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Part I: Bloomington to Jackson-Washington State Forest

Tuesday, September 2nd, 2008

The first leg of our trip had me riding from Bloomington to Jackson-Washington State Forest (actually, we met in the nearest town, Brownstown, and then I rode the last few miles to the State Forest). I had planned the route on Bikely. We chose a different route for Sarah to take. View the route here, or look at the annotated map below. I wrote in a few points of interest, just for fun. Saturday I rode about 51 miles, with over 1700 feet of climbing.

Bloomington to Jackson-Washington State Forest
Overview of the route, with points of interest noted

I had ridden most of this route before, when I rode the Nashville 90 last year, but that was a long time ago, and some of this was new. In fact, I realized shortly before I left that the route I took included a jaunt down Dutch Ridge Road, which connects to 446 in two places. Even though I’ve ridden on that part of 446 many times, I had never even noticed this road before, so I was looking forward to seeing what it was like.

I started riding around 10:00 am. That’s early, for me. Fortunately it was early enough that I could beat most of the heat. Don’t get me wrong, it got hot. But I was done riding before the hottest part of the day. The ride started with an uneventful trip down 446. I took Knightridge to avoid 446 as much as possible. I took some video of the downhill to the causeway, riding across, and partway up the other side, but it didn’t turn out well. The camera was bouncing around too much. It’s probably not worth posting. Suffice it to say, I hit over 40 mph going down that hill, and it felt great.

One advantage to doing things this way is that Sarah got to sleep in a while longer than I did. I’m willing to get up early to ride (sometimes), but there’s no reason she should have to. Also, since she was bringing the car, I didn’t have to load a bunch of stuff on the bike.

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Field by 446

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Someone hiking on the shoulder of 446 (seen from Knightridge Road)

Traffic was much lighter than I expected, especially given that it was a holiday weekend. It was a pleasant surprise. I rode on 446 for a while, the riding was easy and a little dull, but it felt great to be on the bike.

Eventually, I came to Dutch Ridge Road. Actually, I rode past it and had to turn around. I almost just stayed on 446, but I was curious about this road. I was glad I turned around to check it out.

The road starts out paved. It’s a bit rough, and quite narrow. As you’d expect, it follows a ridgetop, and while it’s heavily wooded, you can see the deep ravine at least a little bit. I passed some homes, but mostly it was just woods. The pavement ended and the road narrowed. It switched back and forth, paved and gravel sections.

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Gravel section of Dutch Ridge Road

I saw a gate with a sign and stopped to explore.

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Chrisley Hillenburg Cemetery sign. The sign in the background reads, “Foot Traffic Welcome. Closed to all public motor vehicle use.”

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My bicycle by the gate. Notice: no pink water bottle!

I probably could have lifted my bike over the gate and ridden back there, but I decided to hike back to the cemetery.

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Trail back to the cemetery

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Cemetery gates

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KINSER Gerline … Stillborn 1929

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A row of small white crosses

Sometime during all of this, I think I got a fingerprint on the lens. The result is that a lot of the shots look hazy. But that’s appropriate, as it’s more how I saw the scenes, in a lot of cases. It gets old in some of the later shots, but what can you do?

I didn’t linger long. I wanted to get moving again pretty quickly. I tried to time things so if anyone had to wait in Brownstown, it’d be me, not Sarah. To that end, I didn’t want to waste too much time.

The road became even narrower, and was effectively one lane for a while. I followed it through various twists and turns, over mostly flat terrain with a few mild ups and downs. I passed a few stands of pine trees along the way. It was a little hazy and the sun cut through the trees in impressive ways. What a beautiful little road! I saw a sign for a Hillenburg Stephenson cemetery, but this time, I didn’t stop.

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A stand of pines, a twisty, narrow road, deciduous trees, all glow in the sunlight

I spent a few miles on this road and as I neared the end, went into a fantastic flowing descent down from the ridgetop. I picked up a lot of speed and really railed the turns. The Long Haul Trucker loves to descend. The only problem I had was that my front fender started rattling a lot while I was on this road. I looked and discovered that a nut was coming loose.

Dutch Ridge Road ended and spit me back out onto 446. I stopped to admire the scenery and call Sarah to ask her to bring a couple of extra things to the campsite so I could fix the fender that night.

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Trees, fields, a pond, and a creek.

Now I had a fairly long climb on road cut through the limestone, with stone cliffs on both sides.

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The road cuts through limestone

Not long after that, it was time to turn off 446 and onto 58. It was getting pretty hot and I stopped for a snack. I contemplated going into Heltonville, a nearby town, but I had plenty of food and water and knew I could get more in Kurtz, so I pressed on.

58 is a scenic and narrow but low-traffic road through … well, pretty much the middle of nowhere. It does go through a few small unincorporated towns and near some Hoosier National Forest access points, but that’s about it.

There was nearly no traffic on 58. Normally I wouldn’t be surprised, but I really expected a little traffic on Labor Day weekend. I did see quite a few motorcycles, but I literally went 20-30 minutes without seeing any other vehicles a few times.

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Donkeys

I had a bit of climbing to do, and then it was very flat for a while. This is when I really noticed the easterly¬† winds. They weren’t too strong, but on this flat high ground, I had to pay a little more attention to the wind.

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Covered bridge on private property

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Some climbing

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Camouflage truck

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Suddenly reaching flat ground

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Enjoying the ride

Truth be told, I enjoyed having a few flat miles. I passed through Zelma, crossed into Jackson County, and rode through Norman.

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A truck attempts to hide in Zelma

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Open air barn?

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Enter Jackson County / Leave Lawrence County

Once I reached Norman, I saw a strange phenomenon … again. When I rode the Nashville 90 last year, I noticed that the flag at the Norman Post Office was blowing in the opposite direction from the one at the church across the street. This time, the same was true. I wonder what it is about that particular spot that causes this to happen.

Norman, IN flags
Flags flying in opposite directions

The terrain started getting hillier again. The road mostly went between hills. There were some huge hills on my right that I marveled at. At the top of one hill, there had been a car accident. Everyone seemed to be OK, from what I could tell, and there were plenty of people on the scene helping. I rode on.

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For scale, the speck on the road at the base of the big hill is a guy on a motorcycle

I took a break at the Kurtz Cemetery, another familiar place from the Nashville 90. There’s a pretty steep road climb, and then a gravel drive on the left side that’s even steeper, and then you’re in a cemetery on top of a hill, with a good view of the surrounding hills.

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Hill up to the cemetery

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My bicycle at the cemetery

It’s probably beginning to sound like I’m cemetery-obsessed. I’m not, really, although they do interest me. They also tend to make a good place to rest; no one bothers you in a cemetery. Somewhere around this area, I enjoyed a long, gently-curving ride down a sizable hill.

Soon I reached Kurtz and stopped at the 58 Cafe to get some water and gatorade. It’s mostly a cafe but they sell a few convenience store-type items, as well. The woman filled my water bottles for free. I bought same Gatorade and left a nice tip. The people were very nice to me, I’ll have to stop there for a meal sometime. It’s hit or miss stopping into these tiny stores as a cyclist: some people are great and others look at you like you’re insane (a point I can’t argue, but still …)

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58 Cafe sign

After a few more miles, I reached 135. When I did the Nashville 90, I rode north from this point. This time, I needed to go south. I had never ridden this portion of 135 before, but it was very quiet. The speed limits were high but once again I saw very little traffic. I was simply amazed more people weren’t out taking in this beautiful country on a holiday weekend.

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An interesting-looking “Antiques” store. I wonder if they have real antiques, or if that’s a code word for “junk.”

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This shot typifies the region: corn, hills, and trees

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Goats

I wasn’t on 135 terribly long. I could have stayed on it most of the way to Brownstown, probably, but I had planned a route on some back roads. Things remained hilly for a while but then got flatter.

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Farm

I took a meandering route on some flat back roads. I looked ahead and saw a car kicking up dust in the distance. The road was obviously gravel up ahead. On my road bike, I’d consider taking a different route. On the Trucker, gravel just means extra fun!

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Long, straight, flat gravel road

One thing I was aware of but sometimes forget is how interesting the land is in this part of the state. It’s mostly flat, with huge hills jutting up in various places. I could see some such huge hills in the distance and found myself approaching them as I continued riding.

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Soybean fields, with hills in the distance

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Adjacent to the green field above was this brown one

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Wildflowers

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The Trucker by a field

I was almost to Brownstown at this point. I crossed this fork of the White River on the Ewing bridge, and saw some big turtles sunning themselves on logs in the water.

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Reaching the river

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Turtles catching some sun

I passed a small industrial zone in Ewing, which is adjacent to Brownstown, then headed over to Brownstown and waited for Sarah by a restaurant. Her cell phone didn’t get reception in Brownstown so she called me from CVS and I told her where I was.

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Industrial zone

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Ewing, Indiana

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Downtown Brownstown

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A tank on the town square

We ate at Brock’s Family Restauraunt in downtown Brownstown. We both ordered “REAL Cheeseburgers” (they also had simply “Cheeseburgers” on the menu. Apparently the difference, aside from 35 cents, is that the “real” cheeseburgers are fresh meat, never frozen. The food was decent, but nothing spectacular. From here it was only a few miles to the state forest and the campground. I rode the rest of the way, and Sarah met me there.

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State Road 250 toward the state forest

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Jackson-Washington State Forest

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This lake, right by the campground, has been drained. It’s been this way for some time; good thing we’re not into fishing

We weren’t 100% sure campsites would be available. I tried to make some reservations at state parks and all of the ones I checked were full. However, the state forests are always quieter than the state parks. We had plenty of campsites to choose from. We found a good site and set up camp. I ran the registration back to the forest office by bicycle.

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The tent and the Long Haul Trucker

It was a pretty hot day, so we sat in the shade for a while and had a beer. After that, we went for a hike. I’ll cover that in a separate post.

It felt really good to use the bike to get somewhere. I’m not used to riding somewhere and then staying there, most of my rides start and end at one point, usually our apartment. And a 50-mile loop only takes you half as far as a 50-mile one-way trip.

Labor Day weekend camping trip

Tuesday, September 2nd, 2008

Sarah and I tried an experiment this weekend. We did a camping trip, with a twist. I rode to the campsite, and she met me there with the car. And the next day we went further, me on my bicycle and her driving. It was almost like a supported tour.

We had mixed results. I didn’t plan well enough, and we both had poor to nonexistent cell phone reception, so we had a little trouble connecting in Brownstown, IN. Also, what I intended to be a way for me to get some riding in while allowing us to spend a lot of time together became a little more complicated and bike-centric than I intended. Sarah was very patient and we had a great time together, but in the end it felt a little selfish. If we do something like this again, I’ll need to plan things out a lot better. It was also really hot, which effectively meant that by the time we got anywhere, it was too hot to want to do very much.

I plan to write about this trip in three parts:

  1. Riding from Bloomington to Brownstown and Jackson-Washington State Forest
  2. Hiking at Jackson-Washington State Forest
  3. Riding from Jackson-Washington State Forest to Clark State Forest and Henryville

Memorial Day weekend camping, canoing, hiking

Friday, June 6th, 2008

On Saturday of Memorial Day weekend, we went camping at Jackson-Washington State Forest. We’ve been camping there before and in fact, is where we got engaged.

After we arrived, we set up camp. It was late afternoon, and this place was a lot busier than we had ever seen it. Not surprising, since it was a holiday weekend, but there were tons of campers (unusual) and a lot of loud dogs and kids. A lot of the kids were riding bikes around the parking lot, which was good to see, but they weren’t being very safe about it.


Our tent (the camper is our neighbors)


My hiking boots (photo inspired in part by Mr Macrum’s “Leather Friends” post)

After we pitched the tent, we decided to go for a hike on one of the shorter/easier trails. I think the trail we did was trail 6, about two miles long. We walked to the trailhead.

 
They drained the lake for … well, some reason


Bridge

There was something in the air, a mystical atmosphere from being back in the lush forest with the sun low in the sky, light filtering through the trees.


Glowing leaves


The fog is really lens flare from a cheap filter, but it turned out to be a nice atmospheric shot


Me

The trail was fairly flat and wound through the woods gently. It wasn’t a difficult hike, but it was great to be outdoors together and enjoying the scenery.


Ferns

Soon, we came to a clearing. This was an interpretive trail and we had a pamphlet describing some of the features, but after reading a couple of things we simply ignored it. Most of what we read wasn’t too interesting. We did look up the explanation of the clearing, and apparently they do some testing with cross-pollinating various species of certain trees here.


Clearing


Rays of light


Rob, looking very dramatic


Tree, moss, groundcover

After a while, we came to a lake, the name of which I can’t remember. The sun was reflecting off the water, at times it was a bit blinding but overall we had a stunning view of the lake. As soon as Rob saw the lake, he ran down the steep hill and jumped in the water. He ran back up immediately, and of course got us wet.


Lake

I spent more time looking at Sarah though … she was flattering the light.


Sarah


Us … the focus isn’t how I intended but it ended up being an interesting shot.

The trail took us across a boardwalk for a while, which I tend to have mixed feelings about. I prefer more natural trails, but on the other hand the boardwalk lets you walk across a wetland. In this case, it was very cool.


Boardwalk


Hills, lake, marsh


Rob and me

Before long, we came across the remains of a house or some other building. The trail went right through it. The walls had partially crumbled, and parts of what remained were covered in thick moss and vines. This added to the mystical atmosphere that the whole hike had, and we spent a few minutes here taking photographs. None of them really seem to do it justice.


Mossy wall


Sarah

There was a staircase leading us out through the other side of the house.


Stairs

As we continued hiking, we saw remains of other houses, none as cool as what we had just seen, but interesting nonetheless. An entire chimney still stands where the rest of one house is mostly gone.
 

Chimney

The trail ended shortly after this, and it was getting fairly dark. We should really do more hikes late in the day like this one, it was truly fantastic. We really enjoyed this trail, as it had a variety of scenery, especially for such a short trail.


Returning to the campground

We got back to the campground and found it was still pretty noisy, maybe moreso. The campground at Jackson-Washington State Forest has “primitive” campsites (no electricity). Normally, this keeps things quiet, but in this case a number of people had turned on generators attached to their campers! I was pretty stunned at this, and it was pretty annoying to have what is normally such a quiet, peaceful event punctuated by generators, but we were able to tune them out pretty well after a while.

I built a fire, which always seems to take longer than I think it’s going to take, and we cooked burgers over the fire. They turned out pretty well, and we had a great evening being together, eating burgers and s’mores, and generally goofing around.


Some goodies


Cooking burgers


Sarah


Tending the fire
 
The next morning, I went for a bicycle ride, which I’ve already written about here. After that, we went canoing at Starve Hollow Lake. We took Rob, as we’ve done in the past, and we all enjoyed ourselves. Rob kept shifting his weight, making it difficult for us to keep the boat steady. Eventually he laid down. He is so lazy! We got a good, close look at a Great Blue Heron and saw some other wildlife as well. A great end to a wonderful trip. Here are a few photos from our canoing outing.


Hills


Great Blue Heron


Lilly pads


Me


Rob, lounging

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