Kryway Family Ecotour; Chaveas video on Natural Bloomington YouTube Channel

Morgan-Monroe State Forest

To say the spirits accompanied us on Friday's first Natural Bloomington Family Ecotour would understate the case dramatically.

The idea was spawned after retired Bloomington school teacher Nancy Kryway read The Herald-Times article on our ecotour with the American Council of the Blind and asked if I could lead her, husband Jim (both nature-loving history buffs) and their visiting granddaughters Emma, 14, and Ava, 9, on a geode-hunting expedition. They had purchased geodes before but had not found them in the wild, she said.

Anticipating a hot, muggy August day, we decided on a half-day excursion, which included explorations at the Morgan-Monroe State Forest Back Country Area, an isolated, haunted cemetery deep in the woods and Leonard Springs Nature Park. All were easily accessible with as minimal bug exposure as is possible in August.

The weather couldn't have been more ideal when we pulled into the parking lot at the Morgan-Monroe State Forest Back Country Area and began a short hike on a stretch of the Tecumseh Trail, discussing forest preservation, wildflowers, and backpacking along the way. The walk-and-talk ended at Honey Creek, which featured an abundance of geodes, crinoids and other fossils that date back 350 million years, more or less. Emma found a geode with crinoids that were all fossilized together.

Morgan-Monroe State ForestTrue to the spirit of ecotourism and state rules prohibiting the removal of such items from state lands, we left these geological artifacts in the creek bed and drove through the forest to a graveyard with headstones that date to pre-statehood days. Now unmarked and unadvertised to discourage vandalism, the cemetery is known in Haunted Indiana circles for tales of a spectral figure -- a woman with prematurely white hair dressed in black -- that looms over a chair-shaped tree stump at night and protects the graves of her family members. Ava theorized about which graves she kept her eyes on.

The summer's unrelenting torrents, up to and including Thursday's, had the Leonard Springs waterfalls rushing with a force unusual for late summer -- and provided fodder for a talking point about the surrounding karst topography. The view from the wetland viewing platform was lush and emerald green, featuring a log filled with sunning turtles and a half-submerged frog on the shoreline. The 180-foot descent/ascent was the perfect cap on the day. As I told my guests, I like to save the sweat for last.

Morgan-Monroe State ForestEven though the girls couldn't take any of their petrified discoveries home to South Carolina as souvenirs, the folks at the state forest office had given me some prime examples of geodes and crinoids for them when I scouted the route on Monday. And in my planning, I learned of a creek south of Monroe Lake that is rich in geology and not on state land. I gave Jim and Nancy directions when they dropped me off.

HNF Supervisor video first on Natural Bloomington YouTube Channel

Video from our Natural Bloomington interview with Hoosier National Forest Supervisor Mike Chaveas has been posted on a new Natural Bloomington YouTube Channel that we created for the project. You can view them by clicking here.

We have the 38-minute "Meet the Hoosier National Supervisor" conversation broken into four clips subtitled "Mike Chaveas discusses":

  • Part 1 - His Background; The Hoosier’s Role in the National Forest System - 8 minutes
  • Part 2 - Forest Management Planning; Public Input on Forest Management - 8 minutes
  • Part 3 - Timber Harvesting, - 15 minutes, and
  • Part 4 - State Forest Pressure HNF Land; Land Acquisition; Indiana’s Unique Role in the National Forest System - 10 minutes

We just got the new Natural Bloomington channel posted and will be making some tweaks, so please let us know if you have any problems or comments.

Leonard Springs Nature Park

Photographs: Top, right and left, Morgan-Monroe State Forest; Bottom right, Leonard Springs Nature Park


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