A visually impaired ecotour; HNF supervisor interview; guidebook orders

Leonard Springs Nature Park

Comparing ecotours is a bit like comparing your kids. Each is different. And there are no favorites. But as I told Saturday's ecotour guests on a four-hour journey through wetlands, caves, waterfalls and old-growth forest around and in Bloomington, this one, sponsored by the Heartland Association of the American Council of the Blind, was special. Here's a Photo Album.

I've always sought diversity in my ecotour guests, who have ranged from rural Ellettsville seniors to Indy Sierrans to IU students, whose ethnicities include Chinese, Pakistani, Indian and Syrian. But I had never imagined leading a group of folks with visual impairments into a cave. And their enthusiasm and curiosity were unmatched, not to mention their stamina and adventurous spirits. Due to a slow start, we dropped our first planned hike and still went more than an hour beyond our scheduled tour.

Along the way, we talked and absorbed the tranquil ambiance of the Muscatatuck National Wildlife Refuge's Restle Unit on the Beanblossom Creek north and west of Bloomington. U.S Fish & Wildlife Officer Frank Polyak just happened to be onsite and graciously spoke to the group, adding color and details beyond on my overview.

Leonard Springs Nature PreserveSteve Cotter, natural resources manager for the City of Bloomington Parks and Recreation Department, met us at the Leonard Springs Nature Park, where we descended the steps and explored the Shirley Spring Alcove Cave. Steve followed us to Latimer Woods behind the College Mall, where we hiked the 0.6-mile loop trail through an urban old-growth forest. Steve estimated some trees at 300 years old.

Carol Kugler, Outdoor Page editor at The Herald-Times, joined us for the entire ecotour and will publish a story in next Sunday's edition.

Many thanks to Ted Boardman for organizing the day and Lori Adelson for driving down from Indy to serve as a sighted guide for a guest who otherwise would have been left out. Also to Rural Transit driver Larry, who drove us to Goose Pond Fish & Wldlife Area and Green-Sullivan State Forest for a Fall Color Ecotour last year and said he enjoys the ecotours so much that he was happy to stay the extra hour.

As usual, my granddaughter Raina stole the show.

Hoosier National Awareness Project

The ecotour capped a busy week, following by a day an interview with Hoosier National Forest Supervisor Mike Chaveas at his office in Bedford. Mike, who came to Indiana from the Mike Chaveas, Hoosier National Forest SupervisorMount Hood National Forest in Oregon about a year ago, graciously shared his thoughts on a variety of forest-management subjects, including process, priorities, recreation, logging and wilderness.

With equipment from Community Access Television Services and assistance from IU Journalism student Kale Wilk, we videotaped the half-hour-or-so conversation and will be editing it this week. By this time next week, at a minimum, it will be posted on YouTube.

A Guide to Natural Areas of Southern Indiana

Thanks also to those who generously contributed to the Natural Bloomington cause this past week by donating and pre-ordering copies of A Guide to Natural Areas of Southern Indiana. It took a day to sort out the bugs from the online order form, but it's working fine now.

The offer will be good into the foreseeable future for those who still want to help out. As today's ecotour shows, I think, I will put the money to good use.

Here is a link to the Donation Page.
http://naturalbloomington.com/donate_guide


Photographs: Top and right, American Council of the Blind Ecotour, Leonard Springs Nature Park; Left, Hoosier National Forest Supervisor Mike Chaveas


 

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