Muscatatuck National Wildlife Refuge

Today I added a new item to my favorite places list. Muscatatuck National Wildlife Refuge is a fantastic place. It’s in southern Indiana, just east of Seymour, on Highway 50.

Not only is it well maintained, but it’s really educational. There’s an old farm that has been restored with a house and a barn. The restoration was done by volunteers in the 1990’s. The farm was owned and occupied by the Meyer family from the 1880’s until the Refuge was created in 1966.

  

There are information stations all over the refuge, including these at the farm. The house is open as a museum.

The wildlife can be seen on an interpretive auto tour (pick up a brochure at the entrance to get the full experience) and along hiking trails.

And speaking of trails, there is a children’s discovery trail and one that is paved  which makes it wheelchair accessible. The trails are easy, fairly level with gravel and grass pathways. And in the marshy areas, they provide boardwalks.

I spent the whole morning wandering around, soaking up history and wildlife knowledge. Definitely a place to go many times again.

Then in the afternoon all the hiking of the past few days hit me. I was tired of driving so I stopped at a campground and took a nap. Am I getting THAT old?!

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Earth Day and Raptors

Earth Day was cold and rainy. So I mostly stayed in the car watching movies. I did journey out a little in the evening when the sun finally decided to come out. Walked another trail. This was an interpretive trail on land management and how the DNR has maintained a refuge for the wildlife in this area.

Sunday I got up early and went down to the lake for a meditative hour.

At noon there was a program at the Nature Center on raptors – birds of prey. Dana, the ranger who did the lecture, was excellent. She really knows her birds. She brought out the Red Tailed Hawk you see at the top of this post. And then a little screech owl.

All the birds they keep at the center have been injured and cannot survive in the wild. Patoka Lake is a habitat for birds and the Nature Center is a great educational resource.

All in all, my time at Patoka Lake was wonderful. I will come here again

The Hemlock Cliffs

Third day at Hoosier National Forest – I spent a while perusing maps to find some point of interest to explore. One in particular looked interesting. It was a thirty minute drive from my camp. After passing a lot of farms the route eventually turns off onto one lane gravel roads through the woods. The Department of Natural Resources, who control the forest, have done a good job of putting up signage to point the way.

One of the highest rated hiking trails in Indiana, Hemlock Cliffs is an area where streams have cut deep into the forest floor leaving majestic rock cliffs on either side.

      

These sandstone cliffs have overhangs called rock houses and some are actual caves, going deep into the ground.

    

This is one cave you can go into. The standing room is not very big, but I did sit there for a while, imaging being a native hunting game or perhaps a pioneer camping for the night during a long journey west..

Most of the deeper caves are high up the side of the cliffs, and rappelling is prohibited. There was a time years ago when you could camp out along the streams and in the caves, but so much plant life was being destroyed that the DNR stopped it. This whole area is now a wildlife sanctuary.

My hike lasted about 2 hours. Midway it became the first time I have hiked in the rain! Thanks to my Girl Scout days, I was prepared.

The last part of the walk was a bit slippery. There is one spot where you must climb up a rock stairway to the top of a waterfall. That was tricky (my dad would have loved it) I have a good pair of walking shoes, but crossing streams needs hiking boots, I think. That may be my next big purchase.

 

Hoosier National Forest

I think if I ever come into a lot of money (in other words win the lottery)I would like to live in a national forest. What a great backyard! Indiana has no National Parks, but it does have Hoosier National Forest. It includes several counties in the southern part of Indiana. French Lick is on the northern edge of the forest. There are lots of villages and towns throughout the area. And I don’t know if it’s naiveté, but I didn’t realize there were so many farms inside the forest boundaries.

The first night I stayed at Initial Point, which has a small area for tents. There’s a trail that leads down the hill to the Pivot Point, which is the place where all the measurements for Townships begins. Something I never knew. Yay Trivia!


The next night I decided I needed a shower so I rented a site at the Patoka Lake State Park campground. Since it’s early in the season there are not too many people here. I scored a delightful site right on the lake. Well, it’s above the lake on a ridge, but it looks out over the water. A trail leads down to it.

          
It was so good that I reserved the site for 3 days.

After I set up camp, I visited the Nature Center and did a short hike.  The trail had the most amazing rock formations.


The rocks form overhangs that were used by the Native Americans as shelters when hunting. And apparently there are 100’s of caves in this area.Here’s a small cave I passed.


The trail eventually goes to the lake, which is actually the second largest reservoir in the state. Unfortunately with such a warm winter, and not a lot of snow melt, the water level is very low.

Rain is in the forecast but I hope to do some more hiking.

Heading South

On my way to Hoosier National Forest, I stopped for lunch at a nature preserve. McVey Memorial Forest. It’s a 249 acre forest out in the middle of farm fields. This land was deeded to the DNR by Edna McVey in her will. She loved the woods and wanted others to enjoy it.


Several trails wind through the forest, there’s a small pond, and it’s a wildlife sanctuary maintained by the Red Tail Nature Conservancy. Further in the forest is a small cemetery that is all that is left from a community called Stubenville.

  
You can find it on Highway 1 just north of Farmland, IN.

Relaxing

   One thing I’ve instituted as part of my retirement plan is that I will not spend money from my savings account for traveling. I only spend my SS check. So, of course, that means when the funds run out, I have to lay low until the next one comes in. That’s why I’ve been in Fort Wayne for the past week. I ran out of cash on that trip to Branson.

Lesson learned.

Meanwhile, I’m researching some financial options in order to conserve. Part-time work , either online or in town, is not in my plans right now. I’m having too much fun roaming to consider any discipline other than my own writing. Thinking about the stock market gives me a headache. Doing online surveys is both boring and not at all lucrative.

I have been kicking around an idea for a website that could make some money. It has to do with starting an online community/resource center for front desk personnel. They say go with what you know and that’s what I know how to do, so…  It would entail selling ebooks on how to be a receptionist, office worker, etc. And perhaps a forum for ideas and rants. I might look into doing consulting or mentoring. Any thoughts from you  would be appreciated.

However, I have been enjoying myself with my daughter and grandkids. Like I said, writing has been fruitful lately.  Also, I’ve explored more of the Rivergreenway, the trails that meander throughout the city and beyond.                        

Also, I helped Jill with her spring cleaning. Feels kind of weird doing housework again. But almost fun.

My next adventure begins this week. I’ll start with a few days in Hoosier National Forest where I can boondock to save money. And then…?

Writing

I’m still so new to this thing called retirement that I sometimes I  am in wonder at the fact that I can do – or not do – anything I want. My daughter goes to work, the kids go to school, and there I am, lounging. What a waste…hehehe

I have found myself in author mode this week and so you can find me at a library during the day. I’m working on the third volume in my Trivia for Kids series. This one on Games. Fascinating stuff. There’s a lot of history surrounding the creation of games. Many books to read. Many hours to study. Ok, yes, I’m indulging myself in research again. But it’s for a good cause!

I’m trying to write every day. Sometimes this blog counts. Sometimes I work on my novel. Yes, I’m writing a novel. It’s slow going. I’ve learned all about the structure of a novel, picked through tips on how and why and where and what, but no one can tell you how to just sit down and write. Willpower, you say? Yeah, right! I need a desk out in the middle of a field with nothing around. But then I’d probably end up counting blades of grass instead of working.

I’m giving myself a deadline. I will get the first draft of my novel finished by December 31. Keep me on track, ok? You have my permission to nag me.

Traveling is also on the agenda.  However, reading the news lately, I wonder how much longer I can roam around the country for cheap. Public lands are still free to camp in, but who knows how long that will last. And I want to visit as many National Parks as I can, because with the rumors about privatization, they might be beyond my budget.  Maybe my grand plan for retirement will be changing. I’m starting to think a Plan B might be in order.