I left northern Wisconsin after a half-day of work, hoping to arrive in northern Indiana before making camp for the night. I picked a spot on the map that was both far enough from the Chicagoland area to mean I was really on vacation, and that had a little campground symbol. This place was Tippecanoe River State Park, and it turned out to be just far enough out of urbanity that my eyes had trouble staying open by the time I got there. It also turned out to be a pretty cool stopover.
Arriving in the middle of the night, this state park did not seem very promising, from an “experiencing nature” perspective. Although a Tuesday evening in October, the campground was quite busy. Busy with large RV’s, generators running because temperatures were near freezing, and decorated for Halloween. Apparently there is some sort of annual competition for the best Halloween decorations at this park. And by “decorations” they apparently mean copious lighted objects, string lights, flashing lights, and other light-type apparati in the orange-and-purple spectrum. Think your neighborhood’s obnoxious Christmas decorations… in October… in a campground. Not that appealing for those of us in a tent, but so be it.
By morning light, though, the party lites lost their luster (and got turned off), and there was time for a quick walk to stretch the legs before getting back in the vehicle and driving south. Turned out to be not so quick, partly because the trail system was a little bit confusing, and partly because it was so darn
cool. The park had a variety of ecosystems, from floodplain forests along the Tippecanoe, to a wetland impoundment, upland white oak woods, grassland, etc. Most of my hike meandered through the oak woods, and even into a (very) small section of “barrens.” A few white pines grew here and there in the area, at the southern end of their range, and white oaks grew alongside post oaks near the northern end of their range. The barrens had many of the same trees and wildflowers that we see in sandy soils of central and northern Wisconsin – neat to see, a few hundred miles to the south. From a land management perspective, it was immediately apparent that the park staff were doing an excellent job of maintaining an open woods, and keeping invasive plants under control. Go Hoosiers! (Might be the first time I’ve said that).
If walking around a labyrinthine trail system in deep sand looking at trees isn’t your bag, I’ve heard from a friend that the Battle of Tippecanoe historic site is also in that area. I missed it in the middle of the night, but if I had it to do over again, I would want to stop there. Check it out and let me know how it is!