March 29th, 2009


Uphill, Both Ways

We gathered early for our trip to Bear Wallow, just north of Nashville, Indiana, arriving about 8:20 in the morning. The day promised to be cool and rainy. Jordan was our leader, Marshall carried the code (see below), Seth and Jeffrey filled out the crew. Jeth and I were the adults.

Trail Headquarters at Bear Wallow is the center of several hiking trails administered by Ken Tuxhorn, who laid out most of these famous Indiana trails in 1949. This is his sixtieth year in operation. He has the record of every hiker who has ever done one of his trails. I last hiked the American Heritage Trail with my son, back when he was eleven. That was 22 years ago. I'm sure he has my name on a card in his file boxes somewhere, along with others showing me hiking as a boy and as a Scout leader in other units.

The American Heritage Trail is a step or two over twelve miles long. There is no map for this trail, but the trail is well-marked with blazes and signs. Along the way are several orange code boxes. As the group discovers these boxes, they write down the simple letter-to-number codes inside, which then enables the group to decode a famous saying by a great American. This, plus Mr. Tuxhorn's questioning after the hike, enable him to certify that each Scout did, in fact, complete the hike. Shortcuts are not done.

Orientation takes a while. You can't hurry Mr. Tuxhorn. Finally, we got off on the trail about quarter after nine. It was the most butt-busting hike we've done since starting this adventure. It felt like twelve miles of going uphill, both ways (that's Brown County for you). We finally dragged ourselves in eight and a half hours later.

Debriefing takes even longer than Orientation. Mr. Tuxhorn finances Trail HQ through the sale of trail medals and patches, and he has to explain every one of those on offer (and some that aren't, any longer) before he allows the hikers to buy their souvenirs. After we finally got away from Bear Wallow, we drove in the rain to the Bloomington Armory and joined the rest of the Troop at their annual overnight Lock-in. (I went on home after pizza and finished my sermon for the morning.)

It was actually a quite nice day. It rained on us a little bit now and then, which caused us to keep putting on, then taking off, our raingear. Spring was getting a move-on (finally), and there were lots of daffodils and forsythia in bloom. We saw a woodpecker, lots of squirrels, four whitetail deer, a rabbit or two, and (on the drive over) a big ol' Tom turkey. We passed a firetower and a water tower, a private lake, and lots and lots and lots of hills. Still, the woods were lovely and the company, congenial.

Pictures are posted, below. A rant is included below the cut after the pix.

Click on a pic to enlarge.

Trail Headquarters Trail Headquarters
How Bear Wallow got its name
Orientation Orientation
This is Ken Tuxhorn's 60th year of operating these trails
What goes DOWN What goes DOWN
Must come UP Must come UP
Code Box Code Box
It each life, a little rain must fall Into each life, a little rain must fall
The crew breaks out their rain gear
Last Hill Last Hill
Crossing the finish line Crossing the finish line
"You look like I feel."

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