I have long known of Gene Stratton-Porter and her amazing life as naturalist and writer. We have visited her home sites several times over the years. During the General Lew Wallace Study & Museum’s Golden age of Literature Exhibit in 2016, I became involved in their book club. One of the books we read was Girl of the Limberlost.
I determined to try to read all her books. I purchased her Moths of the Limberlost at her Rome City home and enjoyed it greatly! She alternated between writing nature books and writing novels, many of them set in Indiana and featuring the landscape she loved. Most of her books can be found and read online or downloaded to an e-reader for free due to being out of copyright. I spent hours devouring them and being transported to another time and place.
At some point, I discovered the Limberlost blog and found that they have a Rent-A-Naturalist option! I asked my husband and daughter if they would arrange a hike for my birthday. We had a commitment at the ACPL Author Fair in Fort Wayne the day before (which was my actual birthday) so it wouldn’t be too far out of the way to come home that way.
We left our Fort Wayne hotel by walking across a parking lot very slick with sleet! Ugh! Not very inviting hiking weather, but we had hiked in inclement weather before.
We drove towards Geneva with a slight detour to see the Deam Oak. I had seen this as a child and wanted them to see it. The sleet and rain had stopped and at one point the temperature went up to 48 degrees. Maybe the weather would cooperate!
When the State Historic Site opened at 1 PM, the drizzle started again. Oh, well!
As we talked with Curt Burnette, our naturalist, we devised a loose plan because of the rain. We drove in our own cars, both with walkie-talkies and he explained various sites as we drove, stopping and walking a little at some of them. He has done an amazing job of researching Gene’s books and writing down clues of various locations in her books and then locating them on the early maps of the region.
The remains of the school where Elnora (the “Girl of the Limberlost”) might have attended classes
We saw bald eagles, a great blue heron sitting on a beaver dam, cardinals, sparrows, kestrels, blue jays, and a flicker.
Curt talked about different mammals, amphibians, and birds that can be seen at other times of the year.
We had a wonderful time and didn’t get too wet or cold even though we walked for a while at one time after the temperature had dropped again. We are determined to return in spring and early fall to enjoy more nature and hiking at this amazing site.
It’s hard to tell, but the heron is standing on top of a beaver dam!
I encourage anyone who enjoys Gene Stratton-Porter’s books to engage this knowledgeable guide for a few hours – money well spent! It gives a very different feel to her books now and I’m anxious to read the few of hers that I have not yet read.