VIEWS: 28 PAGES: 19 POSTED ON: 3/19/2010
Indiana/Illinois Hikes: Table of Contents Indiana Hikes 1. Turkey Run State Park 2. Yellowwood State Forest 3. Newton-Stewart State Recreation Area: Patoka Lake Trail 4. Whitewater Memorial State Park: Cattail Alley Trail 5. Whitewater Memorial State Park: Veterans Vista Loop Illinois Hikes 6. Lincoln Memorial Gardens 7. Kickapoo State Park: Out and Back Trail Hike #1 Trails: Trails #1, 4, 3, 10, and 5. Location: Turkey Run State Park Nearest City: Rockville, Indiana Length: 6 miles Last Hiked: September 2002 Overview: A well-rounded hike, varying from moderate to difficult terrain, featuring Turkey Run’s famous canyons. Park Information: http://www.in.gov/dnr/parklake/properties/park_turkeyrun.html Directions to the trailhead: From I-74, take the Crawfordsville exit (exit 34) onto US 231. Go south on US 231 into Crawfordsville to SR 47 and turn right on SR 47. Take SR 47 south 17 miles to the park entrance on the right. From Rockville, go 8 miles north on US 41 and turn right on SR 47. Take SR 47 2 miles to the park entrance on the left. From either direction, pay the entrance fee at the park gatehouse and follow signs to the nature center. Park in the large blacktop lot in front of the nature center. The hike: Scenery, rock outcrops, history, and difficulty: the trails of Turkey Run State Park have something for everyone. Established in 1916, Turkey Run was the second area to be included in the Indiana state parks system. The main attraction at that time was the hiking trails through the narrow vertical rock walls along the tributaries to Sugar Creek. With a name such as Turkey Run, one would expect that the centerpiece of the park would be a creek named Turkey Run. Such is not the case. Rather, the park’s name probably originates from the wild turkey hunting that was a popular activity here in the late 1800’s and early 1900’s. Hunters could chase the turkeys up the canyons where, having no way to escape the steep walls, the turkeys would meet a violent end. Today, hiking the canyons is still the most popular activity in this park. Canoeing the west-flowing Sugar Creek, whose quiet waters bisect the park, comes in a close second. A modern campground, cabins, and an inn provide rest for travelers. Several picnic areas are heavily used in warmer weather. The park’s hiking trails vary greatly in difficulty, character, and scenery. Some of the easier trails are on the south side of the creek along with the nature center. However, the trails that made this park famous are on the north side of Sugar Creek and are accessed by one of the park’s two bridges. With 10 interconnecting trails totaling 14 miles, possible routes are endless. The route selected here gives a flavor for all of the park’s trails without being overly rugged. Feel free to explore the park’s other trails to your interests once you have taken this overview. From the nature center, head downhill along a gravel path through a picnic area following signs for the suspension bridge. Descend 70 concrete steps to a trail intersection at the base of the suspension bridge. We will return across the suspension bridge, but for now turn right and begin hiking on trail#1. Trail #1 is a flat trail that parallels the south bank of Sugar Creek and connects the suspension bridge to the covered bridge, the two dry ways across Sugar Creek. On summer weekends, the creek will be abuzz with activity. Canoes and kayaks float slowly toward the Wabash with spotters and spectators taking their place along the shore. On dry summer days, keeping the canoe from running aground in the gravel creekbed can be a challenge. During the wetter months, the creek may be deep enough to make wading difficult. Whenever you are confronted with a trail intersection, choose the route that stays closest to the creek. The going through the flood plain forest is easy until, just before reaching the covered bridge, a rock outcrop must be climbed with the aid of narrow steps cut into the stone. At the top of bluff the trail arrives at the south abutment for the Narrows Covered Bridge. Today open only to foot traffic, the bridge dating to 1832 first carried horses and carriages, then became a passage for automobiles until the modern, parallel concrete bridge was built. Contrary to popular belief, wooden bridges were not covered to fool horses into crossing them but were covered to protect the floor of the bridge from rotting. Given how long this one and many others have survived, one cannot argue with the builders’ logic. How many of our concrete bridges will still carry traffic in 150 years? Trail #1 turns right here, remaining on the south side of Sugar Creek, but this hike crosses the bridge to access the trails on the north side. Once across the bridge, where you seem to be boxed in, look for a rough, unmarked trail that goes downhill to the left. This trail, which looks like a wild trail down to the creek, is actually the connector to trail#4, which is reached in about 100 feet. Turn right to begin trail #4. Trail #4 heads away from Sugar Creek and begins climbing moderately on an eroded treadway. At the top of this hill, the trail comes out into a clearing that contains the Lusk Home. Built in 1841, this simple brick structure was built by the first white settlers to own this land. As of the date of this writing, tours are available on Saturday mornings during the warm months. Plan a trip then or admire the simplicity of the structure from the outside. Reentering the forest, the trail drops to cross a small tributary, then climbs gently to the opposite ridge. The bustle of Sugar Creek is now far behind you, and even on crowded weekends you are likely to be alone on this trail. Where trail #8 departs to the left, stay to the right on trail #4 and descend some stone steps into a shallow ravine. Though not impressive now, this ravine represents the headwaters of the creek that flows through the park’s steepest and most famous canyons. The trail curves left and begins going downstream, heading for those canyons. As the ravine begins to build and tighten, the trail crosses the stream for the first of many times. This crossing will tell you how difficult the next 0.75 miles of this hike will be. If the creekbed is dry, the hiking will be relatively easy; a little water, and the trail will be passable but difficult; lots of water, and be prepared to get wet and walk gingerly over slippery rock. The trail crosses back and forth across the stream. If the creekbed is dry, it may be easier to walk in the creekbed rather than climb and descend the bank each time. In 0.5 miles, the trail comes out atop the Punch Bowl, a deep, round area with vertical rock walls where two creeks plunge into the canyon. This unusual area was created when glacial debris became trapped in a whirlpool and carved the circular patterns seen today. Descend some wooden steps into the punch bowl. In the bottom of the bowl, trail #4 ends at an intersection with trail #3. Adventuresome hikers could turn left here and attempt a difficult and possibly dangerous hike through the canyon on trail #3. Such a route would provide a shortcut back to the suspension bridge. This description will turn right here on trail #3. After 0.1 miles of walking in the streambed, ascend another wooden staircase to the left to arrive at a junction with trail #10. Turn right to begin trail #10. Trail #10 is rated moderate and weaves in and out of several shallow ravines. Climbs are steep but short in duration. 0.5 miles from the junction with trail #3, trail #10 reaches a junction on a ridgetop with what appears to be an old logging road. Be sure not to miss the short side trail that goes right to Camel’s Back, a nice overlook of the rolling Indiana hills to the north. Benches at this overlook make a nice place for lunch near the midpoint of this hike. This represents the most distant point from the trailhead. Continuing on trail #10, 0.4 miles from the spur trail, trail #10 reaches another junction with trail #3. This hike will turn right on trail #3 to enter Bear Hollow. Continuing straight on trail #10 would provide another opportunity to short-circuit this hike back to the suspension bridge. Trail #3 descends, moderately at first using steps, then more steeply using a ladder to reach a junction with trail #5, which goes right. Turn right on trail #5 and climb 140 steps out of Bear Hollow to reach a junction with trail #9. Trail #9 provides an interesting but very difficult excursion into Boulder Canyon to the west. Due to the extreme difficulty, this description will veer left and remain on trail #5. Trail #9 intersects trail #5 on the other side of Boulder Canyon in 1 mile on Trail #9 or 0.3 miles on our hike, so this loop could be added easily for those seeking more challenge. Trail #5 descends moderately through some nice hemlock forest to reach the bank of Sugar Creek and the other intersection with trail #9. Curving left to go upstream beside Sugar Creek, the trail assumes a level streamside course. In 0.25 miles, continue straight at an intersection with trail #3 coming out of Bear Hollow from the left. The trail remains along the stream for the distance back to the suspension bridge except for a brief section that goes uphill around a beach surrounded by some exposed rock called the Ice Box. The Ice Box is popular with canoers due to its seclusion and coolness on a hot summer day. If you accidentally or intentionally end up there, retrace your steps for 100 feet and find the trail going uphill. After a brief boardwalk, the trail arrives at the suspension bridge. Cross the bridge and intersect trail #1 to close the loop. Only a short walk up some steps and through the picnic area remains to complete the hike. Hike #2 Trails: Lake, Jackson Creek, and Scarce O’ Fat Trails Location: Yellowwood State Forest Nearest City: Nashville, IN Length: 6 miles Last Hiked: May 2005 Overview: A moderate to difficult hike offering good lake views and a trip through secluded Caldwell Hollow. Park Information: http://stateparks.com/yellowwood.html Directions to the trailhead: From Nashville, take SR 46 west 6 miles to Yellowwood Rd. and turn right on paved Yellowwood Rd. If you are coming from Bloomington, you would go east on SR 46 for 11.2 miles and turn left on Yellowwood Rd. Yellowwood Rd. is marked with a sign for Yellowwood State Forest from either direction. In 1.2 miles, cross an old wooden bridge and bear left, still on Yellowwood Rd. The pavement runs out at an intersection in another 0.9 miles, and you should bear left again, now on a gravel road. In another 0.4 miles, turn right onto a rough gravel road. Ford the creek (solid gravel base and only a couple inches deep at normal water levels) and park in a parking area at the base of Yellowwood Dam, where the road ends. The hike: Yellowwood State Forest derives its name from the light green leaves of the locust trees that cover the hillside in this part of Indiana. As you can tell from the directions to this trailhead, the forest is quite secluded, so you are likely to find a good amount of solitude even in peak hiking season. Indeed, the hills in this area make for great leaf peeping in October, and this destination would make a good alternative to adjacent crowded Brown County State Park. As an added bonus, whereas the state of Indiana charges admission for their state parks, they neglect to do this for their state forests. Regardless of its famous neighbors, Yellowwood makes an admirable hiking destination in its own right. In addition to several picnic areas, an 80-site campground is located on the east side of the lake. Indeed, with the hustle and bustle of Indianapolis only an hour away, a quiet evening in the Yellowwood forests can be just what the doctor ordered. A bridle camp and four horse trails totaling 15.5 miles, including a connector to the Brown County State Park Bridle trail system, give added amenities. The state forest also provides a top-notch hiking experience for those willing to get off the beaten track. The forest’s two main hiking trails are the Lake Trail, a 4.5-mile trail that circles Yellowwood Lake, and the Scarce O’ Fat Trail, a 4.7 mile trail leading to High King Knob and through Caldwell Hollow. Using parts of these trails, part of a horse trail, and part of the short Jackson Creek Nature Trail gives a 6-mile loop hike that visits all of the forest’s main attractions. From the west end of the dam, pick up the Lake Trail as it goes around a vehicle gate on a wide track, then veers off to the right onto single track dirt trail. The Lake Trail is marked with wave-shaped paint blazes. The trail pretends to climb Bill Jack Ridge on your left, but the summit is never attained, and the lake will always be in view on your right. After 0.4 miles, the trail begins to switchback downhill toward the first of four tributaries to Yellowwood Lake. None of these creeks are bridged, and the area around the creeks can be a bit wet in season, but good hiking boots should keep your feet clean and dry. Each of the ravines is steep, but the trail is well-graded using switchbacks when necessary, so only minimal effort is required. At 1.5 miles, the trail crosses the last of these tributaries, and the upper end of Yellowwood Lake is reached. A marshy area filled with cattails can be seen to your right. At 1.6 miles, the trail enters a pine forest, a planted area dating from the CCC-era, and intersects the Jackson Creek Trail. The Lake Trail turns right here, but you should continue straight ahead on the Jackson Creek Trail, which is blazed with white diamonds. The Jackson Creek Trail is a self-guiding nature trail that loops around the Jackson Creek ravine, the water source for Yellowwood Lake. Numbered posts along the trail correspond to a self-guiding trail brochure available at the state forest office on the east side of the lake. This hike only uses a small piece of this trail, so a brochure would be of little help for this hike. The map calls this area Sol Pogue Hollow. The trail climbs to a bluff with the creek on the right then descends to another trail intersection beside the creek. The Jackson Creek Trail turns right here to close its small loop, but taking an unblazed trail to the left will steer you along our loop. Though not an official part of the trail system, this old logging road is well-worn, easily followed, and makes a nice connector with the Scarce O’ Fat Trail. The old road makes a fairly steep ascent of Scarce O’ Fat ridge before leveling off when reaching the top. 2.8 miles from the start, or 0.5 miles since leaving the Jackson Creek Trail, the old road comes out at Horse Trail Z, ending your stint on unofficial trail. Turn left on the wide horse trail and begin your walk along Scarce O’ Fat Ridge. This horse trail also follows an old logging road, and damage from horse traffic is not readily apparent. Thick locust trees on either side preclude any views from the ridge. At 3.7 miles, reach a major intersection. Horse Trail Z angles to the left, Horse Trail X continues straight ahead, while the Scarce O’ Fat Trail departs as a hiking only trail to the left and coincides with Horse Trail X straight ahead. This hike follows the combined Horse Trail X and Scarce O’ Fat Trail that leads straight ahead. Note that turning left along either Horse Trail Z or the Scarce O’ Fat Trail would return you to the trailhead in 1.7 miles and short cut this hike. In 0.3 miles, Horse Trail X exits to the right, while the Scarce O’ Fat Trail, which this description now follows to its conclusion, continues straight on the old woods road. At 4.3 miles, top a rise that, at 874 feet above sea level, marks the highest point on this hike. Stay atop the ridge until, at 4.5 miles, a double blaze indicates a turn. Indeed, the trail turns sharply left off of the woods road and onto a single track trail and begins descending switchbacks into Caldwell Hollow. After four switchbacks, the trail reaches creek level in the hollow. It’s hard to imagine a more peaceful place. The hollow’s steep sides keep out almost any intrusion. Only the birds and the gentle creek bubbling along can be heard. Only trees, shrubs, and the hollow’s walls can be seen in any direction. This hollow also provides a colorful wildflower display in late April and early May as various varieties of wildflowers carpet the floor. The trail follows the creek downstream and crosses it several times. During times of low water, these crossings can be jumped or rock-hopped to keep feet dry, but hiking boots might be required during the wetter season. At 5.2 miles, cross this creek for the last time and begin ascending High King hill. While the hill’s name makes a nice pun with your current activity, the name simply comes from the fact that this hill was the highest point on a piece of land owned by someone named King. The hardest part of the climb comes first, as 90 feet of elevation are gained in the next 0.2 miles. Still, switchbacks are used to make the grade very manageable. The trail continues to ascend, albeit more gradually, and 5.6 miles from the start, reach a sign announcing your arrival to the summit of High King Hill. You are now 765 feet above sea level and 170 feet above Yellowwood Lake, which can be seen through a small opening in the trees on your left. The best view can be had just after passing the summit sign, but no benches or designated overlooks are provided. Keep alert so that you don’t miss the small opening. Past the summit, the next 0.3 miles of trail descend the steep hillside back to the entrance road. Although switchbacks make the descent manageable, the trail still involves some steps and steep spots, so watch your footing. At 5.9 miles, ford the same creek that you forded as you drove in, but this time with the aid of some stepping stones. Just after this crossing, the trail comes out on the entrance road. Turn left and walk a short distance to your car to complete the hike. While you are at Yellowwood, two shorter self-guided trails, the Jackson Creek and Resource Management trails, await you on the east side should a little more hiking be in order. Hike #3 Trail: Patoka Lake Main Trail Location: Newton-Stewart State Recreation Area Nearest City: French Lick, Indiana Length: 6.5 miles Last Hiked: November 2001 Overview: A scenic, occasionally rocky hike over ridges, knobs, and ravines along the south shore of Patoka Lake. Park Information: http://www.in.gov/dnr/parklake/properties/res_patoka.html Directions to the trailhead: From the north, take SR 145 south to SR 164 and turn right. From I-64 in the south, take exit 72 on SR 145 and go north 21 miles to SR 164, turning left. Take SR 164 west 1 mile to CR 27 and turn right. A Patoka Lake sign marks this intersection. Proceed north on the county road, which turns into the main park road. Pass the park entrance stand (a $5 entrance fee will be required in-season) and follow signs for the visitor center. Park in the main blacktop parking lot. The trail begins at an information kiosk on the northwest side of the visitor’s center. The hike: The hills overlooking what is now Patoka Lake have been inhabited for millennia. Rock shelters such as those found at Totem Rock and Pilot Knob on this property often contain archeological evidence of pre-historic inhabitants. These are no exception, as tools, arrowheads, and pieces of pottery have been unearthed on these premises. Also, a petroglyph of three turtles has been found on nearby trees and rocks. In 1970, the Army Corps of Engineers built the earthen dam on the Patoka River, a tributary of the Wabash, that created 8800 acre Patoka Lake. At this same time, the Jackson and Lick Fork State Recreation Areas were established by the Indiana Department of Natural Resources on the north side of Patoka Lake, and the Newton- Stewart State Recreation Area was established on the south side. The latter features 1100 acres of mostly second-growth hardwoods, with a few pine plantations mixed in. The Newton-Stewart SRA contains 8 miles of hiking trails. Two trails of 1 mile or less make short loops near the visitor center. Our trail makes a longer loop around a small peninsula that juts out into Patoka Lake. Highlights of the trail include Totem Rock, Pilot Knob, views of Patoka Lake, and a pine plantation that often provides nesting ground for bald eagles in the winter months. Begin from the information kiosk and head slightly downhill, quickly coming to a trail intersection. Our trail is marked with white circles painted around trees and angles to the right at this intersection. The trail next becomes extremely rocky as it descends through a break in a limestone cliff, a sign of what is to come later in the hike. The 1.2 miles of hiking between this cliff and Totem Rock, the first highlight of the hike, are fairly easy, as the trail dips through several shallow ravines. None of the creek crossings have the aid of a bridge, but the ravines are dry except after a heavy rain. At a crossing with the short Wildlife Management Trail, continue straight, following the white rings. After climbing a moderate hill, come to a yellow sign nailed to a tree signaling the 1-mile mark. These signs are placed every ½ mile to track your progress. 1.4 miles from the start of the hike, the trail crosses the upper reaches of a steep, rock-walled ravine where a small wooden sign announces your arrival at Totem Rock. Totem Rock is a large limestone rock shelter with considerable breakdown on the floor that must be navigated by the hiker. This site has been used as a gathering place since man first inhabited the area, whether it be for tribal meetings or church services. Totem Rock signals the beginning of the most rugged portion of the trail. After navigating the rock breakdown in the floor of the shelter, the trail turns left away from the cliff and heads steeply downhill to cross a small stream. Immediately, the trail curves right and climbs steeply, eventually passing through another rocky gap in the cliff to arrive at a small meadow. The trail curves to the right, heads uphill across the meadow, and reenters the woods at a small black wooden sign that says “trail.” For another 0.1 miles the trail continues a moderate climb to arrive at the 2-mile marker atop Tater Knob. The trail curves sharply left here and descends, at first moderately, then steeply below cliffs to the left to arrive at an intersection with a short side trail that exits left and descends further to lake level. Curving right, the trail descends through an extremely steep ravine, again crossing a dry creekbed, before beginning a fairly steep climb to Pilot Knob, marked by a limestone cap. The trail climbs to the base of the limestone cliff, then angles to the left around the rocks, passing through some breakdown along the base of the cliffs. The 2.5 mile marker should be here, but instead it is misplaced about 0.25 miles ahead. Just past Pilot Knob, the trail crosses an abandoned road, one of many that criss- cross the recreation area, and begins an extremely rocky stretch at a relatively constant elevation with the hill to the right and the ravine to the left. After 0.2 miles of this topography, the trail curves left and descends to cross a larger stream at the 3-mile mark. Crossing the stream only 100 yards before it empties into Patoka Lake, this marks the lowest point on the hike. For more good news, the most rugged stretch of hiking is now behind you. The trail curves right away from the lake and, for the next 1.3 miles, maintains a relatively constant elevation through mature maple forest. Some of the best views of the lake can be found along this stretch. 4.3 miles from the start, another side trail exits to lake level on the left while our trail angles right. The next 1 mile can be characterized by up-and-down over ridges and through ravines. This section passes through some of the pine plantations mentioned at the onset, so be on the lookout skyward for bald eagles. Near the 5-mile mark yellow signs posted on trees mark the boundaries of a bald eagle nesting area established by the Indiana Department of Natural Resources. During my visit, I did not see any bald eagles, but I did see flocks of blackbirds, blue jays, Canadian geese, mallard ducks, and Sandhill Cranes. At 5.5 miles, the trail descends through a deep ravine and climbs out steeply, heading for another abandoned road. Upon intersecting the road, the trail curves right and continues climbing through some rocks. Upon reaching the crest of the hill, the trail curves sharply left, leaving the road and descending steeply through a gap in the limestone cliff into the upper reaches of a broad ravine. The ascent out of the ravine is equally steep, and the 6-mile mark is reached as the cliffs are traversed. Now atop the cliffs, the last 0.5 mile is relatively flat with a field to the right and a shorter nature trail loop visible downhill under the cliffs to the left. The trail comes out on the park road in front of the visitor center. Turn right and walk uphill to the parking lot to complete the hike. Hike #4 Trail: Cattail Alley Trail (Trail #3) Location: Whitewater Memorial State Park Nearest City: Liberty, Indiana Length: 2 miles round trip Last Hiked: November 2001 Overview: An easy, linear trail along the east side of the backwaters of Whitewater Lake. Park Information: http://www.in.gov/dnr/parklake/properties/park_whitewater.html Directions to the trailhead: From Liberty, take SR 101 south to the park entrance road, which is located just past Wally's World amusement park on the right. Turn right onto the park road. Note that a small fee may be required to enter the park: Indiana charges admission to their state parks during peak times of the year. Continue along the main park road to where an access road taking you to the beach goes off to the right. Turn right here and follow this road to the parking lot at the end. The trailhead is at the far end of the parking lot. The hike: Whitewater Memorial State Park surrounds Whitewater Lake, a small lake created by damming Silver Creek 1.5 miles south of this trailhead. The park also borders on Brookville Reservoir, a very large lake created by a dam 20 miles south of the park. The big lake is featured in the next hike. The park derives its name from its founding in 1949 as a memorial to the soldiers of World War II. Although this park could be considered part of Greater Cincinnati, another trail from this park was chosen to represent the park in the Cincinnati portion of my hiking log, so I have chosen to include this trail in the Indiana portion. 6 trails covering 10.5 miles form a trail system within the state park. Until just recently, the trails were simply designated by a number, ranging from one to six. In late 1998, new signs were erected giving each trail a name. Older park maps do not reflect this change, thereby creating some confusion. Hopefully, this will soon be cleared up to make the trail system easier to navigate. This particular trail takes you through some nice forest along the east side of the small lake. The trail starts at the park beach and ends at an intersection with the bridle trail one mile to the north. Thus, it must be hiked both directions. The park maps and the black posts marking this trail refer to it as Trail #3, but the new sign at the trailhead calls it the Cattail Alley Trail. Both names are used for the trail, an example of the confusion mentioned in the preceding paragraph. From the parking lot, the trail immediately enters the mixed mesophytic forest with the small lake on the left and a steep incline on the right. After climbing a small rise, the trail takes a right turn, hanging onto the side of the hill. In years past the trail was right down by the lake at this point, but trouble with erosion and windfalls have forced park officials to move it up higher on the hill. The trail descends into a small ravine, then rises with the help of some steps. At this and numerous other points along the trail, side trails exit to the right and up the hill. They are spurs into the campground and should be ignored. The trail then descends the other side of this rise, and the northern end of the lake comes into view. The trail remains near lake-level from here. Notice on the northern end of the lake where steel cable has been tied around a tree to stabilize a platform located in the lake. This was probably done about 20 years ago, judging from how much the tree has grown into the cable. Just past this platform the lake turns into the cattail marsh for which this trail is named. I hiked this trail in the late fall when the cattails were all a dead brown and the water level was very low. I imagine this area would be very pretty in the spring or summer, and I endeavor to return at that time of year. Beyond the marsh the trail continues north through mature forest with the hill on the right and the creek on the left. This section of the trail can become very wet and muddy on a seasonal basis. Continuing straight, the trail stays creek-side in young floodplain forest and eventually terminates at the bridle trail, a wide, graveled 9 mile loop. To return to the trailhead and complete the hike, turn around and retrace your steps one mile back to the parking lot at the beach. Hike #5 Trail: Veterans Vista Trail (Trail #6) Location: Whitewater Memorial State Park, Indiana Nearest City: Liberty, Indiana Length: 2.25 miles Last Hiked: November 1998 Overview: An interesting, moderate loop hike through mostly young forest with overlooks of Brookville Reservoir. Park Information: http://www.in.gov/dnr/parklake/properties/park_whitewater.html Directions to the trailhead: From Liberty, take SR 101 south to the park entrance road, which is marked by a large, black sign on the right. Turn right here. Take this park road across the dam to the very rear of the park. Where the road forks, keep to the left; the one to the right leads to the park cabins. Park in the parking lot for the Silver Creek boat ramp, which is on the right near the end of the park road. There is a picnic shelter and toilet nearby. The hike: For my general comments on Whitewater Memorial State Park, see the previous hike. This trail (either the Veterans Vista Trail or Trail #6, depending on which identification system you are using) does not contain the most beautiful forest in greater Cincinnati. What it does offer is a walk through a wide variety of habitats and some nice views of Brookville Reservoir. For these reasons and because it is not particularly long or demanding, this is one of my favorite trails in the park. The trail’s location near the park cabins make it a favorite of others as well. Once in the parking lot, look across the road for a black sign on the hillside that says "Veterans Vista Trail." From this sign, the trail enters the young forest on the left and begins winding steeply uphill. There is a well-placed picnic shelter at the top of this hill providing a nice resting spot and a good view of the lake, which is now well below you. Just beyond the shelter, there is a very confusing sign that says "Veterans Vista Trail" and has arrows pointing both left and right. It appears that the trail forks into a wide, gravel trail going downhill on the right and a narrow, dirt trail heading into denser forest on the left. In reality, the trail goes left. The trail going right connects to trail #5 and takes you down to Whitewater Lake and the dam. Turning left here, the trail begins dipping in and out of some shallow ravines, swinging right to cross the creek, then left to cross the ridge. After following this pattern three times, the trail begins climbing slightly and enters much younger forest with widely-scattered, small trees and a dense layer of underbrush, mostly grass. The trail crosses the entrance road, then takes a couple of sharp turns. Notice the remnants of a stone wall on the right just after crossing the road. All along the trail you will see remnants of the barbed wire fence that was used to divide up land when this land was being farmed. The wall is located right at the end of one of the barbed wires, possibly as an anchor for the wire or for a more definitive boundary. After passing the wall, the trail treads along the hillside before entering some taller timber. There were a lot of birds to be seen in this section of the trail when I was here. They probably prefer the larger trees of this section of the forest over the smaller ones we just passed. The trail descends rather steeply through the forest back to lake level. Rather than reaching the lake, the trail takes a sharp left turn, follows a small stream, crosses it, then follows it some more. The trail eventually turns right into a field. Shortly, the trail crosses the park cabins access road and reenters the woods on the other side. The creek you crossed earlier is bigger now and flows along the left side of the trail as some cabins come into view on the right. After following the creek for awhile, the trail turns left and crosses the creek. In a couple hundred feet, the trail arrives at a clearing that offers a terrific view of Brookville Reservoir on the right. However, you should note that this section of the lake is dry during the winter months of October through March. During this season, this clearing provides a great view of a very large mudhole. The trail reenters young forest on the other side of the clearing. Several hundred feet after reentering the forest, the trail forks, with the right trail leading to a picnic shelter and the left one leading back to the road. Either one of these choices will take you back to your car to complete the hike. Hike #6 Trails: (various) Location: Lincoln Memorial Garden Nearest City: Springfield, Illinois Length: 2 miles Last Hiked: June 1998 Overview: An easy, historical walk along the east bank of Lake Springfield. Garden Information: http://www.lmgnc.org/ Directions to the trailhead: On the east side of Springfield, take I-55/72 to East Shore Drive (exit 94). Exit and go east on East Shore Dr. Take East Shore Dr. about 6 miles to the intersection with Pawnee Rd. Park in the garden parking lot beside East Shore Dr. at this intersection. The hike: The Lincoln Memorial Garden was built in the early 1900’s to commemorate the life of Abraham Lincoln in the city in which he practiced law. Donations were received from across the country to build the trails, and the names of major contributing parties can be found inscribed on any of the numerous benches found throughout the park. Each bench also contains a famous Lincoln quote. It is certainly well worth pausing a few seconds at each bench along this hike to reflect on Lincoln’s brilliance. The land itself sits on the east shore of Lake Springfield, a large, man-made lake. If you came in from I-55 using the directions at the beginning of this description, you crossed the dam while driving along East Shore Drive. Mature forest comprises about half of the land, while the other half consists of restored prairie vegetation. An extensive trail system meanders through most of this land, allowing access to almost every part of the garden. The route described here is organized into two loops, the southern and the northern. While I greatly enjoyed this route, I believe it would be hard to find a route through the garden that would not make for splendid hiking. You might wish to explore some of the other fine trails in the garden while you are there. From the south end of the main parking lot, follow a paved trail past a large, pink rock into the garden. After about 200 feet you come to the nature center at which a trail map can be obtained. The small garden contains about 20 trails all of which connect with other trails, so taking a wrong turn is a very real possibility. This route takes you on about half of all the trails in the park. Begin your hike by taking the Buckeye Trail from west side of the nature center. This trail is paved with mulch, as are most trails in the garden. The trail goes gently downhill through young forest to the edge of Lake Springfield, which is reached in only a few hundred feet. Once the trail reaches the lake, you arrive at a three-way intersection with the Buckeye Trail behind you, the Lake Trail going off to the right, and the Shadebush Trail going to the left. For now turn left, and begin our southern loop; we will arrive back at this intersection later and take the Lake Trail to begin our northern loop. The short Shadebush Trail crosses a small bridge, passes a fire ring, meanders only a few feet from Lake Springfield, then crosses another small bridge before ending at Hickory Lane. Most of the southern loop, including all of the Shadebush Trail, goes through semi-mature forest. Turning right onto Hickory Lane, the trail first heads straight for the lake, affords a decent view of the water, then makes a sharp left and heads slightly uphill to its intersection with Shady Lane. Do not spend too much time admiring the lake now, as the best views of the water are forthcoming on the Lake Trail. A right turn on Shady Lane will take you across Walgreen Bridge, a tall wooden structure that takes the hiker over a tributary to Lake Springfield. Shady Lane dead ends at a large sycamore tree standing just a few feet from the lake. Shortly before this end, turn left onto the High Meadow Trail, the only other way out of this corner of the garden. This trail uses steps to climb a medium-sized hill (by Springfield's standards) before leveling out. Just before a small bridge, the trail changes its name to the Witch Hazel Trail. After crossing the bridge, notice some very large ferns along the trail on the left. The trail takes a left turn, crosses another bridge, then passes the only section of prairie on this loop before coming to a three-way intersection. Turn left onto Shady Lane, which goes slightly downhill to its intersection with Hickory Lane. From here, retrace your steps to the beginning of the Lake Trail by first taking a right on Hickory Lane, then taking a left on Shadebush Lane. Once back to the intersection of Shadebush Lane and Buckeye Trail, continue straight ahead on the Lake Trail. For the next few thousand feet, the trail meanders along the water with the lake on the left and prairie on the right. On our visit, we saw three deer including a baby in this vicinity. An island in the middle of the lake makes for a scenic view. Eventually, the trail takes a turn to the right away from the lake and crosses a bridge to arrive at an open area containing a fire circle. On the opposite side of this area the Fringe Tree Trail goes off to the right into the forest. Follow this trail uphill and across a couple of bridges until it comes to a three-way intersection where the Fringe Tree Trail now ends. At this intersection, turn right onto Sheepberry Lane. You can hear the sound of cars driving by now, as East Shore Drive is only a few yards to the left. After a couple hundred feet on Sheep Berry Lane, take the Silver Bell Trail which goes off at a soft angle to the left. A few hundred feet later, the Silver Bell Trail comes out onto the paved walkway that you used to enter the garden at the beginning of the hike. A left turn will take you back to the parking lot to complete the hike. Hike #7 Trail: Out and Back Trail Location: Kickapoo State Park Nearest City: Danville, IL Length: 7.6 miles Last Hiked: May 2004 Overview: A long, moderate semi-loop through abandoned fields and ridgetop forest along the Middle Vermillion River. Park Information: Kickapoo Directions to the trailhead: Take I-74 to US 150 (Illinois exit 210). Exit and go east on US 150. Take US 150 east 0.75 miles to the first traffic light, which is CR 1. Turn left on CR 1. Take CR 1 north 1.8 miles to Kickapoo Rd. and turn left on Kickapoo Rd. Take Kickapoo Rd. west 2.5 miles to the state park office, located on the left. Park in the lot in front of the office. The hike: The land of Kickapoo State Park has seen a lot of changes. Native Americans were the first to explore the park lands. Archeological evidence shows that between 500 and 1500 AD a Kickapoo village was located where the Middle and Salt Forks of the Vermillion River meet. A couple hundred years later, Indian Wars occurred south of Danville. In 1819, European settlers discovered a salt springs near the park, a valuable commodity on the frontier. This discovery led to an influx of European settlers. The salt springs supported the local economy until 1848, when salt production ceased. Shortly afterward, the land became one of the first areas to be subjected to strip coal mining. Early strip mining techniques devastated the natural landscape, and the scars of these days are still visible today. After the coal had been extracted, leaving a wasteland of bare hills and polluted ponds, the state of Illinois purchased 1290 acres of land in 1939 from the United Electric Coal Company. Subsequent purchases of nearby farmland bring us to the current total of 2842 acres. The park today stands as a recreation paradise, a sharp contrast to its state 50 years ago. The once polluted waters now exist as ponds that sustain life, providing plenty of fishing opportunities. Two of these ponds even offer scuba diving, a rarity in an inland state park. Picnic areas dot the park, a stable and many miles of trail allow for horseback riding, and a 6.5 mile mountain bike trail system provides ample opportunity for that form of recreation. The park also offers 16 miles of trails open to hiking. Many of the trails are shorter, but there are a few long distance options. The Riverview Trail is an easy 2 mile stroll along the Middle Fork of the Vermillion River, which bisects the park, running north/south. This trail starts at the picnic area between the river and Clear Lake. The Clear Lake and Out and Back Trails both start at the park office, and could be combined if time and energy permit to form a splendid 10.6 mile hike. This description briefly describes the red-blazed 3 mile long Clear Lake trail, while describing in detail the 7.6 mile Out and Back Trail. From the park office, walk north past the maintenance building and cross the main road to arrive at a wooden sign announcing the beginnings of the Clear Lake and Out and Back Trails. Both trails are rated rugged, but this is primarily due to their length. The difficulty of the terrain makes these trails no more strenuous than an average trail. Both trails start by heading right from the sign paralleling the park road. Looking downhill through the forest on the left, you can see the return portion of the Clear Lake Loop 20 feet below you, and some 10 feet below that lies Clear Lake itself. The Out and Back Trail is marked with white blazes and white signs bearing the universal hiker symbol. Distances for the Out and Back Trail are given every 0.25 miles, and the first of these wooden signs is reached while you are still adjacent to the park road. The trail turns left to follow, and then cross a side road. This is where the two trails part ways, never to be joined again (until the return portion of our trail). The Clear Lake Trail continues to parallel the side road, heading downhill toward Inland Sea, and then back along Clear Lake. Since the Out and Back Trail comes back to this spot just before returning to the park office, one should consider hiking the Clear Lake Trail also, as it gives excellent and scenic views of the parks numerous ponds. The Out and Back Trail crosses this side road and at 0.6 miles, intersects the gravel entrance road for the group camp. This road is gated, so traffic will likely not be encountered. However, there is a small parking lot just outside the gate, so this could serve as an alternate starting point for the Out and Back Trail. Turn left on this road, which in another 0.1 miles arrives at the primitive group camp. Where a sign that says “restrooms” points right, stay left, and 0.75 miles into the hike, exit the rear of the group camp, now on a two-track dirt trail. 0.8 miles into the hike, the trail comes out into the edge of an abandoned farm field and makes the first of many intersections with the bridal and mountain bike trail systems. All of these intersections are well-marked with the white signs, so just pay attention to which way the signs point. If you have not seen one of the 0.25-mile markers for a few minutes, you probably made a wrong turn. The trail climbs gently uphill through the field, which is hot and sunny in the summer, teeming with life of the insect and bird variety. Pass what appears to be a wastewater area on the left, though I could not smell anything that would confirm that on my visit. At 1.2 miles, the trail passes through a fence and turns left, continuing in a narrow strip of trees that once separated two fields. The trail is now heading west toward the river and is very slowly losing elevation. The first steep ravine comes into view on the left. At 1.8 miles, come to a bench overlooking this ravine. This marks a good place to rest, as it is the only bench on the trail. 2.25 miles from the trailhead, the trail intersects the mountain bike trail for the last time. Another white sign indicates that our trail heads left, dropping steeply on an abandoned gravel road that is beginning to show some erosion. At 2.6 miles, the trail reaches what may be the highlight of the hike, the old Johnson Hill Bridge across the river. The rusting concrete and steel structure looks out of place in the middle of the woods today, but before the park purchased the land the bridge served as an auto bridge across the river. Today it carries hikers across, allowing a view of history and a view of canoeists, ducks, and geese paddling their way down the calm, muddy river. After another 0.2 miles of floodplain hiking, the trail reaches the fork that creates the loop-portion of the hike. One could go either way, but this description will follow the mileage markers and take the left trail, using the right trail as the return route. The trail soon takes a sharp right turn where an abandoned trail continues straight. At 2.75 miles, the trail climbs steeply to obtain Johnson Hill, which stands some 80 feet above the river level. This is the most difficult climb of the hike, but the reward is considerable, as the forest atop the hill is the oldest and most beautiful of the hike. Unlike the land across the river, this land was too steep to farm, so nature has had more time to reclaim it. Also, this section of the park is more isolated, as this trail is the only way to access this portion of Johnson Hill. Thus, this portion of trail offers the most solitude. The trail crosses a few small streams atop the hill until, at 3.5 miles, the trail begins a steep drop back to the river level. More than any other part of the trail, this descent suffers badly from erosion. Some wood blocks have been installed in an attempt to ease the descent, but their usefulness has been compromised by the dirt around and under them eroding away. Now back at river level, you can look to the right up some unspoiled, steep ravines that you crossed earlier atop the hill. Over the next 1.25 miles, the trail passes through young forest and crosses three creeks. None of these crossings are bridged, and your feet might get wet during times of high water tables. However, the streams are only a few feet wide and should not pose any significant problems during normal conditions. At 4.8 miles, the outbound trail enters from the right, closing the loop. From this point, you must retrace your steps 2.8 miles back to the trailhead. The mile markers continue every 0.25 miles, and the white signs continue to mark intersections. Again, consider adding the Clear Lake Trail to see another side of the park before returning to your car to finish the hike.