I wanted to do something a little more memorable than Chinese takeout for Shae’s birthday, so for this long weekend, I packed up the car and we did a little road trip to two of my favorite childhood state parks in Indiana, Turkey Run and Shades. The two state parks are situated in West Central Indiana near the Illinois border. They both operate in the Eastern timezone.
Given that it was a holiday weekend, the park campgrounds were full, but I was able to make a reservation a week ahead of time for a primitive campsite at Rockville Lake Park. RLP is a private campground just 15 minutes south of Turkey Run and about 5 minutes east of the town of Rockville.
We arrived a bit before dinner on Friday night and decided to set up camp before looking for food. Who really wants to be a camp cook after a day of work and driving multiple hours.
I made Frugal Boy help pack the car, so he was excited to see those packed items come out and be used.
It didn’t take long for him to become a camping expert and start doling out advice on how best to secure the tent.
With camp secured, we drove into town and ate at a mom and pop restaurant. I had forgotten to stop at an ATM and only had $28 in cash in my wallet. Shae never carries cash and relies on the A(ndrew)TM whenever she needs it. I was a bit worried when we sat down at the cash only restaurant, but then remembered how cheap food is in rural Indiana. At $7 or $8 for an entree with two sides, we weren’t exactly pressured to eat miserly. Now I know how my middle brother, who spent a decade on the east coast, feels whenever I am bitching about the cost of staples.
The campground did not have an easily accessible supply of potable water so we stopped at a grocery store and bought a few jugs of water along with an evening treat.
A 4 pack of Smores drumstick ice cream cones was cheaper than buying a bundle of wood and having a campfire. You’re not supposed to transport fire wood because of all the critters that can hitch a ride and invade a new ecosystem and you are also not supposed to collect down branches and twigs in the campground because it depletes nutrients from the forest (my ecologist sister can correct me in the comments).
We turned in early that night because we were dog gone tired.
I woke up in the morning to an empty tent. Sometime in the night we acquired a couple of new neighbors. My stomach was growling, so I set to work making breakfast.
We had packed a cooler with half a dozen eggs, cheese, and an assortment of snack food. For car camping, I love the incredibly simple and rock solid single burner propane stove that I bought a decade ago at Wally World.
You have to buy the propane tanks separately, but they seem to last forever. The stove is strong enough to boil a few cups of water, so you can make quite a variety of foods on it. I had to take a picture of this particular propane tank because my parents gave it to us when they cleaned out an outbuilding. I remember these old tanks from my childhood, but they still work!
Shae had taken Frugal Boy down to the lake to go play.
When they came back, breakfast was ready!
I knew that Turkey Run was going to be popular on a Saturday, so we made tracks and got their early. The suspension bridge over Sugar Creek is always a favorite spot. A few kayakers and canoes drifted by below us while we crossed.
Inside, the spirit of adventure tugged at us to move forward.
Frugal Boy found a hiking stick
that he promptly lost, but talked about the rest of the day.
We found a cave (more like an overhang).
We hiked through streams
and climbed up ladders.
By lunch time, we had covered about 5 miles of trails, Frugal Boy was carried for some of that, but we made him walk even when he didn’t want to.
At lunch a bee landed on my hand. Frugal Boy asked what it was and I explained that it was a bee and it could hurt me. If I stayed still it would leave me alone and leave. We watched as it flew off and around and landed on Frugal Boy’s hand. My lesson apparently went in one ear and out the other because he tried to squish it. Maybe he is a first hand experience learner.
After lunch, we did one last trail. It was nearly empty and tucked away behind some cabins, but I thought it was one of the best trails we did that day.
When we left around 2pm all of the parking lots were full and the line of cars waiting to get into the park stretched out onto the highway. Just like the Shedd Aquarium, it pays to be there early.
We took a nap back at camp, and walked around the grounds. It was interesting people watching. Most of them were glampers, or people that were glamping (glamorous camping). We saw many satellite dishes, ginormous RVs, and flat screen tvs.
I made dinner on my trusty single burner camp stove.
I’m still trying to figure out what chain of events happened that made me the de facto camp chef. Some where history went wrong.
Frugal Boy has been doing very well with using the potty, but he still has some things to learn, like how to pee standing up. He got a primer on this camping trip and his only words were Awesome! and Again!
In the morning, we broke down camp quickly and left RLP so we could get to the canoe outfitters in time for their first run of the day. The outfitters was a well oiled machine that was processing hundreds of people. For $22 we had a three hour canoe ride down Sugar Creek. I could only surmise that the only way the outfitter made money was by sheer volume.
We got a different view of the suspension bridge that we crossed the day before.
We took one grainy selfie before we reached the pullout spot, a red covered bridge.
There is something like 48 covered bridges in this part of Indiana. I have never done it, but there is a covered bridge festival if that is something that interests you.
Back at the outfitters, we took one last picture of Frugal Boy and the canoe. He was really excited and wanted to go again.
From there we drove up to Shades State Park. The difference was night and day. Shades didn’t charge an entrance fee, even though it was listed. The parking lot was half empty at noon, compared to overflowing. The trails were sparsely populated. We ate lunch and hiked two more trails before declaring ourselves completely tuckered out. Frugal Boy loved the tricky ravine hiking and slept the entire car ride home.
If you are looking for a fun place to hike in Western Indiana, then I would recommend Shades or Turkey Run. There are some fun trails.