New Year, new book

It seems almost providential that work on the Guide to Natural Areas of Northern Indiana came to an end on New Year’s Eve 2017. That was the unofficial target deadline from Day 1, even if overly optimistic expectations did predominate until mid-December. Proofing an 85,000-word collection of details is not only demanding, it’s the project phase during which shit happens or, in this case, is discovered. Patience, not artificial deadlines, drives the process.

But barring a suggestion that the 125 natural areas and 145 images be pared down some – strong arguments both ways – the Northern Indiana manuscript is ready for submission to IU Press on Jan. 2, two days ahead of deadline. Now, the Natural Bloomington energy refocuses full-time in 2018 on the Hoosier National Forest.

And what an energy pulse it will be. It’s not hyperbolic in the least to say Rewilding Southern Indiana: The Hoosier National Forest is the fulfillment of a 40-year dream. As noted this time last year in a blog post about my old friend and National Geographic photographer Bill Thomas, the vision of a coffee table nature book appeared in 1978. Three of his grace the bookshelves.

The Hoosier, along with Lake Monroe, is where the Natural Bloomington journey photographically began in the mid-1970s. A January 1976 Kodachrome slide of bare trees reflected in a wildlife pond in the national forest’s Nebo Ridge area occupies slot No. 10 on the first sheet of the first of a couple dozen books of archived imagery.

The Hoosier was the subject of my first environmental research project in the early 1980s, which evolved into my final master’s project at the IU School of Journalism – Clearcutting the Hoosier National Forest: Professional Forestry or Panacea? in 1986.

The Hoosier, in just the past five years, has produced 876 images in 56 albums on the Natural Bloomington Photo Albums page.

So, 2018 will fittingly begin in the historic Elkinsville area in southern Brown County, where last year's Hoosier project ended. In addition to Nebo Ridge and Browning Mountain, these SoBro Hoosier backroads harbor a pioneer cemetery, the Middle Fork Salt Creek, and a roadside marker commemorating one of two towns submerged by Monroe Lake in the 1960s. All are accessible within 50 feet of a warm car.

Over the next year, the Natural Bloomington trail will wind south to the Ohio River, weaving from east to west through the 202,000-acre Hoosier’s natural wonders; digitally capturing its colors, lights and forms; tracing its geologic origins to the equator some 500 million years ago, give or take 100 million, its human history 12,000.

Unexplored areas on the itinerary include Clover Lick Barrens, Boone Creek Barrens, Mogan Ridge, Oriole East and West, Shirley Creek. Revisits are planned to Springs Valley, Buzzard Roost, Anderson River, as well as a multitude of gems yet to be discovered on the National Geographic/Hoosier National Forest map.

Camping trips are planned for Indian-Celina Lakes, German Ridge, Tipsaw Lake, Springs Valley and Saddle Lake.

It’s not that the Northern Indiana project is over. The manuscript will return for at least one more line-by-line review, maybe more than one. But it’s officially back-shelf now.

New target deadline: New Year's Eve, 2018.

Hoosier National Forest Photographs: Top, Browning Mountain; Middle, Lick Creek; Bottom, Buzzard Roost.


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