Haunts & Jaunts: A walk in the woods

“Wedding day at the top of the waterfall at McCormick’s Creek Park.” (R Hinton)

   There’s nothing after a hard week of work like a walk in the woods. It becomes an escape and avenue of solitude. Hearing your breath, feeling the heartbeat in your chest as your feet navigate the inclines and the twists and turns of a narrow trail, becomes a symphony of music, if only played in your head. The wildlife may be unseen and just out of reach, but you know it’s there nonetheless.

   My wife Laura and I make these excursions a “we” retreat. We go when we can, often camping primitive style in tent, air mattress and Coleman stove. We have our favorite parks:

   McCormick’s Creek State Park in Spencer was the site of our wedding, saying our vows on the top of the waterfall as day hikers frolicked in the water below. The park’s trails wind through hill and valley, through groves of beech and oak, through “I need a break” to “I’ve got this handled.” And always the sport of creek hopping—leaping from boulder to rock while keeping your footwear dry.

   Spring Mill State Park in Mitchell is one of our favorite camping destinations. The trails can be challenging with an array of dips and sways through steep ravines and sinkholes. The forest is so thick in places that the canopy fights the sun from breaking through. One trail parallels an ancient cemetery where pioneers from a different era are buried. Laura and I always stop to examine the headstones; I like cemetery’s. The trail drops from the hilltop, descending into the valley and Pioneer Village…

   Pioneer Village was a living and breathing pioneer town originating in the early 1800s. Folks here etched out a living, working a community garden, hosting hogs for meat, raising children and finding a sense of satisfaction at the grist mill dominating the center of the village. The streets and buildings are as they were back in the day. The majority of the village’s restoration was completed in the 1920s and 1930s. At night, after the days invasion of the park visitor, the village becomes something else. The consistent hum of the day has been replaced by a silence that is almost deafening. One hundred year old buildings seem to stare back at you. You imagine faces in the window of the grist mill as you stroll by. Shadows dart from your peripheral vision. Standing one night by the Leather Shop my wife and I heard a conversation from the back side of the building; no one was there.

   One gets the distinct impression that some residents chose to remain behind.