On the Hoosier National's Blackwell Pond, inside Brooks Cabin; Backroads calling

Check inside view of Brooks Cabin off the Rewilding Southern Indiana must-get photo list, thanks to the good folks down at the U.S. Forest Service; ditto soft light on Blackwell Pond. Last week they unlocked the 1870s-era log home, situated in the Charles C. Deam Wilderness on the edge of the pond, for a rainy Tuesday morning photo shoot.

Forest Service officials relocated the two-room-with-a-loft log cabin from the Little Blue River in Crawford County and rebuilt it at the Deam’s welcome center on its far western edge in Monroe County. Along with the Rickenbaugh House on Celina Lake in Perry County, Brooks represents the best examples of nineteenth-century architecture remaining on the 204,000-acre Hoosier National Forest.

The Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC), a brigade of local laborers hired by the Depression-era Works Progress Administration, built the pond in the 1930s after quarrying rock there to rebuild local roads, including Dutch Ridge Road (now State Road 446) and Tower Road (now Tower Ridge). In addition to constructing wildlife ponds and openings, replanting trees and building trails, the CCC also built the Hickory Ridge Lookout Tower, which is on the National Historic Lookout Register.

The Brooks/Blackwell shoot marked a now permanently shifted Rewilding focus, from the office to the road, from words to images. A full first draft of the storyline is in the bag – think framed house with no paint or fixtures. On Monday I send my IU Press editor a 175-page mockup I put together for her feedback.

While the next 11 months will involve a continuous process of fine tuning the narrative, this first incarnation includes some 20,000 words and 138 digital images divided into chapters with the working titles:

  • “Indiana’s Green Jewel,” a seven-page overview of the Hoosier National Forest;
  • “The Hoosier Landforms,” an 11-page exploration of the forest’s natural history and characteristics;
  • “Humans on the Hoosier,” a 45-page retrospective on 10,000 years of humankind’s presence and impacts, from post-glacial hunters and gatherers to 19th-century loggers to the contemporary U.S. Forest Service;
  • “The Hoosier’s Green Gems,” a 41-page gallery on a handful of the forest’s Special Places, so-designated by the Forest Service for their unique natural or cultural resources, including the Hickory Ridge Lookout Tower, Wesley Chapel Gulf, and Hemlock Cliffs; and
  • “Scenes from the Trail,” a 61-page gallery of digital trail images from Nebo Ridge in Brown County to Beaver Creek in Lawrence County to Otter Creek in Crawford County to German Ridge Recreation Area in Perry County.

The vast majority of the 175 pages are full-page digital images. An estimated 75 percent of the work left before next June’s deadline will be roadwork enhancing the visuals, from trailside up.

The Hoosier National's backroads are calling.

Hoosier National Forest digital images: Top, Blackwell Pond, Charles C. Deam Wilderness; Center, Brooks Cabin, Charles C. Deam Wilderness; Bottom, Otter Creek Riparian Restoration.


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