It’s a new year and my bucket list of the places I want to hike keeps growing! When the temperatures get down to below freezing, I like to keep it a little closer to home.
I think that winter hikes are beautiful, and yes, I do hike in the winter. I have found an inherent stillness in the woods during the winter. It can be a very tranquil walk. I often revisit places that I have previously hiked at this time of year. I especially love the state parks in the winter months. I recently made a trip down to Shakamak State Park.
Shakamak, the seventh State park in Indiana, was established in 1929 on a tract of land donated to the State by Clay, Greene and Sullivan counties. The 56-acre Lake Shakamak was created using an abandoned railroad as a dam. Lake Lenape, a 49-acre impoundment initially named Lake Jason, was created in 1933, while the 290-acre Lake Kickapoo became a reality in the 60's. Shakamak's and Lenape's waters overflow in Lake Kickapoo, which runs off in the Big Branch Creek. The park consists of 1766 acres in total and has seven hiking trails. It's located off of West State Highway 48 near Jasonville.
"Shakamak" is a Kickapoo Indian word meaning “river of the long fish” (eels). Although absent in the lakes because of the dams which cut the natural water flow from all three of them, freshwater eels are found in the nearby Eel and Wabash Rivers.
The Lake Lenape loop would be my chosen trail for the day. I would have to hike two trails to complete the loop. Trail 3 is 1.4 miles in length and takes the hiker through an oak forest along the north shore of Lake Lenape, to the camp store. It intersects with Trail 4, which is 1.6 miles in length as well and follows a path through oak trees and pines.
Bridges and stairs add to the beauty. Both trails are considered moderate in ease of hiking.
It was a chilly day when I hiked these two trails. Layering of clothes is a sure way to keep warm, and layered I was! The sky was overcast as well. Not that this made a big difference except when taking photos. Sunshine always brightens up a lake!
I started on trail 3 and almost immediately encountered my first set of steps and boardwalks! This was going to be fun. I was hopeful for what the day would bring. It did not take long for Lake Lenape to come into my view!
I was walking as quietly as possible in hopes that I might be able to observe some wildlife around the lake. I heard and saw a variety of Woodpeckers along my trek through the woods. There was also a lot of evidence left behind as proof of their presence: drill holes in old rotted trees and logs. Quite a few as a fact. By this time, I had walked across several boardwalks and down a few sets of steps.
The next set of a dozen or so steps that I descended, led me to an intersection where trails 3 and 4 separated. Of course, I continued on trail 4. More steps to climb! But I was enjoying myself immensely.
The forest around me was so quiet. I was hoping to see more birds. Some Indiana birds are year-round residents: cardinals, blue jays, sparrows, finches, nuthatches, titmice, chickadees, woodpeckers of course.
I finally did see some more woodpeckers. I believe that it was just too cold for them and that they were hunkered down someplace staying warm. Maybe that’s where I should have been. But hiking is a four-season thing for me. It’s a new experience every time I go. The lake was frozen over in places and the dull gray surface of the water, reflected the overcast gray sky. Yep! It was winter alright.
I had a great time exploring as I made my way around the lake. I didn’t see another soul while on this trail. Brings a new meaning to the words, “solo hike”. I didn’t mind a bit. I enjoyed the silence of the forest. Over the years it has taught me to listen to nature. In turn, it has taught me more about the forests, mountains, lakes, and deserts that I love.
I finally decided to make my way back to car. It was time. It had been a good day. And it had been a great winter hike!
To get to this place: Take State Highway 46 West out of Spencer and turn left on Highway 246 to Clay City. Continue to Jasonville on Highway 48 from there and the entrance is close to the town. The address is 6265 West State Road 48, Jasonville, Indiana.
A quote for your week: “What lies behind us and what lies before us are tiny matters compared to what lies within us” - Ralph Waldo Emerson - American Essayist - 1802-1882.
Until the next trail,
This article originally appeared on Evening World: Hiker's Path: The winter’s silence - A hike at Lake Lenape