Headin’ south for a Hoosier National fall; Guidebooks in Dunn Meadow

With the Eternal Summer of 2018 seemingly past, the Natural Bloomington focus has shifted, launching the final phase of the Rewilding the Hoosier National Forest coffee table book project—photographing the national forest’s far southern end. Perry County destinations, a few miles upstream from the Ohio River, include Oriole Trail West and East, Mogan Ridge Trail West and East, German Ridge Trail, Tipsaw Trail and others, not to mention as much bushwhacking as time will allow.

Due to this year’s extended heat-and-bug season, this final sprint has felt a long time coming, at least compared with the frenetic travel pace of the past four guidebook years. As newsletter subscribers will attest, Natural Bloomington was largely MIA during the months of August and September: just three Photo Albums, one of them on Sept. 30, and two blog posts, neither of them in September.

The 3.5-mile Fork Ridge Trail in Jackson County was too overgrown on Sept. 16 to be photographically productive, though it was a memorable grandpa experience with Vale. But the purpose of that day trip focused as much on bearing as it did on production. The Forest Service is planning some aggressive logging in the area east of the Hickory Ridge Horse Camp, and getting a feel for the area was also on the day’s agenda.

The Oriole Trail West excursion on Sept. 30 was more productive, spawning at least one book-worthy image, even if it did include a warning from a squirrel-hunting camper family about hiking sans blaze orange on "youth day." The hike followed a 1.5-mile multi-use trail spur down a gentle-by-Hoosier-standards slope to a rocky creek bed with rock overhangs and a 5-mile loop trail.

The original plan to hike part of the 7.5-mile Oriole Trail East was scuttled by a hunter couple gathering their gear at the trailhead parking lot. Humans are seldom mistaken for squirrels, but intruding during hunting season is bad etiquette. YouTube videos suggest that path passes a massive clearcut on a less-than-hiker-friendly path—possibly a 20-acre wildlife opening that has surfaced in research.

No shots rang out during the three-hour-or-so hike on the Oriole Trail West, and the only vehicles and fellow travelers west of State Road 66 was the camper family lounging around a morning campfire. 

Oriole Trail East and some new blaze orange are on the fall itinerary. 

Northern Indiana proof imminent, IU Press Quarry Book Festival

A typeset version of the Guide to Natural Areas of Northern Indiana will land in the Natural Bloomington Inbox early this week. The timing is about as good as it gets during school year, coinciding with a lower-than-average-demand period. Suffice it to say it’s good the 18-day review period begins next week and doesn’t end then.

This return to the guidebook mindset was greased by a chilly-but-beautiful October day spent in Dunn Meadow at the third annual Quarry Festival of Books, sponsored by IU Press. Commiserating with fellow authors and a parade of book and nature lovers is always good for the creative soul.

Photographs: Top and Center, Oriole Trail West, Hoosier National Forest; Bottom, Fork Ridge Trail, Hoosier National Forest.


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