Kayaking trip sponsored by the St Joseph County Parks

We have been hoping that people would step up to the plate and plan Adventure Club trips and Jamie LaFortune Hartzke of the St. Joseph County Parks department did just that, asking if anyone would be interested in a SJCP sponsored Kayaking trip. The parks department provide the kayaks, the life jackets and the transportation- it was up to the members of the adventure club to have fun! and by the looks of the pictures they did!

The trip started at Keller Park in South Bend where they put the kayaks in the water and followed the St. Joseph River for 10 miles down to the Niles Dam. The weather was beautiful with temperatures reaching the mid 70’s!

Before I get to the pictures, the Saint Joseph County parks department is also hosting an event at Ferrettie/Baugo Creek Park called “Get Out There”:

The event is geared more towards kids (Kayak, Canoe, Frisbee Golf, Fishing, Geocaching..etc) but everyone should come out and see the park. The South Bend Adventure Club will also have a table at the event! Visit us!

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Categories: Adventure, Kayaking, Life, South Bend, South Bend Adventure Club | Tags: , , , , | Leave a comment

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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Frank and Kerry’s new adventure!

Since word is slowly trickling out, I was given permission for this exclusive. Frank and Kerry are setting their sights on a new adventure. Frank has taken a job in Kansas! I had always known that this was an inevitable situation but just hearing the news, it was shocking, sad and bittersweet.

For those of you who may not know, Frank and Kerry started the South Bend Adventure Club back in 2013 and it quickly gained a following. I think it is fair to say that Frank and Kerry are the spark of “Ignite Michiana”! Having gone on many adventures with them, I can honestly say that I learned a great deal from them and they have always been hospitable to all.  There have been adventures just about every weekend from mid 2013 thru 2014, something that I’m not quite sure can ever be matched again. Their genuine hospitality, sense of adventure, greatness, awesomeness, leadership and friendship will also likely go unmatched.

And you can’t stop the adventurous spirit of these two, from what I understand, there is a new club in Kansas that will be the benefactor of our loss. I certainly hope there will be upcoming events posted so that we can visit Frank and Kerry and they can take us on a few more adventures!

So what now? What will happen to the adventure club?

Frank and Kerry tapped me to take on a bigger role in the club and while I appreciate that, we have often discussed EVERYONE taking on a bigger role. We have 1,300+ members, everyone can be a leader! I often see people requesting certain types of adventures, posting adventures after the fact and posting adventures that are being organized outside our club, why not be proactive and create an event for the club?  Please take the opportunity to fill the calendar with adventures!  The club can only continue on with the support of it’s members! It’s up to YOU! 🙂

For the next year, I will work, in the interim, at some of the behind the scene administration work such as renewing the blog. I will post my usual local hiking adventures, may plan a Mammoth trip later in the year and search for local events I can add to our calendar. My hope is that the club will be 100% member supported. Again, it’s up to you.

Frank and Kerry, You will truly be missed! I can’t wait for the first Adventure Club trip to Kansas!
Good Luck and Best Wishes!

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Camping and Hiking at Potato Creek State Park

We planned a local trip to Potato Creek State Park in North Liberty, Indiana in an effort to get people to take their camping gear out of storage and enjoy a beautiful spring weekend. Unfortunately Friday night the temperatures dipped down to a wintery 32 degrees! It was cold but we stayed toasty in our sleeping bags. (I have to admit, I was feeling under the weather so in the middle of the night I sat in my car and turned up the heat! lol ). It also seems to be a trend for my last few hikes. The last few were meant to be “Spring Tune-up” hikes but the cold weather persists in our area.

Saturday morning, after we finished our breakfast, we headed to the nature center where we met other Adventure Club members for a 6+ mile hike. It was mostly the standard hike with some off trail hiking as well.  We started off at trail 1, over to trail 2, around trail 4 to the back half of trail 2 and the back half of trail 1. Along the way we saw the ospreys nesting, an osprey in flight and one of our members found an osprey feather.  We went from a temperature of 32 degrees to around 70 degrees by the end of the hike. We went from freezing to sun burned!

Everyone returned to camp following the hike, and it’s the first for me, a Yoga class broke out! One of our Adventurers is a yoga instructor and a few others have taken Yoga classes.  Afterwards, we got a fire going in the fire pit and everyone made some shish-kabobs that Craig Kimble was nice enough to supply the meat, onion, peppers, mushrooms and fixings. It sure beat the hot dogs that I brought! He also brought the ingredients for s’mores but with a twist. The s’mores were made with Lindt chocolate in various flavors such as my favorite, red chilli pepper.

After resting up a bit, I took a group out on another trail to find a geocache that was hidden by the Boy Scouts. Another member went on a trail run and others checked out some trails they had not been on yet.

My son and I were incredibly tired and achy from the cold, the hiking and from the shift in weather; we decided to break camp instead of staying over thru Sunday.  That is the benefit, especially for beginners, of hiking locally.  In the event something comes up, you are always close to home.

Don’t miss the opportunity to go on our next adventure to Turkey Run State Park (and Shades State Park)! You can check our past blogs to see the story and pictures from those trips:
Adventures at Turkey Run
Turkey Run State Park and Shades State Park

Below are some pictures submitted by some of the members who hiked. (Many thanks to Adidi Kelkar and Frank Bouchard)

Categories: Adventure, Camping, Life, Outdoors | Tags: , , , , , | 2 Comments

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

Cross-country skiing and tasty Venezuelan cuisine

The trails are still covered with snow. Cross-country skiing is pretty much the best way to pass the time while staying active through these cold, wintry days. We were able to get an impressive total of 18 people (not all at once, but people came and went throughout the day) out for a trip at Madeline Bertrand County Park this Saturday. We had a mix of experience levels, but it didn’t take too long for the newbies to catch up. We skied the green loop once and the yellow loop twice, while various sub-groups split off to ski more or fewer miles than the main group. Snow conditions were perfect and an unusual weekend warm front made the air temperature tolerable. Once we had our fill of the trails, we headed to Mango Cafe for a feast of delicious Venezuelan arepas, empanadas, fried yucca, plantains, and other various fried, cheese-filled creations.

The Madeline Bertrand/St. Joseph ski trails, which are accessible from either of those parks, are well groomed, pretty entertaining, and a very short drive from town. They rent out skis and have a cozy warming lodge with a fire place and bird-watching window.

Categories: Adventure, Madeline Bertrand, Ski | Leave a comment

Skiing season has arrived

Last week’s snow storm may have cut our Shakamak cabin party and hike short, but it brought with it opportunities for more fun. Madeline Bertrand County Park opened for night cross-country skiing (lit by tiki torches) on Wednesday. Victor couldn’t wait until the weekend and led a club trip that very night. Saturday morning we met up again to hit the trails at Love Creek County Park. Love Creek has some of the best cross-country skiing around including some nice hills and a comfy nature center. We had a group of 9 total with some beginners, so we took it slow for a while and let them get caught up. After a couple loops in the morning, we ate lunch in the nature center. We were psyched for some afternoon skiing, but found out the trails were closed on account of armed gunmen wandering in the park. We built a snowman while waiting for the police to arrival. An hour and a half later, the gunmen had been identified as teenagers illegally hunting and we were cleared to get back on the trails. We did another couple loops, including the most advanced section and headed back home as the park was closing. We pulled into town just in time for another night skiing event, also posted by Victor, at St. Patrick’s County Park. This consisted of a candle-lit trail to the Manion cabin, at which we were treated to a campfire, s’mores, and hotdogs. 15ish people from the club attended. Some of the group blazed their own trails in the dark into Madeline Bertrand trails (these parks are adjacent and accessible from each other). We left St. Pat’s as they were also closing at 9:30. To cap off the night, we went down to Paletería y Nevería for some elotes and yogurty treats.

Madeline Bertrand, St. Patrick’s, and Love Creek all rent skis and are great places to ski, even for complete beginners. Check out their websites for snow conditions, schedules, and prices. I recommend going when you have the chance and not putting it off. You would be surprised how fast a warm rain shower can come through and totally wreck the perfect conditions.

Categories: Love Creek, Madeline Bertrand, Mexican food, Ski, St. Patrick's County Park | Leave a comment

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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Indiana’s underground playground

The frigid cold of mid-winter Michiana brings some different challenges for adventurers, but it also brings different opportunities. One of my favorite go-to winter activities is caving since temperatures underground stay at a comfortable 53 degrees year-round. After having taken a small group of experienced cavers to scout out Sullivan Cave a few weeks ago, we were ready to send in the whole gang. Friday night, 15 club members caravaned down to Shakamak State Park, our base of operations for the weekend. Another challenge of winter is that camping just plain sucks (in my opinion). In the past we’ve used couchsurfing.org to find free lodging, but our group has grown too big for that. Luckily, Shakamak has affordable 22-person cottages. We piled in and had a warm weekend of sleep for a reasonable $15 per person.

Saturday morning we drove to Sullivan Cave outside of Bedford. Exploring the cave went smoothly for the most part. We got in and immediately walked down the 2000 ft ‘back breaker’ passage, a walkway about 4 ft tall that requires you to hunch over in the most awkward way possible. Next it was a tight squeeze crawl to the Mountain Room, an impressive space that literally contains an underground mountain of collapsed rubble. We climbed to the top, then back down and continued. We took a long passage through a river (only up to our knees) to the Quarry Room. This room is full of bus-sized pieces of rock, fallen from the ceiling long ago and now available for us to climb on. At that point we turned back to begin our exit of the cave. On the way out, half of the party briefly got separated and lost, but were found pretty quickly. We spent about five hours total underground and had a pretty great time.

After making it back to the surface, we returned to the cabin and feasted on our potluck dinner, which included a cornucopia of amazing dishes. As our party heated up, things quickly progressed to playing rounds of the game dizzy bat, which quickly progressed to not playing dizzy bat when one person almost ended up vomiting. Later that night, we got word that a super massive snow storm was moving in and would probably make travel on Sunday impossible. About half of the group decided they couldn’t risk missing their work obligations, packed up, and headed back to town that night. The other half decided to ride out the storm and leave in the morning. Our Sunday hiking plans were cut short by weather, but everyone made it home safe.

Some photos were provided by Lara.

Categories: Adventure, Cabin, Caving, Shakamak State Park, Sullivan Cave, Winter | 2 Comments

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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Dr. T.K. Lawless and Climb Kalamazoo Dual Adventure

With the fresh snowfall we decided it was time for some snow sports. In other words, sledding down a giant hill like a bunch of kids! Eight adventurers headed out Saturday morning to take advantage of the tubing hill at T.K. Lawless park in Michigan and it was great. We spent about three hours hurling ourselves down the hill on anything that would slide including inner tubes provided by the park, toboggans, disks, and one particularly exciting sledding device nicknamed the dustpan. We were continuously creating ways to up the ante ond pushing tubing to the extreme. For example, stacking inner tubes on top of each other and seeing how far down the hill we could make it, or building a ramp to see how much air we could get.

As we began to get tired we went to the shelter and built a roaring fire so we could dry off and enjoy some hot soup I made on my camp stove for everyone. It was well worth the wait and we were still able to do some exploring of the park before we had to leave for part two of this adventure.

That afternoon we drove north to Kalamazoo for an evening of indoor climbing. There were plenty of top rope opportunities and great bouldering at the gym. After a few hours of climbing we were pretty famished so tacos seemed to be the only logical cure. After tacos it was back to the gym for more climbing until our arms wouldn’t hold us anymore. We love Kalamazoo, and not just for the great climbing gym. It’s an exciting college town with plenty of city adventures, so we decided to explore the town which meant trying a popular bar called the Beer Exchange where the price of the beer is determined by the market within the bar. The more popular the beer, the more expensive it will be, while the least popular ones may only be a few dollars! We ended our day with one final stop at the Donut Mill to fill ourselves with some of the best donuts in Michigan. IMG_1431 IMG_1430 IMG_1427 IMG_1418 IMG_1416 IMG_1403 IMG_1405 - Copy IMG_1410 IMG_1413 IMG_1414

Categories: Climbing, Snow | Tags: , , , , | Leave a comment

Scouting out Sullivan’s Cave

This weekend a group of intrepid adventurers headed down to cave country in southern Indiana to explore yet another cave system. Caves are confusing and we are notorious for getting lost in them. In an attempt to be safer and more responsible trip leaders, we decided to take a small band of experienced cavers to scout it out. Five of us drove to Bloomington and met up with Andy, a friend from another adventure club. We couch surfed with Dave, another friend from a previous caving trip. The six of us squeezed onto the floor, happy to not be camping in sub-zero temperatures.

Saturday morning, after a pit stop at Crescent Donuts, we drove to the cave. There we met Joy and Dave, two experienced cavers that had been in Sullivans many times. They helped us navigate through the many twists, turns, and passages. Overall, there was less crawling than previous caves we’ve been to, but lots of awkward bending over and lots of water. We were in the cave for about five hours before we exited into the freezing open air, completely drenched. Satisfied with our mission, we headed out for other fun.

We went to the Tibetan Mongolian Buddhist Cultural Center where we marveled at the ornate buildings and shrines and got a mini tour from one of the staff members. Feeling enightened, we went back into town to Turkuaz for delicious Turkish cuisine while sitting on a pile of lavish pillows fit only for a sultan. We crashed again at Dave’s house.

Sunday morning, we stopped at McCormick’s Creek State Park for some precarious hiking on the frozen river before finally heading back to South Bend.

This trip was in preparation for an upcoming trip, also to Sullivan’s Cave that will be open to beginners. If you’re interested in trying out caving, sign up on our facebook event.

Categories: Adventure, Bloomington, Caving, Couch Surfing, McCormick's Creek State Park, Sullivan Cave, Tibetan Mongolian Buddhist Cultural Center | 3 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

Pokagon State Park Toboggan Run & Hike

This past Saturday 11 South Bend Adventure Club members decided to check out the toboggan runs at Pokagon State Park in Angola, IN. We managed to carpool in 3 different vehicles and met up on site early in the day as the toboggan run was getting going. There were many people out enjoying the unseasonably warm weekend and everyone could still have fun tobogganing because Pokagon has one of the few refrigerated tracks in the country.

We were all a bit surprised about the weight of the toboggans as we waited in line. The line moved quick and suddenly we were at the top and loading onto the sleds. For speed the suggestion was to get in lightest weight to heaviest, so that is what one group did. On the first ride one group got up to 37mph and the second group was at 36mph (Max speed recorded on the track is around 42mph.) We were all quite surprised about how terrifying this toboggan ride ended up being! We were waylaid into not being worried because there were wee little children as well as senior citizens riding, but after the fact we all decided that this was quite the adventure. A few more trips were taken down the run with various members sitting out and visiting by the fire or taking pictures as others went one or two more times.

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At this point we checked out the trail map and decided to walk to the Nature Center and do a small 2 mile hike before heading out for lunch. We made it to the Nature Center but all agreed it smelled a little strange in there. Once our noses adjusted we enjoyed listening to a employee talk about the different birds feeding outside a viewing window and checking out the snakes, turtles and other critters in the Nature Center.

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We then finished up the hike and met up for lunch at a local restaurant called Timbers in Angola. As always the group had a great time visiting and enjoying good food.


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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

Two Thanksgiving Adventures

Over the Thanksgiving holiday four South Bend Adventure Club members took two different adventures. Frank and Kerry went camping in the Smokey Mountains while Lara and Paulie went camping in the back-country of Mammoth Cave National Park. Both trips were posted to the group however other members were understandably unable to attend. The trips might be considered somewhat quasi group trips since they equate to two married couples taking two different trips together. I thought I’d share the trips anyway. Holiday’s provide a nice chunk of time making doing a adventure easier. For those without major plans, or plans they’d rather not attend, going on a SBAC trip could be a great alternative.

Frank’s synopsis of their adventure:

Though nobody signed up to join us, Kerry and I continued with our plans to travel south. Our bike ride on the Blue Ridge Parkway changed course when the road got covered in snow, was officially closed, and biking just didn’t sound fun at all. Instead we spent our time back-country and front-country hiking in Great Smokey Mountains National Park. We covered a section of the Appalachian Trail, summited mountains, camped in a snow storm and conquered 52 miles in total. We traded in the traditional turkey dinner in a warm home for rice and tortillas while shivering, and came home pretty happy with our decision. While I’m a big advocate of local trips, holiday breaks are your chance to have time in your favor and really cover distance. I’m glad we took advantage of it and encourage others to adopt this tradition.

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For Paulie and I our trip also took some unexpected turns due to poor weather on Thanksgiving. At the last minute we decided to take our Bichon Frise. We camped in the car Wednesday night with intentions of heading into the back-country on Thursday, but reports were calling for a 20 degree night on Thursday. We re-arranged our plans and spend the night at the quaint and cheap Rock Cabins. Paul and I did some day hikes and then grilled some ham and potatoes for our holiday dinner. Friday was chilly but we headed into the back-country. We camped for 2 nights and hiked about 20 miles total. Cosmo, our Bichon, did amazingly well, however we purposefully chose to hike some easier trail sections.

Another thing to note is that the development of trips often stem from previous club trips. In the spring the SBAC went to Mammoth Cave and camped in the front-country campground and took a cave tour. It was that trip that led to my interest in trying the back-country. A nice perk to Mammoth is there is no entry fee and no charges for back-country camping. The cave gets all the attention, but the back-country there is also stunning.

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