Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Jackson State Forest Back Country Trail

[caption id="attachment_635" align="alignleft" width="300" caption="Jackson State Forest Back Country Trail"]Jackson State Forest Back Country Trail[/caption]


We hiked the Jackson State Forest Backcountry Trail at Jackson Washington State Forest, near Brownstown, Indiana. This is a lengthy trail of eight miles which is located in a fairly out of the way spot in southern Indiana. To get there, go to Brownstown, which is located on US 50, east of Bedford and west of Seymour, Indiana. Take State Road 135 south thirteen miles to Rooster Hill Road. Turn left and after twisting 2.3 miles on this road, it dead ends into Delaney Park Road. Turn right and drive .7 miles. The Spurgeon Lake turnoff is on the left and the trail head is located here. The lane back is sort of interesting, so take it slow. Very slow.

The lake is a popular fishing spot, so there will usually be quite a few cars there on a weekend. I will be writing a bit more about this trail and about Jackson State Forest in the days ahead.




Once you arrive at Spurgeon Lake you are ready to hike the trail. Since this is a fairly long hike by our standards, we usually take two liters of water and a backpack full of trail food. It is eight miles long, and usually consumes around four to five hours for us.

I usually carry the water, two bottles strapped to my waist, my wife takes the backpack of food. I also carry my camera, extra batteries and a pedometer.

The trailhead is to the left of the boat ramp and is marked with a sign. The first part along Spurgeon Lake can be somewhat muddy in places, especially in the spring. But the lake is pretty and the vegetation is lush now with many different types of ferns and jewelweed which is preparing for its summer show of color.

After you have hiked about a quarter of a mile you will reach the junction of the trail where the north (upper) trail branches off from the south (lower) trail. We always take the north loop towards the Jackson State Forest Delaney Trailhead first. The beginning is a pretty steep ascent up the face of the knob and we like to hike this on fresh legs. The lower trail is a fairly level downstream hike along Spurgeon Creek and is a good way to finish the trail when you are tiring.


So here we turn left, and almost immediately begin to climb. As mentioned earlier this is pretty steep and fairly long. The trail winds its way up the knob. At the top, there is a spur to the left to an overlook. This is a good view in the fall or very early spring of the surrounding countryside. As the leaves are now on the trees, the view is blocked so we don’t go that way, opting to travel right.

Once you reach the top of the knob, it is pretty level hiking for the next mile or so. You will pass a small wildlife pond on the right, a good place to see frogs and tadpoles as well as a nice variety of aquatic insects.

Multi-flora rose scents the trail here as we pass along. The forest canopy is thin here, sunlight dapples the ground. Earlier in the year, or in the autumn, a nice view of the surrounding countryside is afforded by the height of the knob.

After another a half hour or so of hiking a fork in the trail is reached. The trail which branches off to the right is a shortcut which will take several miles off the hike. This may be recommended in extremely wet weather, as the creek further on needs to be forded and may be too high. We have never taken the shortcut, so I know nothing about it.

Instead, we elect to take the longer route toward the Delaney Trailhead. So here we turn left and head downhill.

The trail falls and curls to the north, passes the Jackson State Forest Delaney trailhead which enters from the left. Our route lays to the right. The trail crosses a creek, then follows it for a half mile or so. This is a very pretty section of the hike. Then up again, climbing steeply to the top of another knob. The high areas of the knob are dominated by chestnut oak, red oak, sugar maple, hickory and sassafras trees. The air is alternately perfumed by multi-flora rose and pine, which are present in some stretches of the trail.

The trail again falls, re-crosses the creek and again climbs. On this section two meadow areas are present as you hike along a fire road. The open areas are loaded with summer blooming wildflowers, multi-flora rose and other sun loving plants.

During this stretch we ran into an interesting fellow on a hike with his two young daughters. We chatted a bit about the area, the trail and wildlife inhabiting the area. He lives nearby, hikes this trail fairly often. He hunts, fishes and traps. The fur from the animals he traps he doesn’t sell, using it instead for his own use, or making products to sell. He was wearing a buckskin shirt, which was quite nice. It had beadwork of his own design on each shoulder. The beadwork is done using seed beads, each individually stitched into place. He mentioned that beaver are fairly common in the area, and are good eating. The tail is the best, consisting of a very dark, tender meat. He has caught river otter in his traps twice, accidentally. These animals are very tough to release when caught. They are large, aggressive and very active. He managed to release one, accidentally killed the other. The otter were released by the Department of Natural Resources in Muscatatuck National Wildlife Area and have followed the river down. They now inhabit the river and all its tributaries.

After bidding farewell to our friend, we continued the hike. It turns right, descends one last time. Spurgeon Creek is first on the right. This is the last leg of the trail and it is simply wonderful. Large sycamore trees tower over the rocky bedded creek. The knobs tower over the creek on both sides and the floodplain of the creek is lush with ferns and other wild plants.

A final crossing of Spurgeon Creek, and there is about a mile left.

We finally finished the trail around 5:45 PM, the pedometer indicates about eight miles. This is one of the best trails at Jackson State Forest.

Back To Jackson-Washington State Forest

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