Monday, October 21, 2013

Exploring Indiana

So one of my favorite things to do these days is to explore the Indiana countryside on Sunday afternoons and evenings. It's kind of a modified and less awesome version of "Snake Murder," but since Jordan isn't here in Indiana to come exploring with me it's the best I can do. (Quick clarification, "Snake Murder" doesn't necessarily have anything to do with murdering snakes. But it also doesn't not necessarily have anything to do with murdering snakes. I just want to make sure that's clear.) This Indiana version of snake murder isn't nearly as awesome as the Utah version, mostly because Jordan isn't here, but I get by.

When I go off exploring, I never head out with a destination in mind, because I want the trip to develop organically. Basically I get in the car, turn on some Christmas music, pick a direction, and drive.


Let me add a quick side note on Christmas music. I'm not going to argue with you about when it's acceptable to listen to it. I listen to it all year round. Deal with it. You're not going to persuade me that I'm doing it wrong or that I'm ruining Christmas's specialness or that I need to change my listening habits. Any such arguments would fail before they even got off the ground. Because they're wrong. And because I do what I want. And what I want pretty much always involves listening to Christmas music.

Speaking of possibly unpopular opinions about Christmas music, let me say that Celine Dion's "O Holy Night" is the best version there is. Hands down. That's not to say that other versions aren't lovely and wonderful in their own right, but hers is the best. And it's not even close.


Anyway, as I drive, if I see anything intriguing or beautiful or eye-catching, I stop and explore. Simple as that. Sometimes I just stay on the roadway and snap a couple pictures. Sometimes I throw fallen walnuts at their tree trunks, imagining myself to be a pitcher in the majors. (I have little control, so clearly I could never be a major league pitcher. But when a somewhat rotted-out walnut hits a tree trunk and explodes you can't help but feel awesome about yourself.) Sometimes I end up chasing white tail deer through hidden meadows. There's just no way to predict what might happen.

Once I'm good and lost amongst the trees and the corn and I don't really know where I am in relation to anything else (with no mountains around to use to orient myself I get turned around fairly easily), or once the sun goes down and it's difficult to discern the usual tell-tale markers of adventure, I tell my GPS to take me home (country roads), and I head back to Lafayette.

It's been a great way to get to know the area a little bit, and it's come to the irrevocable conclusion that Indiana is beautiful, though my students disagreed with me when I tried to express that idea to them.

With that, here are a few pictures that I've snapped during my adventures over the past month or so. I put a few pictures up on the facebooks, so none of those ones are here. Also, I'm no great shakes at digital post-processing of photos, so these pictures are presented to you in their all-natural, but less-than-stellar glory. (explanatory...ramblings are found under each picture.)

First off, there's this picture of the Wabash River. This isn't actually a picture from my excursions through the countryside, sorry. I include the picture because I cross over a bridge spanning this river every day going to and from school. Probably 2/3 of the time (maybe more) I walk the route, and I take particular joy in walking across this bridge. There's just something so peaceful and serene about walking across a river, even when there are cars traveling at moderately high speeds just feet from your path. Just last week as I was walking to school I saw a beaver swimming through the shallows on the east bank of the river. I stopped and watched him until he swam under the bridge, and I was a bit late to class as a result, but it made me really, inexplicably happy. This picture was taken as I was walking back to my apartment, so I'm facing southeast. The buildings in the distance are downtown Lafayette.

When I saw this tree house I absolutely had to stop and investigate. Can't you just imagine being a little kid and spending an entire summer in and around this tree house and pond? Heck, I'd settle for being an adult and doing the same thing. There's a certain magic that this scene (or at least the idea of this scene) evokes for me; I just wish the tree house and pond were off in the woods somewhere instead of next to the road. I mean, just imagine setting off into the woods for your secret hiding place where you pass the long summer days having mad adventures with your friends, real and/or imagined. Perfect.

I love the rocky foundation of the barn in this picture. I don't know why, I just do. Also, the silo reminded me of the time this last summer when Smed and I went on a 17 mile bike ride to Utah Lake, around the airport access road, and back on little girl bikes. About 1/3 of the way through the ride we saw an old, unused grain silo that we decided we had to climb. So we crossed an empty field, jumped a fence and climbed up. Once we got to the top we laid ourselves down on some seemingly precarious boards, and looked up at the stars. 

This barn and silo picture also shows something that I've found I love about several of the farms around this area. I love how the cultivated land goes right up to the tree line. It's like the wild and untamed natural world is fighting to reclaim the land the farmers have tamed and put it to work. For some reason now I'm envisioning squirrels and bushes and trees with knives and pitchforks going to battle with ax-wielding farmers (which are very different than Axe-wielding farmers)....(ok, so I know it's not kosher to put two parenthetical remarks in a row, but I feel a need to explain the last one. I was going to link to an AXE Body Spray commercial there where it says, "Axe-wielding farmers," but I hate those commercials, so I didn't. But I feel too clever for my pop culture-infused play on words to not leave it in. So to make up for it, here's a commercial of a Panda in a grocery store instead.)

So these last few pictures were taken at Ross Hills Park. First though I need to give a quick back story on how I got to Ross Hills Park. In my explorations around the area, I've found that one of my favorite things in the world is to drive or ride my bike down roads that feature trees growing along both sides so that their branches create a kind of tunnel over the road. I just can't get enough. I don't have any pictures of said streets, because so far none that I've tried to take capture just how wonderful they are. This is probably because I'm usually driving when I take them. I'll keep trying, but no promises. Anyway, one Sunday afternoon I was driving along a particularly satisfying tree-lined road when I passed a sign that read, "Pottawatomie Trail of Death," with an arrow pointing to a road on the left. I don't know about you, but that's the kind of sign you can't just pass by without investigating further. Turning, as the sign indicated, I ended up at Ross Hills Park. Funny enough, I never did find out anything about the Pottawatomie Death Trail while at the park. (I've since done some extensive research, though.) Death trail nowhere to be seen, I started wandering around, and in doing so I found this weirdly ominous archway framing a pathway that lead into the woods:

Naturally I had to follow the path, though with some trepidation. I mean, somewhere near here was the Pottawatomie Death Trail. While I didn't know the specifics, I assumed it was something similar to the Trail of Tears, which I had learned about, and imagining such a horrible event occurring nearby was more than enough to cast something of a melancholy over the whole scene. Melancholy and a tich of apprehension. The kind of apprehension you feel in the beginning scenes of a horror movie. (I don't actually watch horror movies, but I imagine that if I did, there would be some apprehension felt during the beginning scenes.) Plus, history aside, we're talking about something called a "Death Trail." Not exactly the most inviting name. Was this the death trail? Probably not, but there was no way of knowing. That said, I swallowed my fear and strode on into the woods. And the trail led me to this:

and this:

and this:

eventually opening out into this meadow that was completely hidden from the view of the rest of the park:

(Sorry this photo's a bit grainy. It was the only way I could figure to get both the sky and ground to show color.)

When I came out of the trees into the meadow I scared three white tail deer that had been munching some grass. Naturally I was as quiet as I could be and tried to take a picture:

Before long (and by that I mean almost immediately) the deer spooked, as they are wont to do, and took off. As they ran, I instinctively took off after them. I'm not sure why I did it, but it like I was a little kid again chasing starlings through the field behind my house. If I'd stopped to think through what I was doing I would have realized that I had no hope of catching them. Nevertheless, it felt right to chase them all the same.

I explored the meadow extensively, and found this old dead tree with this awesome vine climbing it:

It was like the vine had decided to make this trunk its home so as to change its colors and drop its leaves as though a surrogate for the old dead tree that clearly longed for the autumns of yore.

Not long after finding and exploring the meadow, the sun went down and I had to leave the park. But on my way back home I saw this:

and then later still this:

Which brought me back to the conclusion that sweet mother, Indiana is beautiful.


  1. You were actually mentioned in conjunction with listening to Christmas music in July last night at the parents'. :) I agree about Celine and O Holy Night, best ever. Love the pictures, it is wonderful to find beauty isn't it?

  2. I love this. You're fun to read. :) But I must know: Where is that tree house??

    1. Amelia, I wish I could tell you. Unfortunately I took this picture before I really knew my way around, and I have no idea where I was. Sorry.

  3. I just listened to the Celine Version of O Holy Night. So there's that.

  4. Indiana is beautiful. In fact, it bears an uncanny resemblance to the forest I grew up playing in. Your adventures make me miss those afternoons of getting lost among trees and swamps.