Summer begins on a Lost Riverbank; Foraying for wildflowers; New book cover

Spring semester grades: submitted. Vegetable garden: planted. Hiking sweat: already flowed on a backcountry Hoosier National Forest path. College town summer has begun at Natural Bloomington, with the first photo foray to the Lost River in Martin County, three crow miles upstream from the White River, eight fish miles maybe.

On May Day, landscape photographer Gary Morrison and I explored two Lost riverbanks that flow through and past small, isolated tracts of the Hoosier National Forest between Bedford and Shoals, captured in a small photo album called Lost River, Paw Paw Marsh. The day trip was the latest map-driven excursion through the White River Valley sections of the Hoosier National’s far western reaches.

Paw Paw Marsh Restoration is a shallow wetland that skirts a muddy edge of the Lost River at a 90-degree northerly turn, featuring eroded stone outcrops, sort of liquid rockshelters. A small dam controls the marsh depth, which is maintained for wildlife and was significantly lower than it was during a photo hike in late April 2015 for the Guide to Natural Areas of Southern Indiana book project.

Paw Paw, a Forest Service-designated Watchable Wildlife Site, is part of a broader wetland complex that includes the nearby Narrows Marsh and Buck Creek Riparian Restoration. The Paw Paw project was codeveloped by the U.S. Forest Service, Indiana Fish & Wildlife, and Ducks Unlimited.

Our second destination was a fractional Hoosier parcel with a switchback dirt road that briefly ascends and then gradually descends a high ridge above the river northeast of the mysterious town of Windom, which exists only in highway engineer and mapmaker worlds.

Surely a town there stood once.

Google Maps and the National Geographic Hoosier National Forest map mark the town near the intersection of County Roads 5 and 32. Both call CR 5 Windom Road.

But neither signs nor buildings indicate a town, present or past, at least not from a drive-by view. A Google search for Windom, Ind., produced links to Windoms in Minnesota and New York but not Indiana.

Google Maps pins the town on an empty plot of ground a few hundred feet from the intersection, which comports with the windshield view from Windom Road. Undeveloped land.

The Waggoner Chapel at the intersection of Windom and County Road 111 proved the better landmark, from which we easily navigated a riverside, dead-end county road to a familiar-brown Forest Service gate. The gate was unlocked and appeared to provide access to an adjacent bottomland farm.

The river lay precisely where the National Geographic Hoosier National map suggested it would, though the map does not reflect the topography. For that and a variety of other reasons, we opted to not hike down to the riverbank.

One more day trip to the Lost River Watershed is planned. The Plaster Creek area occupies a brief stretch of Natural Bloomington history and is not to be ignored.

Summer has arrived.

Foraying for wildflowers, new Natural Indiana slideshow coming

It was my pleasure to be guest speaker at this year’s 33rd annual Spring Wildflower Foray Dinner in Brown County. During this legendary, three-day celebration of natural Southern Indiana, lovers of uncultivated flora discuss, attend programs on, identify, and collect data about their petaled passions via trail and water.

They also dine together, after which this year I shared tales and images from my four-year journey through Natural Indiana. I projected and spoke over some 140 images from all 12 natural regions in the state. And I presented the more highly produced Wildflower Season 2016 slideshow.

Many thanks to Monroe County Naturalist Cathy Meyer for the invitation, T.C. Steele Historic Site Manager Andrea deTarnowsky for the coordination, and the too-many-to-mention sponsors for their Wildflower Foray support.

Guide to Natural Areas of Northern Indiana update: editing, new cover

In the meantime, the Guide to Natural Areas of Northern Indiana: 125 Unique Places to Explore, is easing its way down the production canal. The cover is finalized. The manuscript is being edited and will be back in hand around June 1, at which time I’ll have three weeks for my last shot at the substance.

A Guide to Natural Areas of Northern Indiana is scheduled for release by IU Press in Spring 2019.

Hoosier National Forest photographs: Lost River Watershed, Paw Paw Marsh


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