammoth Cave (Mammoth Cave, Ky) I looked at a map and realize just how close (One hour and twenty minutes) we were from that very location. We have a neighbor who spends vacation in Gulf Shores, Alabama. If we continued on the same US31/I65 corridor, it is only an additional 7 hour drive from Nashville. Did I mention what there is to do if we take US 31 North of South Bend?

((((Day Dreaming)))….We could ultimately start in Silver Beach Michigan wading in the waters along the shores of Lake Michigan. Driving South we could pick up our friends in South Bend, maybe take in a minor league Baseball game watching the South Bend Cubs. About an hour and a half further south, we could visit Grissom Air force Base or the Grissom Air Museum. From there, US 31 takes us right through the heart of Indianapolis, Indiana. We could stop off to enjoy some of the night life or the Indianapolis Indians could be another minor league Baseball stop. Afterwards we can camp for cheap at Shades State Park (once known as “Shades of Death” (evil laugh) or one of our favorite South Bend Adventure Club stops: Turkey Run, Turkey Run II or even Turkey Run III. We could spend a day hiking and then continue on to our next adventure at Mammoth Cave, Mammoth Cave II and Mammoth Cave II.I

Well rested after our Mammoth Cave visit, we can spend a crazy night in Nashville, Tennessee! The home to Country Music! I could easily see spending a day or two exploring Nashville! How could any adventurous, South Bend adventure club member not venture into Nashville?!?! I’m not 100% sure what lies between Nashville and Gulf Shores, Alabama but if we are in Nashville, we likely traveled 6 hours to this point. (not including all those stops)… WE ARE AN ADVENTURE CLUB! Why not complete the next 7 hours and find ourselves wading our feet in the waters of the Gulf of Mexico as we spend a day or two in Gulf Shores, Alabama…. There is a minor league baseball team not too far away, the Mobile Bay Bears… (I’m not too much of a Baseball nut, huh?). Since we have this crazy blog with tons of Loyal visitors, they can give us details of places to see along the way… right?

I was just day dreaming but maybe Spring 2016 will see this adventure come to fruition?

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Grand Mere Lakes Adventure

From John:

On September 19th, fifteen adventures embarked on the Grand Mere Lakes Adventure. Vic was kind enough to take the group picture at the beginning of the hike.  Letting us know that these pictures are actually taken for the purpose of a good ‘last seen’ pic, just in case some don’t make it through, jk:) It was one of the most scenic hikes I’ve ever been on.  Mark was an excellent trip leader and took us through unmarked trails with: dunes, forest, lakes, etc…  Many great views.  It was also really interesting to get the background and historical information on the area.    Mark and I are already planning our next event to Grand Mere and are learning from this last one to make it even better. After the hike we relaxed and told stories around the beautiful fire and clear sky.  We were outside long enough to fully reset our minds and spirits.  As Kristen said it was a soul cleansing experience

From Mark:

Felt very fortunate for this group’s edition of outdoor adventuring for several reasons. The perfect weather was just the beginning. Earlier on the morning of our planned event, the area awoke to widespread rainy weather and overcast skies, part of a larger regional disturbance triggered by a cold front pushing through from Canada and heading East of our area. Luckily, Mother Nature had something else in mind for our adventure, and just like clockwork, as Our adventure’s start time approached, a clear and crisp Fall air mass replaced all of the threatening inclimate thunderous lightening and rain of the past overnight with severe clear blues skies, bright beaming sunny rays and brisk rustling drying breezes. It remained clear for the entirety and an amazing star lit night, full of constellations that featured the galactic plane’s distinct band stretching diagonally across the night’s sky, complete with an early setting waxing crescent gibbous Moon was the finale fitting of such a perfect adventure out.

It was great to have such a solid showing and support of 15 like minded people and two dogs to participate, including my long time friend (41+ yrs.), Paul, to join Our adventure! We all met up, following our travels from South Bend and elsewhere, a short distance from our adventure’s trailhead starting point, stopping briefly to regroup at North Lake Park, a local picturesque park situated on a post glacial lake, North Lake. This was a great point to momentarily pause, regroup and freshen up at the last opportunity to set foot in a modern restroom with running water for the duration of the looming six plus hour long adventure in the unspoiled, undeveloped wilds of Grand Mere Lakes National Monument and S.P.

It was here that I made some introductory remarks, welcoming everyone and thanking them for their participation. I discussed the aims and plans of this adventure, taking advantage of the Township park’s awesome park info sign and aerial map to visually aid in sketching’ out the planned hike  loop route. An expectation of a successful and enjoyable adventure was set with some slight weight of the onus that I had just committed to, but was confident that things were going to go well and all would be glad in having made the effort to show up.

Taking the lead, we processed one final half mile car ride down a narrow unpaved two lane road – – Grand Mere Road to its end where we parked our autos. From this Township parking area there is immediate access to two different trail heads. One that stretches a few hundred feet up a small loose sand hill and then down again to the Lincoln Township chartered, Chicago Beach, a very small, 66′ wide, strip of Lake Michigan beach. The other one was the one we took to set forth upon what was to become a most memorable adventure.

Upon entering into G.M.S.P. on this second trailhead and were suddenly in an old growth Oak forest with another post glacial lake, Middle Lake, flanking our left and some low profile dunes on our right. the Trail was hard packed dry dirt.

Soon, afterwards we emerged into a large, mostly  open area of loose sand characterized by undulating and blowing blowing sand dunes with patches of dune grasses and some sparse trees. Continuing through this expanse, the senses and expectation of fun discovery yet to come began to build up within us, all the while the roar of the wind blown waves on the lake could be heard from the distance, yet unseen for the dunes lying between us blocking our view of the main lake.

The Fall air blew in our faces keeping us invigorated as the warm sunlight cheered our moods. I warmed the party up with a few slow rising switchbacks in the open area, skirting along the leeward slope of a great forested dune. Following these, we eventually switched back upon the direction we had just walked from to begin to climb up a steeper slope of wooded duneland. The loose sand path had subtly turned back to hard packed sandy dirt as we entered into the cover of the forest again. Heading steadily uphill in covered forest, we soon approached our first picturesque overlook. A minor blown out area of exposed sand that coincided with a sharply steeper open pathway of loose sand that was a short way to ascend up the leeward slope of this dune (Dunham) which we were now ascending, though on the more manageable, longer slower rising dirt path.

It was from this point that we paused to rest and take pics of the vista of the nearby Middle Lake, allowing me also to be able to comment and remark about physical features and inform our group of things to come shortly ahead. Then, onward we climbed higher to Dunham’s summit, which was not very remarkable, yet in spite of its subtle feature, this summit point was a full 150+’ above the mean lake elevation of the main lake, Lake Michigan, which was partially visible through the thick forested dunes cover to our right. So it went, moving progressively forward through a long loop of intersecting paths and trails, up and down moderately strenuous high profile type parabolic dunes and foredune ridges, entering into and emerging back out of forested dunelands to open areas of loose and blowing sand with new scenic vistas and bucolic scenes of post glacial lakes, the distant Covert Ridge beyond to the East, adjacent dunes spied from on high and the recurring majestic views of Lake Michigan met us at every turn.

Following our hike’s exploration portion’s conclusion, our group found itself facing the Western horizon of the main lake at the sunset golden hour. John Raven and I found a spot inland, just inside the protection of the foredune ridge to hunker down in a protected open area cupped cove of sand to chose as the spot for our bonfire. The fire and afterglow of our groups afternoon long hike of exploring and discovery was a great finish. We shared our picnics and beverages, there was some music played and everyone was accounted for and made sure of being safely returned to their autos at the end of it all. A very successful time for all and one that will not be soon forgotten.

Peace to all…see you next time around, Mag!

Photo Credits: Victor, Rochelle, Kristen, LaRita, Mark

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Cowless Bog Hike

On August 22, nine adventurers hiked the Cowles bog trail.  This was a fun event hosted by Frank and Kerry last year, which I reposted.  Carpooling and meeting interesting fellow adventures is part of what makes the trips so fun for me.  The pink mushroom below was destroyed when we came back at the end of the hike.  One adventurer saw some guilty looking kids:)  Many variations in sights on this trail.  Santiago’s in Chesterton had great food and wonderful service, someone got a free drink!  At the end everyone decided to go have treats and ice cream at La Rosita in South Bend.  La Rosita is an Adventure Club favorite.

Photo Credits to Craig and Dave.

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Wheels and Wine

Let’s be honest. Making the decision to host an event that involves drinking wine whilst riding a bike has less to do with adrenaline rushes and more to do with 1-ounce pours. And I’m OK with that. Not every adventure needs to challenge our endurance muscles, though this one did, at times, given some of the hills we encountered in Southwest Michigan’s wine country. Some adventures are best had meeting people for the first time and hoping they’ll trust you know what you’re doing (for the first time). South Bend Adventure Club was initially started to get people together (yeah, yeah, yeah) and get outside. And that pretty much works. Every time.

At the startFree Run

What else works? Being excited about it. I’ve wanted to do a trip like this for a few years, so I had a certain amount of hype for it. Plus, I’m all for getting off your bum (or your couch, at least) and biking some back roads. It means getting outside, sweating a wee bit and capturing some late summer air in your lungs. I’m also all for wine tasting. That meant eating ahead of time, hydrating often and psyching myself up for all the purchased wine I promised to tow in my 2 panniers. By the end of our roughly 12-mile bike tour, I was lugging 7 bottles of wine, a few wine glasses and I’m pretty sure some invisible gnome was catching a free ride. My legs had leveled up; tour de Michigan was on!

le crewCheers!

For the 8 of us that went, our tasting palates were diverse but we curiously inspected and shared each others flights. There are a few reds, I admit, that impressed me. The Riesling lover in me doesn’t veer far from that grape varietal but Michigan is doing good things with wine. I was also impressed that nobody (NOBODY) complained about the length of our bike ride, time spent at each winery or the hills we encountered (because I did not check elevation before creating this route). That made this event 100 times sweeter.

Post ride, we feasted and filled our bellies at Red Barn’s Pub House and Brewery. Fantastic food and an incredible beer flight value ($12/5 6-ounce pours, I believe). Most of the crew had to head back to South Bend, but a few of us ventured down to Round Barn’s estate and caught some live music, a part of the winery’s Jammin’ in the Vineyard Concert Series. You can see a full 2015 schedule here.

Round Barn Pub HouseThe Black Lillies

Give it a go:

The route: Begin at the Round Barn Brewery in Baroda, MI. Head north on First Street. Head east (out of town) on Lemon Creek Road. Approach *Lemon Creek Winery ($8/5 tastes) and Domaine Berrien Cellars($10/5 tastes)*  Continue on Lemon Creek. Head south on Burgoyne Road. Approach *Free Run Winery($8/5 tastes)*  Continue on Burgoyne. Head west on Snow Road. Head north on Lauer Road. Approach *Gravity($11/5 tastes w/ cheese/crackers. NO souvenir glass)*  Continue on Lauer. Head west on Shawnee Road. Head north (back into town) on Hills Road. At First Street, turn left (south/east) and return to Red Barn Brewery.

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Bike the City

On July 4th, four people began their beautiful Saturday morning with an adventure to discover some lesser-known (for us) eateries and neighborhoods in South Bend. “Bike & Eat South Bend” was a project started last fall to showcase eateries that weren’t well advertised, or were more neighborhood-centric, and to do so by bicycle.  More here: http://www.bikeandeatsb.wordpress.com or on FB: https://www.facebook.com/groups/bikeandeatsb . Last fall we did Western Avenue, so it was time to find a new focus, hence the need to Bike the City and rediscover our options.  We did a full tour of Prairie St. and all the streets around it, and a bit less full tour of the neighborhoods around Miami, Mishawaka Ave, Lincolnway West, and a bit on/off Portage. We finished our tour relaxing with a very tasty scone and coffee from the NNN’s Local Cup coffeehouse on Portage. There were a lot of great finds – a lot of tiendas and convenience stores, a lot of neighborhood bars, and some eateries.  Lots of cool houses, neat neighborhoods, interesting parks. A great way to explore the city!! In total we clocked around 25 miles on our bikes…not bad for roaming around a city.  A mere sampling of our discoveries are below.

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Geocaching at Fernwood Botanical Gardens

Geocaching at Fernwood Botanical Gardens

Story4today

Members of the South Bend Adventure Club attended a Geocaching.com event hosted by Fernwood Botanical Gardens and run by the Geocaching.com group “The Geo-Cats”. As I was heading there, I wondered if the weather would dampen the interest in the event but once there, the clouds made way to partly sunny skies. There were approximately 30 people in attendance including 4 SBAC members.

The event and all of the 11 geocaches were themed on the book(s) “Where’s Wally”. The event started by giving away door prizes such as a free Fernwood membership, mystery bags (for kids) T-shirts and various other geocaching swag. Then members of the Geo-Cats group gave a powerpoint presentation on the in’s and out’s of Geocaching.

Afterwards I took a group of 3 out to find the 11 “Where’s Wally” themed Geocaches as well as 2 “Earth Caches”. Earth Caches are usually not a physical cache but…

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Outdoor Skills Weekend in Parke County

On the last, rainy weekend of May, nine hardy adventurers traveled to Parke County in west-central Indiana for a few days of primitive camping, skill-building, and hiking some of the best trails this state has to offer. Club member Eric, along with some friends from the New Sotterlee Project (an organization dedicated to conserving and disseminating information about our past, from historical documents to how-to demonstrations and more), arranged for us to pitch our tents on private property and learn about outdoor survival skills that our ancestors may have used. It was this author’s first time camping in the wild, starting a fire with flint and steel, threading a maggot onto a hook, changing outfits four times in one day due to mud, and digging a hole to… well, you know. And it was so much fun!

We arrived late Friday evening and set up camp around a patch of poison ivy. The under-18 crowd went straight to bed, and the rest of us stayed up late to chat, stargaze, listen to the wildlife, watch the moon sink below the trees, and debate the Oxford comma.

After a few hours of sleep, we woke to a hot and humid Saturday morning. A few of us took a walk down a little creek, where we saw raccoon tracks, water bugs, a turtle, and a crayfish. However, this excursion was deemed too dangerous after some of us got stuck up to our knees in quicksand-like mud. We returned to camp to find the others rousing and ready to roast some coffee. The adults busied themselves with their beans, and apparently also discovered some snakes and raptors in the process, while the children (and children at heart) played board games. We reconvened for Eric’s lesson in Setting Things on Fire using flint, steel, char cloth, and bundles of twine. Everyone who attempted the hands-on portion of the lecture was successful in setting something on fire, so the meeting adjourned. H, head of the New Sotterlee group, took over for a guided tour of a tree plantation that has been part of his family’s lumber business for about 30 years. He showed us the incredible differences in tree growth between areas that had seen an abundance of deer and areas that had been fenced off until the trees became too tall for the deer to munch. He also talked about the multigenerational aspects of forestry: clearing out invasive species and reintroducing natives to keep the forest healthy for years to come, and tending to acres of cherry that his great-grandchildren will one day be able to harvest. H was just starting to show our youngest adventurer how to scrape bark off a tree to reveal a chocolate-brown interior when the first thunderstorm of the day rolled in. We ran back to camp, getting extremely damp in the process, and took shelter in the swallow-infested barn. Eric got out the camp stove again and gave us a quick “five minute” lesson in Cooking your Clothes (i.e. making char cloth from an old cotton t-shirt). The rain let up, and H took us over to the pond for some hand-line fishing. H, with his modern fishing equipment, caught three bluegills (or was it the same bluegill three times?), but none of us had any luck with the hand lines. We weren’t out there long when the next storm rolled in. So rain, very wind, wow. That was a scary (yet thrilling!) powerwalk back to camp! Not wanting to introduce moisture into their sleeping areas, our drenched adventurers shed their modesty and wet clothing at the same time, then met back under the barn, in dry clothes, for dinner (bratwurst!) and second dinner (pizza!).

Day 3 dawned cold and rainy. After enjoying more coffee and pizza, we packed up and went our separate ways. One contingent headed a few miles up the road to Turkey Run State Park for a quick loop through the hollows. Although crawling with other two-legged creatures, the rock formations, waterfalls, and brilliant green photosynthesizers still made for breathtaking scenery. But weekends are ephemeral, and all too soon we were forced to pile back into the car for the long, cornfield-filled journey back to South Bend.

Many thanks to Eric and JH for organizing this extraordinary event!! I hope there are more of these to come!

Photo credits to Eric, Rochelle, and Stephanie.

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Un-Geocaching and Hiking at Ferrettie Baugo Creek Park

A members adventure!

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While some of the South Bend Adventure Club traveled to Parke County in Indiana to camp primitively as one of our members taught other members hands on camping skills such as fire building techniques (Can’t wait for details!!!). We have one member hiking the Grand Canyon, Rim to Rim but I had to take care of some of my local responsibilities.

I found out that my geocaches at a local park over-stayed their welcome and it was time to comply with the rules. The park only allows one Geocache and it must be replaced yearly. I am totally fine with this because generally when a geocache is placed, there is an initial interest in finding it but after the locals have found it, interest wanes and the geocache may sit for months without being found. I’ve had a puzzle cache in the park for atleast 4 years and it is…

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Hiking (or was it swimming?) Turkey Run and Shades

For our final official adventure club trip, Kerry and I chose Turkey Run and Shades (in our opinion the best state parks in Indiana). Despite the warnings of thunderstorms, ten adventurers met up in town and headed to Indiana’s canyon country. A lot of people scoff at the idea of there being natural beauty and world class hiking trails in the Hoosier state. Those people have never been to Turkey Run and Shades.

We spent the weekend on the very rugged and very flooded trails. Although there were storms, ankle-deep muddy puddles and freezing river crossings, there was also a fancy lodge with free coffee, a warm chili dinner, a campfire, and good company. And by Sunday, the storm had passed and the warm sun was shining. Areas covered include Rocky Hollow, Falls Canyon, Boulder Canyon, Devil’s Backbone, Prophetstown Native American village, and a historic farm.

This trip was a good reminder to always ignore the forecast. Put on a poncho and get out there. Life is too much fun to wait for the storm to pass.

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Starved Rock: Eagles, Icicles and trail guides, oh my!

An easy going group, perfect weather and one delicious Pancake House stop to fill early morning bellies made for a lethal combination to trek across some highways to Starved Rock State Park in mid-January. Our intent was to capture some remarkable eagle sightings while taking in nature at its other best; cold and captivating.

From the ‘Bend,’ Starved Rock sits roughly 2.5 hours west just off I80/90 in Utica, Illinois. With 13 miles of wooded trails offering bluff views, 18 scenic canyons (formed by glacial melt-water and stream erosion) and over 2 million visitors annually, this ain’t your ordinary state park. In fact, Starved Rock was named a national historic landmark in 1966. In case you haven’t figured it out yet, it’s popular. This would explain the packed parking lot we arrived that Saturday afternoon – clearly other travelers had the same idea in mind (but I bet they didn’t have our breakfast!).

Starved Rock kindly offers two guided tours (by foot) for free. Our trail guide fed us knowledge on the various canyons, plant life and how things came to be. Orange ‘dust’ coated many of the large rock formations, leftover iron deposits from long-since-removed riverbeds. We learned that five (I think he said 5?) species of woodpeckers can be seen in the surrounding woods and that most (if not all) of the canyons have Native American namesakes (like Tonty and Kaskaskia). Regardless, Starved Rock does not have a deficit on diverse nature and wildlife inhabitants.

Most of our walk/hike was filled with nature close to the ground: we walked the narrow (and slippery!) trails, took in dormant tree life and ‘oohed’ and ‘ahed’ over some amazing frozen waterfalls. No eagles yet, but a word on these powerful birds of prey.

They are larger than any other raptor, save some vultures, with very large hooked beaks for tearing flesh, strong muscular legs and long, powerful talons. How powerful? Strong enough to crush a prey’s skull in a single move. The female of all known species is larger than the male, and they normally build their nests (eyries) in tall trees or on high cliffs (hence why Starved Rock is ideal breeding and sighting ground). An eagle’s eyes are extremely powerful, having up to 3.6 times human acuity (the martial eagle).

“They have at least one singular characteristic. It has been observed that most birds of prey look back over their shoulders before striking prey (or shortly thereafter); predation is after all a two-edged sword. All hawks seem to have this habit, from the smallest kestrel to the largest Ferruginous – but not the Eagles.” – Conclusion from various authors on birds.

Near the end of our hike, we came into a clearing along the river, which sat across an island where most of the eagles nest (and some even permanently live). We finally spotted two eagles perched near the top of a branch on the outermost edge of the island. Binoculars were handy. Starved Rock also had mounted scopes you could use (for free) to focus in on the majestic birds. We were satisfied; we had finally seen our powerful friend of the sky.

The tour concluded (the park was soon closing) and we made our way into the Visitor’s Center for a warmup on hot chocolate and post-trail hike conversation. Overall, an enjoyable and very doable day-trip with some fantastic scenery. I’m starving to go again 😉

guide hands inner ice chamber iron cliffupward ice falls trail hikers St. Louis Canyon

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Winter at Warren Dunes

One of the best things about the South Bend Adventure Club is something you won’t find with many other adventure clubs: fire-breathing dragons! Oops, I meant to say “choices,” but dragons are more exciting so I think I’ll leave it like that for now. Anyway, this weekend we had a variety of hiking and caving trips already on the schedule, but I was still able to find seven people who wanted to spend a day at the beach with me!

On Saturday morning, we set off on an hour-long journey to Warren Dunes in Southwest Michigan. The dunes are pretty popular in the summer, for good reason, but I think they’re even better on a nice winter day like this one. We started our adventure by slowly making our way out onto frozen Lake Michigan. The ice mounds were very slippery, and behind them was a sudden drop-off into the frigid waters, so no one dared venture all the way to the edge. However, it still made for a good photo op and a fun way to start the hike! Next, we walked north along the deserted beach until we came to a trailhead. We took the trail up through a wooded section of the “mountain,” pausing to admire a buffalo tree and some panoramic views, and then headed back downhill through a more Tatooine-like climate. After the nearly three-hour hike, we stopped at Elm Street Bistro in Three Oaks for lunch.

Special thanks to Eric, our de facto tour guide, for leading us on the trails and teaching us all about dune ecology, and to newcomer Jenn, who chose this as her first (official) SBAC trip! And high-fives to our youngest adventurers, who made it up and down the dunes even when they didn’t think they could! You guys rock!

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