Monday, October 16, 2017

Indiana DNR’s Whitetail Trail

When I hiked the Pate Hollow Trail yesterday I ran across this sign just a few dozen steps from the trailhead pointing to yet another trail on the left. Oddly, the big map at the trailhead shows nothing of this Whitetail Trail,

yet the paper maps printed by the USDA for the National Forest’s Pates Hollow Trail does show this three mile long lollypop trail down there on Indiana DNR lands. (The IDNR land is dark grey and the NF is light grey.)

Since it’s hard to see the way they printed it, here I’ve highlighted the Whitetail Trail in green.

My GPS track of the Whitetail Trail highlighted in blue. That's a portion of my Pate Hollow Trail track at the top

But while the USDA interpretation of the Pate Hollow Trail matches my GPS track pretty closely, the same can’t be said for their interpretation of the IDNR Whitetail Trail, but no big deal, with the exception of one spot which I’ll get to in a moment, the trail isn’t all that difficult to stick to,

even though it clearly does not get the same amount of traffic as the, frankly, slightly more interesting, Pate Hollow Trail.

Since hurricane Harvey is still demanding I keep away from home, when I got up this morning (Aug 26) I decided I might as well go back up the road to the trailhead and check out Whitetail.

While still in the same hardwood forest as the Pate Hollow trail, Whitetail had a lot less up and down, or hollow and ridge, to it and I only end up climbing, then descending again, a mere 570 feet over the three miles.

Initially the trail, weaving in and out of the woods, sticks pretty close to the entry road for the Paynetown State Recreation Area.

It’s a Saturday (And Harvey is finally coming ashore after fooling the weather-geeks who thought it would come knocking a full 16 hours earlier.) and the State Recreation Area with its picnic areas, beach and boat-launch/docks must be popular because there’s a steady stream of vehicles pulling up to the pay station.

The trail is clearly not so popular and I have it to myself all morning.  Cool!

Eventually the trail comes to the edge of this large, and completely empty, parking lot which I assume is an overflow for those extra busy weekends when thing get insane and it would probably have been more enjoyable to stay home and work in the yard instead.

Here’s where I have to do some intuitive interpretation  to stay on-trail. My paper map shows the trail continuing along near the main road at this point, but on the actual ground there’s no indication of any trail whatsoever.

In the distance however, I can see what looks like a trailhead sign at the far end of that parking area, so I head that way.

But it’s not a trailhead sign at all,

though it is kind of interesting and I’m tempted to climb into that big ol’ sandbox and do a little fossil hunting myself.  (OK, I check, and since there's no one around to see, I do climb in and dig around for a few minutes. Even though I studied the fossil pictures on the sign I still probably wouldn’t know a fossil from a rock, and I'm pretty sure my digging method, shoving dirt around with my boot, isn't archaeologist-approved. In the end I don’t find any, fossils that is, though there are plenty of rocks, at least I think they're all rocks.)

When I finish playing in the sand there's still nothing around to indicate where the trail went, but behind the sign, and around a locked vehicle gate, there's a rough track and since it's going away from the road, I follow it, trail or not.

I not sure I’m actually on the trail at this point but I catch a glimpse of what looks like big propane tanks through the brush and decide to explore what just might be the remains of a residence back in there.

Turns out it was more of a dumping ground for old bits of boat docks,

presumably old bits of boat dock belonging to the State,

though, according to my GPS, this is getting awfully close to National Forest land.

At any rate, it entertains me for a while as I poke through the old equipment and try to figure out how it was all used. (I finally decide that the tanks embedded in concrete were the old supply tanks for the fuel dock.)

After I finish poking through the trash I finally find an indication of a trail nearby, though this is the first I’m hearing of a Bluebird Trail.

I know from personal experience how difficult cutting new trails can be and I can’t help but wonder where Mark Pemberton is now because I'd like to thank him. Assuming Mark was 16 or 17 at the time he did this trail he would be near my daughter’s age.

Well I don’t know if he ever comes out here and hikes his trail anymore, but I’m going to.

Partway up Mark’s Bluebird Trail, and firmly back in National Forest land according to my GPS, I pause for the cause.

Using a convenient log to prop up my backback, which is going to make a comfortable backrest, and the heavy folded shirt I have in the pack (Now sitting on the log behind.) as a seat cushion, I make myself a sweet little nest.

If you look close at my GPS track (The third image from the top of this post.) you can see that, purely by coincidence, yesterday's lunch-stop, that short little out-and-back 'coma' off the un-highlighted GPS track of yesterday, is within shouting distance of today's (That pointy tip at the top of the highlighted GPS track) In on-the-ground terms, yesterdays lunch was on top of the ridge to the left in this photo above.

But coincidence to not, today's spot is just as perfect for snacking and solitary contemplation.

But even in the best of circumstances I can take just so much contemplation before I’m repeating myself, or facing uncomfortable truths, so it’s back to the trail, which soon dips back into State land.

Well, back on the trail for a little while anyway.

Because it isn’t long before I spot glimpses of something lurking in the trees up on top of a ridge over to my left.

Making sure to keep an eye on my back-trail so I can get back to the real trail once I’m done exploring, I wander off up-ridge to discover this 150,000 gallon water tank.

It was put here in 1967, presumably to service the State Recreation Area since that’s what’s downhill of it, but it’s hard to tell if the tank is still in use or not. I try banging on it from ground level up to as high as I can reach to see if there is water in it, but it sounds the same all the way up to me so I just don’t know.

Although, if it is still in use it certainly could use a little loving care!!

But used or abandoned, the tank makes for an interesting side trip and another excuse for some more of that solitary contemplation.

But too much of a good thing and all that, so from here it’s back to the trail, then the trailhead, then back to the campsite where I’ll while away another pleasant, sunny afternoon as Harvey lashes viciously at the homestead a thousand miles away. . .


  1. When I saw the word "Whitetail" in your title, it reminded me of that whitetail deer sprinting away from Stella making a weird sound.

    1. They do have a surprising range of sounds don't they? The most common one I get is the 'sneezey bark' when I get too close, but a few times I've also gotten the 'bleat' that you usually hear between does and their fawns. This is usually when they think I'm too slow tossing out some feed but they want to be polite about it.