52 Hikes in 52 Weeks: Hike 1, Pine Knob County Park

January 1, 2015

2825 E SR 120 Howe, IN

I decided this year’s goal would be to do 52 hikes in 52 weeks.  Not necessarily one hike per week as there may be some weeks with more than one and other weeks that have none.  But over-all, I want to roughly average one per week.

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I had a tough time deciding on a first hike because this is not a great time of year for hiking in northern Indiana.  I guess we should just be glad that this year, the trails aren’t buried under 2 feet of snow!  Pine Knob was a natural choice for me since it is my favorite LaGrange County park.  It used to be owned by a conservation club and was donated to the county to be used as a park.  What a great gift to the local residents!  The county has since added a couple small tracts to the park and expanded the trails.   In addition to hiking, the park offers picnic tables, a pavilion along the trail that has water (via a hand pump) and an port-a-potty, wildlife observation blinds and a 3D archery range.  The trails consist of 2 mostly level loops with one of the loops being handicap accessible.  The trails are a combination of boardwalks, crushed limestone and dirt.  There are benches along the way for resting or for sitting and taking in the sights and sounds of nature.

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I always start my walk along the boardwalk running along the lake shore. This particular day, it was icy and very slick.

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The boardwalk gives you beautiful views of the lake.

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After the boardwalk, the trail turns to crushed limestone.  This trail is popular with runners as well as hikers.  Below is one of the wildlife viewing areas.  This, like much of the trail, it is handicap accessible.  There is also a 3D target (in season) that is meant to be shot from here.

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The crushed limestone sections of the trails are wide and level, perfect for families with young kids, people just starting to hike, even strollers!  When my kids were babies, I had an “off road” stroller that traveled many miles of trails.  Great for me and great for getting the little ones out in the fresh air.

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Since it was quite cold and blustery, we didn’t have much use for the picnic pavilion.  It would make a very nice place to stop for lunch on a nicer day.

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This park is dog friendly but please follow the rules and common sense etiquette.  Dogs are to be on leashes at all times.  Just because your dog is friendly doesn’t mean it won’t run up to a dog that will view it’s friendly exuberance as an attack and respond accordingly!  Also, be sure to pick up after your dog if it succumbs to nature’s calling.  It’s a real downer to step in a pile of fresh (or even not-to-fresh) poo while out enjoying a romp in the woods.  Below is a picture of Diego and my son Ryan stopping at one of the wildlife viewing areas a couple of years ago. Yes, he is on a leash even though you can’t see it!  I did have Diego with me today but he did not want to cooperate for a picture.  This section is along the boardwalk that goes through the marsh.

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Here is Lyndy, the only Herd of Turtle member willing to brave the cold and wind with me today.  To be fair, Turtle Becky was on her way to Clifty Falls for her First Day Hike so she gets a pass!

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The recent ice storm played havoc with the pine trees along the trail.  This is a very well maintained park but I was still surprised that there had already been trail maintenance clearing the downed trees and branches from the trail.

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After a short walk through the pines, the trail loops back to where you started.  While not a very long hike, it is full of habitat variety.  We only saw a single cardinal today but we didn’t take the time to sit and watch for birds and wildlife.  I suspect it would have quite a variety of birds.  The benches and blinds would make it ideal for the bird and wildlife photographer.

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All-in-all, I think this park has a lot to offer.  Even in the winter, it is open for hiking, cross country skiing or even snow shoeing if the snow gets deep.  If you have spent too many years on the couch and are just starting your hiking and fitness journey, there is a short loop option that offers plenty of benches to take a break.  If you’re prefer more miles, you can always hike or jog the bigger loop twice.  It is an interesting enough park that you won’t be bored.  Once the weather improves, bring the kids, pack a picnic lunch and come enjoy one of the prettiest parks in LaGrange County!  I’m sure I’ll hike here again throughout the year and plan to add pictures of the various seasons.  Beauty can be found year around; from the bright whites of a winter wonderland, to the blast of color when the spring flowers burst forth, to the lazy days and summer and crisp fall afternoons.  Remember, there is no bad weather, just bad clothing choices.  I’ll end this with a cold, wind-blown selfie.  Welcome to the 2016 hiking season!

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