Saturday, March 17, 2012

"Camp" Kokiwanee

Just barely a mile from my childhood home lies140 acres of wonderful wooded wilderness, Kokiwanee Nature Preserve, otherwise known to my family and many others as "Camp Kokiwanee." Camp Kokiwanee was formerly a Girl Scout Camp, originally purchased in 1943 by the Kokomo Kiwanis, hence the name "Kokiwanee." (How the Girl Scouts were tied into the Kiwanis, I'm not really sure.) When Kokiwanee was purchased in 1943, the land was $64.18 an acre, for a grand total of $16,000!  What a steal! 
Kokiwanee is adjacent to Salamonie State Forest. After we climbed almost straight up this bluff, I had to sit for a (long) while. Luckily the view was a welcome distracion during my sweaty, huffing, heart-palpitating, near death break. 
While I was never a Girl Scout myself, my mom and dad were members of the Girl Scout organization. So during certain times of the year when the camp was closed for the Girl Scout-ing season, my family would have opportunities to camp there.  We would clean the lodge, help with tent maintenance, create paths, and other things related to closing or opening the camp for the season.  I don't remember the work much. But I totally rememember the fun of camping, hiking, riding my bike around, swimming in the lake, canoeing, pot luck meals featuring campfire cuisine, and the friends we made with the other families. 
A beautiful reflection on the lake. I can remember many-a-time spent on, in, and around this lake. 
Since 2003 Kokiwanee has been owned by Acres Landtrust.  Kokiwanee features bluffs along the Salmonie River with several streams flowing down several waterfalls to empty into the river.  If you walk the path along the river, you will see at least 4 waterfalls! 
Several of the waterfalls have names, and there are signs directing you to the paths that will take you there.  However, I don't remember which waterfall this is. 

Hank and Evelynn relaxing on a bed of moss.  They recovered from our nearly vertical climb up the bluff much more quickly than I did!
Brand new moss sprouts.  Did you know moss can make its own soil from particles found in the air?
My favorite place at Kokiwanee has always been "Mossy Heights." Mossy Heights, when it's not recovering from the winter, is the largest area of land blanketed by moss that I've ever seen!  When the moss is thick and green, it is like walking on puffy clouds.  One could literally lay down and take a nap on a proverbial "bed" of moss. (If one wasn't freaked out at the possibility of tiny creatures and creepie crawlies climbing into one's ears and nose, and all over one's clothes while one was sleeping!) Later in the season you can find many varieties of odd and unusual fungi growing among the moss beds, too. 

  Don't you just love this enchanted looking mossy path?  I felt like a fairy tale character as we took this route.
"Climb the mountains and get their good tidings.  Nature's peace will flow into you as sunshine flows into trees.  The winds will blow their own freshness into you, and the storms their energy, while cares will drop off like autumn leaves."  ~John Muir
Until we meet again!

Friday, March 16, 2012

Hanging Rock

After a couple of weekends of sickness and all-around crappy weather, Hank, Evelynn and I made our way to Hanging Rock.  Hanging Rock is a very small nature preserve, but also a National Natural Landmark!  It is a special place to me because it is about 1.5 miles from where I grew up.  It was one of the first places that I was allowed to ride my bike to ALONE.

Hanging Rock is a hundred-foot tall out-cropping of rock overhanging the Wabash River.  The cliff is actually part of a silurian reef composed of three different types of rock: dolomite, fossiliferous limestone, and dolomitic siltstone.  The silurian reef layer of the earth in this area was depostited during the Paleozoic era, 540,000,000 years ago.  (I'm not really this smart...all of this information -and more- is available on a couple of very helpful signs at the preserve.)

While I am quite impatient for trees to begin leafing, this time of year provides an excellent view of Hanging Rock!
I would be seriously remiss if I did not share the "Legend of Hanging Rock" with you.  Hanging Rock is a wonderful national treasure right here in Indiana, but that's nothing compared to it's haunted heritage! The story begins with the beautiful Miami Indian maiden, Wy-nu-sa, who thought she was in love with two handsome and strong Indian braves. (Well who hasn't been there?!)  Both of the braves were, of course, deeply in love with Wy-nu-sa.  So she devised a plan...
A portion of the "hanging" rock, no longer hanging.
Wy-nu-sa agreed to marry the brave who could survive a duel to be held at the summit of Hanging Rock. The unlucky-in-love loser would be plunged to his death in the "swirling waters of the river below."  As Wy-nu-saw secretly watched the battle from the shadows, she realized which of the Indian braves she truly favored.  And of course, he was the one who lost the battle and fell to his death. 
More sections of Hanging Rock that have fallen into the river over time.

When the victorious Indian brave came to claim Wy-nu-sa as his bride, she screamed, "I do not love you! You have killed my one true love. I cannot live without him!" And she threw herself over the cliff's edge and joined her true love in the Happy Hunting Grounds.  With flashlight under my chin...And it is said that the Indian maiden still lurks among the fallen stones at the base of Hanging Rock, mourning her one true love. And in the darkness of the night, passers by can hear her moaning, "You killed my one true love." 

I was really impacted by the massive quantities of exposed root systems I saw at Hanging rock.  The effects of rain and wind erosion on plants growing on a nearly vertical surface, I suppose.  A little alarming, but simultaneously quite beautiful. I love the twisting, entangling, weaving lines of the roots. It is a tiny peek at the amazing and mysterious root structures hidden below the earth's surface. 

I find these intertwining roots symbolic of the tangled heart-strings in Wy-nu-sa's legend. 

Did you know that together with their water-dwelling cousins, snails are number two on the list of most species on earth, second only to insects? There are 43,000 snail species living in the sea, in freshwater or on land. Five hundred land species live on North American soil.
One of about 100 snail shells I found in one particular area of the cliff-side.  The snail Happy Hunting Ground. 
A snail's shell consists of three layers: 1) the hypostracum, the innermost layer; 2) the ostracum, the middle layer, consisting mostly of calcium carbonate; and 3) the shell skin or periostracum, which is made of a mix of proteins that hold the shell's color. After a snail dies, this layer erodes away, exposing the white or gray color of underlying calcium carbonate. This part becomes food for next year's snails. (Answering my burning new snails "move in" to old, abandoned shells? No. They EAT them.)  Again, I am not really this smart.  I found this, and a bunch more really interesting snail (and other creatures) information at  

Finally! At the very end of our hike one of the kids found a sign of spring, albeit tiny!
Just down the road from Hanging Rock is our next stop, Kokiwanee Nature Preserve. Stay tuned...