Thursday April 5-It was a cold night. The temperature dropped into the twenties. The furnace cycled on and off all night to maintain a comfortable 68 degrees in the RV. I was awake at 7:30AM but remained under the covers for another half hour. I could either walk to the camp showers, or use the fresh water in my holding tank. I opted for the RV shower. The water supply was shut off to prevent the pipes from freezing during the overnight temperature drop. As it tuned out the camp showers wouldn’t have been an option. Charlie (the camp owner) told me that the camp showers are off when he shuts off the water.
My next choice was either to cook breakfast or get something at Gnawbone Coffee. At Gnawbone I ordered two eggs over medium with toast, a cup of coffee and a cinnamon roll. Two old men were talking. One was pretty spry and confessed to the other he was eighty four. The other was the same age but he was hunched over and looked a bit worse for wear. Two men the same age with different results. Life is like that.
I asked the shop owner, Joy if she had ever heard of Laura Hare Nature Preserve at Downey Hill or Sycamore Land Trust. She was not familiar with either.
I headed toward the Nature Preserve but missed a turnoff. After driving a few miles I realized something was wrong. I doubled back and got on track. I found the parking lot at the top of a hill on the left side of Valley Branch Road. I looked over the posted trail map, and started down the trail to the left. It was a large twisting inner perimeter trail of 4.2 miles that ran along a ridge overlooking deep valleys. I put on my hiking boots and grabbed my walking sticks. They came in handy to balance against the muddy, slick, leaf covered path.
After twenty minutes I came across a trail sign. It looked like I had made no progress. The “You Are Here” arrow pointed to a spot maybe an eighth of the way around. From there the trail dropped about two hundred feet toward a stream and then crossed it. The stream cut deep into a shale ridge. I could see the trail picked up again on the other side of the water but how could I get there? My only options were to hope I could jump across the waters, or balance across a fallen tree. I climbed onto the trunk of the horizontal tree and easily balanced the five feet span before dismounting with a jump to the muddy edge three feet below. My left foot left a deep impression in the soft clay. The rest of the trail in the valley wasn’t much better. I had to use rocks to step across streams, and step over the narrower sections at other places. At one place after crossing from a lower level up an embankment the trail disappeared under a think coating of mud and leaves that had washed down the hillside in the heavy rains of the past few days. I looked ahead and spotted a white trail stripe on a tree. I headed in that direction and picked up the trail again.
The trail wrapped up the hillside in a rapid climb. I was relieved when it leveled out again. I reached the midway point where I had a choice of continuing on the perimeter trail, or taking the shortcut straight through the middle on a wide old road. I had already been hiking for an hour. I did not know what to expect on the second half of the trail. Would I need to jump more streams? Would it be easier, more difficult, or more of the same? The road looked more appealing. I took it.
It took a half hour to get back to the car on the old road. The wide road was easy with the exception of the lower wet parts where it was muddy and leaf packed. I slipped once but managed to steady myself against my left pole. I was glad to be finished with the hike. It had been more than expected. The hour and a half trip felt like a two and a half hour regular hike. That was enough exercise for one day.
I considered cutting through Brown County Sate Forest to get back to Nashville. I wasn’t far from the south entrance to the Horseman’s Campground. I turned left onto Valley Branch Road until I reached SR 135 where I turned left again. The road twisted south then turned west until I saw the sign for the Horseman’s Campground. The entrance clearly stated that there was no through traffic allowed. I continued west looking for another side road to cut north.
SR 135 cut south so I took a county road west still looking for a shortcut. Eventually that road turned south. I picked my way westward from one county road to another but each time the roads would end up taking me further south. I was out of range of cellular service and the GPS apps on the phone did not work. Along the way I saw plenty of farmland with horses and cows. Once as I rounded a hillside a green shed appeared against the hill to my left, followed by a small grassy patch between the shed and a house. Three deer were grazing in the yard not more than ten feet from the road. They weren’t bothered at all by my passing. I don’t even think they stopped feeding. I was startled enough that I had to remind myself not to stare at the deer to avoid the sharp drop off on the right side.
When I came to SR 58 (the first main road I had seen in and hour) I turned east with the idea that it should run into SR 135. It did. The sign indicated that I was twenty two miles south of Nashville, Indiana. I had been driving an hour on zig-zagging country roads and ended up here. The drive back to the RV was slow. The state route required cautious driving with constant hairpin turns and small towns all along the ways. It was all country scenery. Not a single town had so much as a gas station. You might say I was in the sticks. When I reached SR 46 I was home free.
It was too early to call it a day. I spent an hour at the RV before heading out again. I visited Hard Truth Distilling Company located East of Nashville on Old State Road 46. The distillery is a work in progress. It sits high on a hill in a remote wooded area. There is a bar where you can sample vodka, rum or gin. The whiskey and bourbon will be available once they have properly aged. I had a sample of a cinnamon Flavored Vodka. It tasted like an Atomic Fireball.
The distillery is related to Big Woods Restaurant where I had eaten the day before, and the Quaff On Brewing Company whose beers are served at the restaurants. I had a Six Foot Blonde ale and talked with some people at the distillery. The young server Hannah was very good at her job. It wasn’t very busy so she showed me pictures of her huge pit bull mix rescue dog. I had to show her pictures of a similar dog named Jude. He’s a big baby with the apparent same disposition as Hanna’s dog. We talked about lots of different thing as I sipped my beer. I learned where the recycling center was for Nashville. I had been carting around recyclables for a month trying to find a place to take them. I was finally able to clear them out of the RV on Friday morning.
There is a large construction site behind the bar. It is going to be the new distillery, and a massive restaurant. I may need to come back after their grand opening. You can check out more about the distillery/brewery/restaurants at http://www.hardtruthdistilling.com/
I considered stopping for groceries at the local IGA. Instead I drove into Brown County State Park and ate at the Little Gem Restaurant in the Abe Martin Lodge. The buffet was well stocked and for less than $16.00 (less the tip) I ate my fill of chicken, mashed potatoes, green beans, and the usual buffet offerings. I finished with a piece of the official Indiana state pie, sugar cream pie. It was time to return to the RV and call it an early evening.
Friday April 6- I got a late start. After stopping for coffee at Gnawbone, I dropped off the recyclables, then drove to Brown County State Park. I parked at the lodge and headed to trail 2. Trail 2 is a moderate rated two mile long trail. As far as I can tell moderate means it mostly goes uphill before descending deep into a culvert that deceptively travels level to upwards while winding across streams before making a final ascent.
The trail head followed steep stairs into the valley to near the North gatehouse, then climbed up the opposite hillside. There was a marker at the top of the hillside that pointed toward a service access road. It didn’t seem right. I was more inclined to follow a narrow path leading off to the left and did so. It was the right choice although I did not see another sign post until I was below the lookout tower. The trail below the Lookout Tower was a long arduous climb. I took a short break in the tower to enjoy the view and drink some water. I was only a quarter of the way around on the trail but the climb had left me a bit winded.
From there the trail dropped slowly but each time I thought I was heading into the valley it would turn back uphill. This continued for a long while until I found myself somewhere below the family cabins. Once in the valley I encountered some downed trees and a few streams that required extra agility to cross. I made it through dry and unscathed. The trail climbed up the left hillside gradually working its way toward the lodge again. I had to cross a wide gap in the hillside where a trickle of water was working downhill. A poorly placed foot slipped in the mud but I caught myself with my walking sticks and completed the crossing of a fallen tree on the other side of the gap.
Once I reached the lodge, I sat in an oversized rocking chair on the back porch. I spoke briefly with a couple who were considering either trail 1 or 2. I encouraged them to take trail 1 since they seemed a bit pressed for time.
On the way out I stopped at the lodge front desk to ask about a water falls I had heard about. The receptionist told me to head down south in the park to the Nature Center and take Trail 6 to Strahl Lake. That would be on Saturday’s agenda.
I went to the restaurant and ordered a pork tenderloin sandwich. Indiana is known for massive tenderloin sandwiches that dwarf the buns they are served on. This was not one of those. It fit comfortably in the confines of the bun. Ten minutes after ordering I still hadn’t seen my food. I asked the waitress. She checked and said the cook had seen one of the two orders for the pork tenderloin, fixed one and ignored the other. He was working on mine now. As a compensation I got a free order of fries. It was more than I had wanted but it tided me over well until dinner. I didn’t finish all the fries.
I drove downtown. After circling awhile for a parking spot I found one on West Main Street. I walked around Nashville snapping photos of interesting sites and storefronts. I then turned south onto Honeysuckle Lane and stopped into Salt Creek Winery. I sampled four wines before buying a bottle of Sunset Red wine.
As I was returning to my car I saw the Fallen Leaf Books store. It had both new and used books. I have a fascination with book stores, used books in particular. I browsed the store looking for any Nero Wolfe titles that I hadn’t yet read. There were five titles available, one I hadn’t read, “The Final Deduction”. It was a paperback copy and it was in fair shape. I flipped the book over, $16.00. I told the clerk that that was too much for the book but she was just a worker and had no authority to haggle prices. I told her I might like it but not at that price. She suggested that I come back if I changed my mind. No sale.
I decided to head back down the alley by the winery I had visited to check out the original Big Woods Brewing Company. The place was packed. It was early Friday afternoon. The only seat available was at the end of the bar by the corner restroom door. I squeezed in offering my apologies to a couple who were crammed along the bar there. The couple looked very familiar. As it turned out I had seen them on trail two in the state park. There were other odd similarities between myself and the woman. We had both spent time in Berlin in the early eighties. We had both spent a lot of time in The Netherlands. She knew the city of Eindhoven where I had often stayed.
Some people left from the corner of the bar and we all shifted right away from the cramped corner. It was nice to have a place for my elbows. We continued to talk over a beer. After they ate and had finished their drinks they were heading off to Story, Indiana to stay in the haunted room of the Story Inn. The Inn was featured on the hit SyFy show “Ghost Hunters”. They had requested the room long ago and were placed on a waiting list. It was their turn. I wished them good luck and sweet dreams.
I returned to the RV emptied the sewage, filled the fresh water and then relaxed for a good hour before going to the Sugar Creek Barbeque Co. restaurant next to the campground. The menu is limited but I like that. I got the brisket and added some sweet barbecue sauce. It came with two sides and corn bread. I had green beans, and macaroni and cheese. The flavor was good. The brisket was a little dry. The price was decent. With tip I spent under $16.00.
Back on Monday I had been invited to Chateau Thomas for the live Friday night music. I decided to check it out. The crowd was within plus or minus ten years of my age. I was a little early so I sampled some wines.
A couple came in and sidled up to the crowded tasting bar next to me. I noticed the Cleveland Browns helmet logo on the man’s jacket. When I pointed it out he was apologetic saying it was the only jacket he could find on the way out. We discussed the woes of being a Browns fan and what it was like to have supported the team with the season tickets in the past. He still attended Browns Backers meetings in Indianapolis. I on the other hand have ditched the NFL. We got around to introducing ourselves. He was Lynn and his wife was Kim. They bought a bottle of wine and found a place in the adjoining room where the band was ready to play.
In a short while Lynn came back and invited me to join them. I bought a glass of wine and found them in the corner by the stage, behind the main speaker with a monitor pointed away from them next to the table. I took a seat. We talked a few minutes before the band started. After that it was a continuous hour of country music with a little Janis Joplin, and John Mellencamp thrown in. The dance floor was crowded with people who really seemed to like the music. The band was good. The lead singer covered a wide range of music from pop country to Patsy Kline and the fore mentioned songs. She was talented.
After the first set I was able to talk with Lynn and Kim some more. They live on a local lake and moved in just last year. They had frequented Nashville before deciding to get a place in the area. It may have been their second bottle of wine talking, but they gave me their phone number and invited me to the lake anytime. I graciously took it without making any promises. When the band was ready to start up again. I bowed out. On my way through the crowd I was recognized by a few people I had seen around town. They nodded and smiled with comments like “You made it.”, or “Good to see you.”. I smiled and nodded as I made my way outside into the chill of the evening, leaving behind the muffled tones of the band.
I returned to the RV and checked out the TV. I was not receiving any channels. I turned to the internet and finished watching the last episode of Stranger Things 2 on Netflix. It was good entertainment. I discovered there was a behind the scenes show after the series so I started watching that too. I was in bed around 11:00 PM.
Saturday April 7- I was up at 7:30AM, made a cheese omelette with diced Canadian bacon in it for breakfast then got ready for the day and gathered the laundry to head to the laundromat. I stopped at Gnawbone Coffee for a cup to go. Joy (the owner) had a helper in. Her sister had come down from Indianapolis for the day. I was introduced to Anne. She seemed like a cheerful person. She was retired and thinking of moving to the Nashville area. I learned a lot in a brief time. I headed off to Nashville to get the laundry done.
The Nashville Laundry and Tan sits on Hawthorne Drive next to the Quality Inn. The laundromat looked disheveled. The tile floor was peeling. The washers and dryers were old and a number of them were out of order. There were two change machines. Only one worked. The floor needed sweeping and the waste baskets were overflowing. I was the only person in the place, although someone’s laundry was entering the final spin cycle. I filled two washers and used a third one for towels. A familiar looking woman came in and transferred her laundry from the washers to the dryers. I spoke with her awhile before she asked if I had been to the Brown County Art Gallery on Wednesday. She recognized me. She was the attendant I had spoken to about the exhibits, Genie. We talked while the clothes tumbled and spun around in the washers and dryers.
A laundromat employee showed up and after glancing around, gave a sigh and started to clean up the mess. She said the problem is that they keep it open twenty four hours but only have an attendant on duty for half of the time. It’s always a wreck when she comes in first thing. She had the messes cleaned up in less than an hour. Genie went on her way. Two women came in to use the tanning booths. An older couple and two other women came in to do laundry. There wasn’t much to do except watch my clothes tumble dry.
With the morning chore done, I returned to the RV and put the clothes away. I Didn’t stick around. Instead I went to Brown County State Park. On the way I stopped at Gnawbone Coffee and bought a mocha. Anne waited on me. She asked if my mother was alive. Such an odd question, I asked, “Excuse me?”
Anne asked, “Has your mom passed on?” I could not fathom why she would be asking. I reluctantly replied with a drawn out yes.
“She has been trying to reach you. Would you like to hear from her?”
“I don’t dabble in that.” I replied.
“Oh. It’s not dabbling. I hear from people who are trying to reach others. I’m a Christian if that helps. Would you like to hear what she has to say?”
“No.” I replied. I don’t…” I cut myself off before I told her what I thought of people who hear from the dead. To me they are either deluded, suffer from a psychosis, or are just charlatans. I reserve the right to be wrong if you believe otherwise.
She looked a little disappointed, and left it at, “If you change your mind, she has a message for you.”
I sat and enjoyed the mocha.
I drove to the now very familiar north entrance of Brown County State Park and proceeded south past the Lodge turnoff, past the west gate turnoff to the Nature Center in the far south of the park.
The Nature Center displays were mostly related to the animals of the area. I was surprised to see a live timber rattler in a large glass enclosure. There was a box turtle, and other snakes in their own miniature habitats. I found the bird observation window with it’s one way glass. There were a few squirrels, a downy woodpecker, juncos, tufted titmouse, morning doves, robins and other birds. It was a good assemblage of diverse birds at the feeders.
A woman spoke to me. I had not paid much attention until I realized I had spoken with her at Big Woods Brewing Company Friday night. She and her husband had come to hike the same trail I was there to hike, trail six. We talked about the various types of birds and the pleasure of just watching them. I inquired if they had any ghostly activities in the haunted room. The only encounters they had experienced were some creaking and noises from the kitchen below. The staff starts work at 4:00AM and the old hotel doesn’t offer much soundproofing. After a few minutes, I excused myself and headed towards the trail. She went off to find her husband.
Trail six starts at the top of the hillside behind the nature center then descends rapidly down some one hundred fifty steps before continuing down the hillside for a half mile to the edge of Strahl Lake. It then circles the lake across a levy with a man made spill way on the eastern edge to form a waterfalls down the natural exposed stone surface. The waters cascade across stones below into the stream head of Strahl Creek. Stairs follow down alongside the waterfalls. It is very picturesque.
I walked around enjoying the sounds of the flowing waters. As I climbed back up the stairs, I spotted the couple from Big Woods. We talked while watching some young girls playing in the creek. That’s what I would have been doing when I was their age. We noticed a recently exposed section of stone in the waterfalls and the huge chunks of rock laying below. It may have happened during Tuesdays heavy rains. Who knows?
We said goodbye again. I headed counterclockwise around the lake. They continued their hike in the opposite direction. Along the way, I spoke to a retired man who was fishing. He hadn’t had any luck so far and wasn’t sure if there were any fish to catch. Further along I met a couple, and a runner. I stepped aside on the narrow trail to let them pass. A large family group was making their way around the lake. You could hear them above any other sounds. I had tracked them by their loud voices long before I ever saw them. I wish that everyone could learn what they miss when they bring their overpowering vocalizations into the stillness of nature. They were making their own fun.
I had reached the northern tip of the lake where a short wooden staircase starts the return of trail six back the same path I had taken down. The trail is all uphill from there. Trail six is rated easy/rugged. It seemed an odd rating until I realized that it was easy coming down but rugged going back up the steep hill and the one hundred fifty plus steps at the top. With all the stops it took me an hour and a half to complete the 1.5 mile trail. It was good exercise.
I was very sweaty after the strenuous walk uphill. I stopped at the IGA grocery store, bought a small sirloin steak and a few other items before returning to the RV to relax, get a shower, and a change of clothes. I cooked up the steak with a supplement of raw carrots.
Later I decided to stop at the Brown County Inn to see if they had music. The band would not be starting until much later. I stayed for a flavorful Brown Ale while watching Cubs baseball and talking with others at the bar. I left before 8:00PM. That was my last outing for the day.