Posts Tagged With: adventure

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

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:

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

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.

Categories: Uncategorized | Tags: , , , | Leave a 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 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

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

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

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:

FullSizeRender (5) FullSizeRender (4) FullSizeRender (3) FullSizeRender (2) FullSizeRender (1)baugo

Categories: Adventure, Hiking, South Bend | Tags: , , , , , , | 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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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

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Parke County Bike Ride

A 3 ½ hour drive south of the bend brings you to Parke County, America’s capital for scenic covered bridges and small-town charm. Six SBAC adventurers decided to make the trek with bikes in tow sans one; we had an adventurer opt to run 10 miles while the remaining five of us let our feet kiss pedals and tour this Midwest countryside.

The Plan: A 28-mile loop on relatively flat roadways of Indiana countryside that would pass by at least 3 covered bridges. Aiming to finish in roughly 2-2.5 hours.

We started off with excited uncertainty and scoffed at the brisk temps and unrelenting wind. We wore hats, layers and tighty tights. We had hydration, chapstick and granola bars. We admired the antique shops and fall skyline. We cautiously avoided a handful of unleashed dogs. And, then, as if the score straight out of Jaws had suddenly been queued, we saw our first hill … and then our second hill … and then our third …

My weary body and average bike frame (I own a hybrid) stubbornly challenged the unrelenting terrain. I’m recovering from almost a year-long injury (herniated disc) and this suddenly seemed out of my nearly nonexistent cardio range. I had to walk a few of those hills (as did some of the others at times). Those steep inclines seemed endless; my lungs gasped for air and my legs ached for a break. I admired my comrades’ seemingly effortless pedal thrusts. I took the lead to organize this trip but was now spending it pedaling dead last. What gives?!?

I looked around me and in the pockets uninhabited by cars, it was quiet. The woods were picturesque as a few strains of yellow lingered to tell us fall wasn’t yet over. Cows lazily dotted still-green hills as they were out to pasture and hawks (if you could spot them) were skimming the air. Tired and (admittedly) feeling defeated, I stopped fighting the urge to “keep up” or “look tough.” I took a deep breath and enjoyed the view. When I did catch up with my fellow bikers, we took a break to check our location status and share some incredibly funny stories.

“Good company in a journey makes the way seem shorter.” – Izaak Walton

There’s something to be said of the people you spend an adventure with from the SBAC. No one truly complains and no one traipses about with a God complex. The temps were tough but we were tougher. The hills were steep but we weren’t (entirely) intimidated. We got turned around (it isn’t an adventure if you don’t get slightly “lost” right?), but it only made the goal of getting back to Rockville that much sweeter.

The Outcome: A rugged, cool 24-mile ride riddled with hills, bumps, laughs, barbaric yelps (well, just one, and it was Frank, of course) and one lingering stop to change a flat tire. We finished in roughly 3-3.5 hours.

Before departing Parke County, we tried the Jailhouse Café. Cozy, laid back and one of the best soy hazelnut lattes I’ve had in a while. We were then led by Kerry, at gunpoint*, to West Lafayette for Shaukin’s Indian fast food. That was pretty darn good, too.

See you on the next adventure.

*Dramatic detail added for exaggerated effect to emphasize Kerry’s implicit love for this Indian fare.

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Turkey Run State Park and Shades State Park

Let me preface this by saying, I’ve looked through 400+ pictures, I have read my review and with that I can easily say that pictures and words are only half the story. You have to go out and experience this yourself. But if you can’t, I hope to do a good job of painting the picture for you.

The South Bend Adventure Club took a winter trip to Turkey Run State Park a few months ago and while we hiked through the beautiful snow and ice covered canyons, I wondered how much more beautiful this place would be in the spring. It was on the drive home that I devised a plan to get my family out with me for this experience. I called it a Family Mini Vacation and made it a South Bend Adventure Club event for the weekend.

In order to have some family time, my family and I arrived Thursday afternoon before the rest of the Adventure Club (slated to show Friday night or Saturday morning). I knew I had to set the tone. My wife does not enjoy nature like I do, she seems to attract snakes on every trip! I knew the first hike would need to start off with one of the most beautiful areas of the park. We set out on Trail 6 and 7 towards Turkey Run Hollow. As soon as you walk into this area you are met up with an eye popping sandstone cavern. From the moment she walked in, her camera was popping photos left and right (over 250 in total for the weekend!). I had told my son and wife that they need to expect their feet to get wet and to bring extra socks! After hiking through the cavern and crossing the stream of water going through it, no one was complaining about wet or muddy shoes! The evening ended with dinner at the Turkey Run Inn and afterwards we headed to Sunset Point to enjoy the sunset.

We took full advantage of the amenities the park has to offer. Friday morning after breakfast we headed to the Bridle Barn and took a 50 minute horseback ride. I have to admit, it was my first time on a horse and was feeling pretty intimidated but our guide was great, matched the horse up with the person and after about 5 minutes on the lead horse, I was feeling pretty confident. Later in the day we went to the Nature Center to check out a list of their interpretive services. While we were there we attended a free Planetarium Star Show, it lasted about 40 minutes and covered many constellations you would see in the current night sky. Afterwards we went back to the inn, took a dip in the swimming pool and had a lazy evening at the inn.

Saturday morning prior to meeting up with the Adventure Club, we took advantage of another Interpretive Service the park has to offer. We went on a Hike and Fossil hunt while learning the history of Turkey Run State Park. We learned how the park and it’s landscape came to be through the Glacial Period. Among items we spotted along Sugar Creek: Crinoids, Geodes, Coral and even a piece of Horn Coral. Afterwards we met up with the Adventure Club (Brian, Frank, Kerry, Jen, Josh and Rachel) and hit the other trails I was eagerly waiting to bring my family on.

We started off behind the nature center, walked over a Suspension bridge to trail 3 to get to the first cavernous area called the “Ice Box”. Although it was near 75 degrees, you could feel the coolness of the Ice Box that was along Sugar Creek. After leaving the Ice Box heading on Trail 3 until we reached a series of ladders, yes, ladders! You have to climb up a set of 20-25’ ladders to get out (or in- depending on which trail you take) of the canyon we were in. It was pretty busy with people going up and down so we had a chance to rest and take pictures. Watching the water fall as you climb up the ladder sort of takes any fear of heights away J  after going up the ladders we followed trail 3 to trail 5 through Bear Hollow. We hit trail 9 to Boulder Canyon which is exactly like it sounds. As you head into this canyon, each foot step is pretty much a different boulder. We missed the trail out and had to circle back and as we did, my son Joey ended up getting stuck in the mud!

After finding our way back to the trail, we ended up going through Falls Canyon which as described, there was a nice water fall going through it. Oh, I guess I should also point out that we did not see any Bears in Bear Hollow and no Turkey’s in Turkey Hollow but rumor has it the Indians would use Turkey Hollow to trap and hunt turkey.

The Adventure group and I took the trip to Trails 6 and 7 since my family already hiked through it on our first day there, they got cleaned up and headed to the pool. Afterwards we enjoyed free coffee at the Inn! We headed to Shades State Park that evening for a meal cooked at the camp ground that Kerry, Frank, Rachel and Joshua stayed at. A homemade Tortellini and vegetable soup!

Sunday we met up for one last hike. One of the other bonuses of talking to a person in Interpretive Services is finding out where some of the other breath taking areas are in the nearby parks. Barbara told us of another canyon in Shades State Park which was only about 4 miles away. They have a new road going up to Pine Hills Nature Preserve. She stated there was a trail that a portion of is only 5 foot wide with a 100 foot drop off.  After we got through the woodsy area, we hit a creek bed that not only had sandstone but also appeared to have slate in it as well. After crossing over we headed up the side of a cavern of sandstone,  years of wind and water erosion created a delightful eye popping view for visitors to see. Natures art! We headed further up the path and we met up with that 5’ with a 100” drop off. Yeah, I have some fear of heights but wow… again, the beauty of it all took any fear I was experiencing at the moment. It is described in the PDF below as “The steep-sided wall you see before you is an­other back bone. This is Devil’s Backbone. At one point, it is 6 feet wide and 100 feet high. Groups with small children would be advised not to at­tempt to cross it.” – (more information at:

Be informed, there are tons of details and pictures I, unfortunately, had to leave out due to time and space constraints. If you have any questions you can “Friend” me on facebook: (David Krachenfels). I hope you enjoyed the story!

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