First Day Hike – 2019

Sometimes it is hard, as introverts, to go on a hike with a group of people. Daughter and I decided to go to Cecil M. Hardin (Raccoon Lake State Recreation Area) for our 2019 First Day Hike. They were having a hike to the former site of the town Portland Mills, and since SAC is an historian, she thought it sounded fascinating. We found out about this one almost too late and we arrived at the gatehouse 3 minutes late. But they left a marker board as to where we needed to go – Back out to the highway the way we came!

Driving the backroads for awhile and then came to a complete stop with 20 or 30 cars in front of us. As the line slowly snaked to the designated parking area, I noticed another long line of cars on a short road to our right. I looked at daughter and she looked at me, and then we drove on to Shades State Park.

The parking lot had a gathering of cars, people, and dogs. SAC and I decided to go to another parking lot and hike on our own!!!

We knew, from the amount of precipitation we’d had that the trails would be sloppy and muddy. We took an easy trail – Trail 9 – and went to the Youth Camp. We had been wanting to see how it had changed in the decades since we had tent camped in a hot open field! It had grown up quite a bit, as we had imagined. We noticed several trees that had been cut down.

We had a modest bird list:

  • Tufted Titmice
  • American Crows
  • Downy Woodpecker
  • Hairy Woodpecker
  • Red-Bellied Woodpecker
  • White Breasted Nuthatch
  • Chickadees
  • Carolina Wren
  • Blue Jays

We had a nice chat with a DNR employee and found out that yes, the trees cut down were Ash – all killed by Emerald Ash Borer. We also shared different favorite places to hike and what we carry in our day packs. He recommended we visit southern Illinois for the Shawnee National Forest and gave us several good locations to check out. Funny timing, as I had just read a series of blog posts by the Illinois Botanizer, who completed a River-to-River hike. Just a really enjoyable talk.

We then hiked the other leg of Trail 9 and then onto Hickory Parking lot and the top of Trail 1. (Hiking the top is a must-do each visit to Shades). After 1.5 inches of rain the day before, Sugar Creek was up and flowing fast. It would be a fast canoe ride today! We smelled a skunk as we walked around on the trail.

We decided as we walked over the boardwalk/bridges across Devil’s Punch Bowl that we had to go down to see the waterfalls going into the Punch Bowl. It had been a long time since we had seen that much water coming over the two falls. It was worth the climb up and down all those steps.

I always like to start my year on a First Day Hike. It sets the tone for the rest of the year. Although it was overcast and 37 degrees, it was a nice, pleasant hike.



Categories: Birding, First Of Year, Hiking, Montgomery County, Shades State Park | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

#Opt Out Friday

The day after Thanksgiving is to us, HIKE FRIDAY! A newish movement in conjunction with R.E.I. is #optout Friday.

Daughter and I went to Pine Hills to spend our day after Thanksgiving. It was in the 40s and overcast, but we quickly warmed up as we hiked over to Pine Hills on Trail 10 in Shades State Park.

We spent about 2 hours hiking around this fascinating area. We saw our loyal birds:

  • Juncos
  • Chickadees
  • White-Breasted Nuthatches
  • Tufted Titmice
  • Red-Headed woodpeckers
  • Red-Bellied Woodpeckers
  • Crows
  • Turkey Vultures
  • Blue Jays

After a morning of hiking, we had a late lunch at #EatINN – the Turkey Run State Park Inn.

Wonderful food and a walk to the nature center and back and then home.


Categories: Birding, Hiking, Montgomery County, Parke County, Shades State Park, Turkey Run State Park | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment


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Great Birthday!

There is nothing like a hike in the sunshine on your birthday! Great day at Prophetstown State Park!

Fluffy Milkweed seeds frozen in ice on pond.

Categories: Birding, Hiking, Prophetstown State Park, State Parks Indiana, Tippecanoe County | Tags: , , , , | Leave a comment

Autumn Glory

Fall colors arrived a few weeks late – still in the 80s in October. But the trees are in their glory despite the hot weather, rain and high winds!

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Argiope Aurantia

The common Yellow Garden Spider is back. We haven’t seen any for several years at our property and were convinced the massive orb weavers were taking over in their place. One main difference, according to my arachnophobe daughter is that Garden Spiders are “quite civilized” and keep their webs in one area and most often knee level.

I also just found out doing my research that the Yellow Garden Spider IS an orb weaver, but the Brown Orb weavers are adept at putting their webs in different spaces and weaving them in common walkways, attempting to (in my daughter’s words) eat your face off when you walk from the house to the garage or from the door to the garden or the patio or the…. You get the picture. There is a reason the Man of the House gets to mow in the fall!!!!


This summer we have a beautiful girl with her beautiful web at the corner of our garage where no one walks. The Arachnophobe was actually the one who spotted her first, and to my shock, she actually crowed with delight! (To be fair, while SAC is terrified of spiders, she does realize they are mostly harmless at worst and actively beneficial at best. She just prefers they keep to their habitat and stay out of hers.)

The Yellow Garden Spider has the zigzag white center in her web that is called a stabilimentum. She has laid two egg sacs. In reading at the website below, I finally found out something about these spiders. The mother will die before the babies hatch, which happens in the fall. They spend the winter in the egg sac and leave in the spring.


I also found out that the male is small, which is common in the spider world, and not as brightly coloured. I wasn’t sure, but thought that the other spider in the web was the male. Now I’m sure.

I definitely need to get a book about spiders in Indiana!


A few good resources:

Spider Season is Upon Us – A Guide to Spiders of Indiana:

Categories: Arachnids, Home, Montgomery County | Tags: , , , , | Leave a comment

Monarch Swarm

Our small property is a haven for wildlife. We let milkweed grow wherever it lands.

I came home from work yesterday afternoon and went walking around after getting the mail-just enjoying the gorgeous fall weather.

I noticed quite a few monarchs flying around the zinnias. When I tried to count, there were more than 15. I kept losing count. (The “fly” in butterfly, you know!!)

Next year we hope to tag them! Stay tune for tagging post in days to come!

Categories: Butterflies, Montgomery County | Tags: , | 2 Comments

Native Bees in Indiana – Mason and Leaf-cutter bees

Heather Harvey of Bees Gone Wild gave a terrific presentation at the August 1 Wednesday in the Wild program at Lilly Nature Center in Celery Bog, West Lafayette, Indiana. We know a lot about honey bees because they are quite often the center of attention in the news. But I learned a lot of new things about native bees.

  • Not all bees cause anaphylactic shock.
  • Not all bees are good pollinators.
  • Not all bees make honey.

There are 20,000 plus bees in the world. Only 10% are social. Social bees are the ones that must defend the queen, the nest, the food and eggs. Solitary bees are basically single mothers and don’t have time to defend the nest. She’s too busy gathering food. 70% of the bees are ground-nesting bees: Sweat Bees, Bumble bees and Miner and digger bees are examples. Hole-nesting bees are: Mason, leaf cutter and Carpenter bees.

Honey bees are not native. They were brought over on the Mayflower. Honey is made to feed the queen and workers over the winter. They are basically livestock at this point.

Solitary bees live in a cocoon over the winter. Natives gather and store pollen balls – pollen mixed with nectar – for their young. The Blue Orchard Mason Bee may lay 20 eggs in her life which she puts in a tube-like structure: A weed stem or anything with a small diameter tube. They use mud to separate their eggs. Mason Bees are Spring bees and generally fly mid-March through May after the temperatures reach 55 degrees. They are excellent pollinators to forest trees, maples, and the earliest flowering plants.

Leaf-Cutting bees are summer bees and fly May through August when it is above 70 degrees. They are strong bees and use leaf circles to wallpaper their tubes and separate the eggs. They put a pollen ball and egg and seal it up with the leaf circles. The leaf-cutter uses the redbud leaves for her circles.

Leaf cutters and mason bees are pollen spreaders as opposed to honey bees, which are pollen gatherers. Honey bees are not as efficient at pollinating as the native ones are.

Honey bees flies 1 to 2 miles to their hive as opposed to the mason bee which flies 300 feet which gives them more pollinating time verses communing time.

Heather give pointers to make your property more native bee friendly (which means also pollinator friendly):

  • Bee aware.
  • Leave your yard a little messy.
  • Plant native plants and flowers for forage.
  • Trim native plant to 15 inches in the fall to leave stems for tube nests.
  • Plant redbuds and lilacs for summer bees.
  • Have small open mud circles and barre circles and don’t rake, till or disturb for hole-nesting bees.
  • Install nesting boxes. Crown Bees has more information and nesting supplies to help with this.
  • Avoid lawn chemicals
  • Provide habitat
  • Reintroduce bees

She also shared how she gathered the cocoons and made sure they were kept safe, how she cleaned the tube nests, and other caretaking items.

I went home after the lecture and looked at some of my many redbud seedlings that have sprung up around our property and right by our back door I found round circles cut out of the leaves!!!! I haven’t seen any of the leaf cutter bees that I have identified, but I’m sure I have actually seen one and didn’t know it!

I just love learning new things and having my eyes opened to God’s fantastic creation!


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Surviving the Six-Ravine Challenge at Shades

Let’s just start out by saying, sometimes we don’t make wise decisions!

The Six Ravine Challenge has you starting on the backpack trail down (to Sugar Creek) on the western leg of trail 8 back up the western leg of trail 7, down 4 and up 4, down 5 and up 5, down and up 1, down and around 6. This takes you through Shawnee Canyon, Kickapoo Ravine, Fritz Ravine, Kintz Ravine, Devil’s Punchbowl, and Red Fox Ravine.

We intended to accept this challenge sometime late September or in October–Sometime when it wasn’t 90 degrees and 90 percent humidity! But SAC was wearing a heart monitor and the doctor told her to go hiking and dig potatoes and whatever else she needed to do to get her heart “palpitating”!

So she decided to go on August 19th! It was 85 Degrees and very humid – house windows were fogged up so about 80% 0r 90% humidity. Let’s just say that all our hearts were palpitating! I’m sure the monitor got some awesome readouts!

According to the naturalist and the website, the Six Ravine Challenge is 4.5 miles. According to Map My Walk <insert link> and SAC’s Fitbit ™, we actually walked about 8.6 (me) and 5.7 (SAC) miles in 4.75 hours! We started at 11:30 and stopped around 4:20. And that was with multiple times resting on the ground and an extended period lying on a picnic table with a cold bandana on her face!

We felt very proud of our ability to get this done and not die! Many thanks go out to my wonderful husband ROC because neither of us would have made it had he not been with us, I don’t think. We don’t do humid very well. He doesn’t always hike with us and hadn’t intended to do the entire challenge, but just kept leading the way, urging us on and telling us not to quit before we got it done. What a coach! Our hero, as always!

Because SAC had to lie down on the picnic table, ROC and I were able to get a great look at the blue-tailed skink. (too fast for a photo and too worried about cooling SAC down!) SAC had seen one earlier while she rested at one point on the trail.

We saw a DeKay’s brown snake – we seem to see them quite a bit since we learned what it was. Isn’t that the way with learning? As soon as you learn about something, you see it everywhere.

Dekays Snake

Most of our time was spent focusing on the trails though. We did hear and see some of the usual Shades birds: Eastern Wood Pewee, Nuthatch, Turkey Vulture, Pileated woodpecker. And we heard an Acadian Flycatcher.

All in all, I’m glad we challenged ourselves for this extended hike. It gives me a great satisfaction knowing that this 65-year-old woman still has it in her to do something like this.

We’ll put this up with the 3 Dune challenge that we accomplished a couple of years ago.

Happy hiking! Hopefully in less humid conditions!


Categories: Hiking, Shades State Park | Tags: , , | Leave a comment

Three-Day Spring Break at McCormick’s Creek

Spring break started with a sunny 50 degrees on Friday, March 23. Saturday we got ice followed by 6 inches of snow. Sunday we drove down to McCormick’s Creek State Park in Spencer, Indiana, where they also had snow, but significantly less than we had.

We had reservations for two nights at the Canyon Inn so ROC could sit in front of the fireplace and read while SAC and I hiked.

McCormick's Creek 001

Sunday afternoon we struck out on a short hike to the old Statehouse Quarry, then drove to Bloomington for dinner at Big Woods Brewery. They make some amazing burgers, and SAC enjoyed her Six Foot Blonde American blonde ale.

Monday we started with breakfast with the birds at the inn restaurant. Then SAC and I started out the first of our hikes for the day. We drove to the nature center and hiked Trail 8 (paved) until it connected with Trail 5 to Wolf Cave and Twin Bridges.

We saw lots of cold wildflowers, including these bloodroots…

McCormick's Creek 007.JPG

…and some harbinger of spring.

2018-03-27 19.02.03.jpg

The thrilling moment of that hike was when I spotted a Barred Owl fly to a roost. SAC managed some shots of it, even though it was pretty far away. Then it swooped silently off. We had been hearing an owl earlier, so it was nice to see it too.

Barred Owl.jpg

We checked in on ROC and then headed back out on Trail 3. The creek was up and there was a hiker with an off-leash dog, so we turned around and went to the other end of Trail 3 before deciding we didn’t want to climb that many stairs, anyway!

We headed back to the Wolf Cave parking lot to pick up Trail 7. We hiked all of that and got rather muddy in the bottoms along the White River. The upper portions of that trail were carpeted with snow trilliums!

2018-03-25 15.14.50

McCormick's Creek 026

Then it was time for a late picnic lunch in the lounge, followed by Trail 9, which goes through the historic Peden Farm Site, where limestone foundations show the large barn and small house, and the springhouse has been restored.

2018-03-26 16.56.27

After that we limped back to the inn for a late dinner at the restaurant, followed by reading and writing in the lounge (until it got too loud). The rain moved in while we were in the lounge.

The next day it was still raining, so we took a leisurely drive home. A short spring break but a fun one!

Categories: Hiking, McCormick's Creek State Park, Spring | Tags: , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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