Monday, June 4, 2012

Seven Pillars of the Mississinewa, Miami County

     It was a family affair when Hank, Evelynn, AND my husband Sherman accompanied me to the Seven Pillars Nature Preserve and landmark in Miami county recently.

     The Seven Pillars preserve made for a lovely hike with two miles of trails covering a variety of terrain including forested uplands, stream beds, ravines, and open meadows.  And the end of our journey promised a spectacular visual reward, the Seven Pillars of the Mississinewa Landmark.

It didn't take long, though, for ole Dad to get lost in the nearly 150 acre forest, leaving the kids and I (but mostly the kids) to frolic in the stream beds and swing from the branches.

Hank and Evelynn quickly found something to occupy their inner trapeze artists.  This photo was taken shortly before shrieks of  "Oh my gosh! Mom! We accidentally fell in!!"  The definition of "accidentally" is still up for debate.

You didn't know there were monkeys in Miami county, did you?
     Of course, we didn't actually swing from the branches...I don't think any of us are actually that physically coordinated, not to mention we would not want to damage any part of the preserve.  However, as we hiked further and further into the preserve, I was struck by the over-abundance of long, hanging, thick, twisty-curly, Tarzan style vines.  You know the kind...
Jane, Tarzan, Jack and Cheetah from the Tarzan movies of the early 1930's
     The vines we saw are wild grape vines.  When they are very thick it means they are older, and have probably grown up with the tree. 
Wild grape vines can grow to over 30 feet long. Perfect for swinging!  
However, what may LOOK perfect for practicing your best Tarzan moves, is probably not very reliable.  Wild grape uses tendrils to grab onto branches or bark of other plants.  Doesn't sound very swinging-safe to me!
Wild grapes are edible, but not very tasty.  The sour, blackish-purple berries grow in clumps of about 20, and are ripe from August to October.  
Native Americans did't like the taste of the wild grape, either.  However, they did use the woody, durable, long vines for basketmaking.  

     As we were searching the forest for poor lost Dad, we stumbled upon (figuratively, thank goodness!) a very alarming tree.

Honey Locust: Despite its name, the honey locust is not associated with the making of honey.  But rather, the name comes from the sweet taste of the pulp of the tree's pods.  These trees produce a long, flat legume that was used as food by Native Americans.  It can also be fermented to make beer.  But don't confuse the Honey locust pods with the Black locust pods, which are toxic!   

Honey locusts commonly have long thorns growing out of the branches and from the trunk.  These dangerous looking barbs can grow to be up to 8 inches long.  It is thought that the Honey locust thorns have evolved to protect the trees from browsing Pleistocene megafauna, large mammals, birds, and reptiles that lived on earth during the Pleistocene era, 2,588,000 to 11,700 years ago!  I am certain they still dissuade foraging wildlife today.

     Down a few more trails, and after seeing a few more examples of Indiana's natural splendor...

Paw Paw
Foxtail grass
 ...we finally found Dad, at the much anticipated 25-foot limestone pillars, The Seven Pillars of the Mississinewa Landmark, once the Miami Wappa-Pin Sah Reserve.  

This breathtaking formation is a geological wonder with 25-foot hight limestone cliffs carved into existence by centuries of wind and water erosion.  The Mississinewa River is responsible for creating the rounded buttresses,  alcove-like rooms, and impressive pillars.
The famed Frances Slocum Trail passes along the top of the Seven Pillars formation.  This remarkable natural formation has cultural and spiritual significance to the Miami Indians, who continue to gather on this site for councils and powwows.  

     Finally reunited, we all agreed it was a great day for a family adventure! Join us again, won't you?!  

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