While the trip from Vincennes to Bloomington was only about 2 hours in length, we had a good time with our GPS unit. I suppose I-69 is relatively new since our Road Atlas, which is 4 years old, shows it as a dotted line only halfway to Bloomington. However, it was surprising that our GPS, which we update fairly regularly, does not have the interstate at all. For the record, I-69 is completed all the way to IN 37 just south of Bloomington, which is a major 4 lane highway as well. It was fun watching our GPS spin and recalculate every few minutes as it continued to try and reroute us on all kinds of backroads. I was a little surprised that it never commanded us to “Land the plane”, since it must have thought we were flying!! In any case, we pulled into Hardin Ridge Recreation Area in the Hoosier National Forest just after lunch time. After spending a week on the wide open floodplains of western Indiana, we were now back into very hilly and wooded terrain around Monroe Lake. This will be our last time this summer to stay in a Federal campground since from here on they are too old for RVs and we will have to stay in commercial campgrounds. At least the bathrooms had flush toilets unlike the previous USFS campground. In fact, this was a very large campground with over 200 sites, however, all of them were back-in. They are all large, spacious sites with a LOT of trees and underbrush. The trees on the other side of the road and drainage ditch right along the road certainly had me worried about backing the RV into our site. However, the site was angled just enough to make it possible and I am actually quite proud of the fact that I backed it up without having to pull forward and all in one shot!! I am certainly getting better with backing it up.
We spent Tuesday in the campground with me working on the blog as we waited for my sister, Suzy, to drive up from Tennessee to spend the week with us. It was great to have company, although we did not do anything all that much different then we usually do. Unfortunately, the weather turned hot and muggy with temperatures in the mid-90s most of the week with thunderstorms nearly every afternoon. After a week in the 70s with no rain, we felt we were back in Alabama. Thankfully, there was plenty of shade although no wind in the forests.
We did challenge the weather and got out a couple of times during the week. On Wednesday we drove over to Seymour, Indiana to explore the Muscatatuck National Wildlife Refuge, the oldest refuge in Indiana. Back in the 60s the federal government bought up some old farm land that was prone to flooding in order to create this wetland and they are slowly recovering the natural vegetation. While the wetlands and grasslands are coming along just fine, the forested areas are going to take a while. You can still tell they are old farm fields, especially since they continued to farm much of it for feedstock until the 1980s. Along with a very nice Visitor Center that boosts a quartermile paved path around a couple of small ponds, there is also a 4 mile driving tour. This tour has 12 number stops with explanations in a brochure giving management information. You get to see all of the varied habitats on the refuge and there are a couple of short trails to wooden overlooks. It was a short walk through the grasslands to the overlook at North Endicott Marsh where they had a couple of stationary viewers you could use. Unfortunately, by late morning there was not much to see out in the marsh. The better walk was the 1 mile loop trail that went to an overlook of Richert Lake. The trail was recently mowed and traveled through some of the recovering upland forests to the lake. We had to pick up the pace over the last quarter of the trail to beat the thunderstorm that was rolling in for the afternoon. We decided not to eat a late lunch at the Visitor Center as we would likely get wet and just headed on back to the RV for an early supper, after stopping at the Walmart in Seymour of course.
On Thursday we decided to try our luck again and headed south to Spring Mill State Park. This park turned out to get quite the location. In addition to Spring Mill Lake and picnic areas, there were numerous hiking trails, caves to explore including a boat tour, an inn, and bikes you could rent. Our main reason for visiting, however, was the Pioneer Village of Spring Mill. In 1817 a huge grist mill was built utilizing the water flowing out of the caves. This grist mill is easily the largest grist mill I have ever seen! It is a massive three story stone building with 3 foot thick walls and a mill race supported by stone columns. On the hour they give a short presentation of the history of the mill and town along with a quick demonstration of the mill, which still works, although the water is now piped in instead of flowing down the mill race. After the demonstration, we spent some time in the upper two floors which were an extensive museum with artifacts all the way through the history of the region. Back in the 20s and 30s the CCC did extensive reconstruction of the mill and town buildings that grew up around the mill. Consequently there is a lot to see of the town of Spring Mill than just the grist mill. There is a stone manor house that has a floor plan that convinced us it must have been a duplex as it is certainly split down the middle by the fireplace. Behind is a nice flower garden with many native flowers and herbs growing. Along with the house there is a one-room schoolhouse that they called a nursery, a carriage house, exterior kitchen, and spring house. The town of Spring Mill also had a tavern/inn that was built when it was a major stop on the stagecoach line, a blacksmith, an apothecary, and a mercantile. There were also a number of houses, some of which had been moved to the area, but others that were original. They have all of them filled with artifacts from the time period and some of them are being used by local craftsmen. We got to watch a loom making a rug, a leatherworker and a potter making trinkets for sale. By the time we had spent nearly 3 hours exploring the town, we were all ready for lunch which we ate at the picnic area just outside the Pioneer Village. After lunch I tried to talk everyone into exploring one of their many hiking trails, but by this point the temperature had once again climbed into the mid-90s and I could get no takers. So we headed back to the campground before the thunderstorms could get started up for the evening.
Friday and Saturday we just spent in the campground getting caught up with Suzy and her family and playing some games. Unfortunately, watching TV was a challenge as we only sort of received a couple of stations and then only in the evenings. The most consistent station was a PBS channel out of Bloomington, which I was surprised we did not get better since we were so close. I assume the hills and woods disrupted the signal. We had a great time with Suzy and it was nice being able to sit and talk without a house full of children since her daughter and her two children live with her in Tennessee. None of us had anywhere we had to go and nothing we had to do, so we did exactly that for a change.
Suzy left to return to Tennessee on Sunday and we decided to just stay in the campground ourselves.