May 22, 2009

Cornucopia / Cynthia Dewes

Time to hit the road, Jack (and Jill)

Cynthia DewesGetting a little restless, are we? Feeling the urge to get away from the daily grind, relax on the open road and experience all those other clichés that mean vacation?

Well, here are a few ideas about how to do that with a minimum of gasoline and other costs. I mean, taking a world cruise on a new Cunard liner is not exactly in the cards for most of us.

If beaches and sunshine and sand are your idea of fun, try visiting the Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore in northwestern Indiana. There you may enjoy swimming, boating, hiking, camping, fishing and many other outdoor activities. And if you’d rather stay indoors, there are plenty of motels, restaurants and other services available in the area.

Besides the glories of Lake Michigan, there’s another kind of aesthetic appeal in the Art Deco architectural style of the Indiana Dunes State Park entrance, built by the young men of the CCC in the 1930s. Nearby you may see the “futuristic” World’s Fair houses moved to the lakeshore after the 1933 Chicago World’s Fair, and the picturesque lighthouse in Michigan City.

Besides Purdue University, north-central Indiana offers historical sites, such as Tippecanoe Battlefield State Memorial in (what else?) Battleground, Ind.

Nearby is Prophet’s Rock, where Elkswatawa the Prophet sat and sang as his brother, Tecumseh, and the Miami Indians fought with General William Henry Harrison’s troops in 1811.

Heading south, we come to Dana, Ind., located along State Road 71, one mile north of U.S. Hwy. 36. Here is the Ernie Pyle Historic Site memorializing the life and work of the famous World War II Hoosier correspondent. It includes Pyle’s farmhouse home and a visitor center, where you may learn about Pyle’s experiences in the war and the life of those times.

Farther along, we reach the forests and canyons of Turkey Run State Park. There are several stories about how the park got its name, including one in which wild turkeys gathered in the “runs” of the canyons to keep warm in winter, and another in which pioneers would herd the turkeys into the runs to hunt them more easily. The park offers wonderful hiking, camping and exploration, and a first-class inn for the indoor types.

Heading southeast, we come to the Ohio River Valley attractions. There’s Versailles State Park for the nature-minded and, in Aurora, the Hillforest Mansion, which is described as “a cross between an antebellum mansion and a riverboat.” It is open to the public.

Other charming river towns include Rising Sun and Vevay, the heart of Switzerland transported to Switzerland County, Ind. Most of the town of Madison is listed on the National Register of Historic Places for its river architecture and cultural preservation. Nearby, Clifty Falls State Park offers more opportunity to experience natural beauty.

More central places to visit include Oldenburg, the German Village of Spires and home of the Franciscan sisters. Metamora is the site of the old Whitewater Canal linking Hagerstown and Lawrenceburg, where canal boat rides are available. There’s also a passenger train for rides back and forth to Connersville. Near Brookville is the Mounds State Recreation Area, which features a museum of Indian lore.

Indeed, Indiana contains a wealth of historic sites as well as many places in which to enjoy nature and sports. Many are free for the looking or minimally priced for families on a budget to enjoy—and what family isn’t?

Happy summer! Happy vacation in Hoosierland!

(Cynthia Dewes, a member of St. Paul the Apostle Parish in Greencastle, is a regular columnist for The Criterion.)

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