Picks of the LitterBy Bryant Lewis and Joel Corbin
This Edition's Litter: Spring Break Destinations
Bryant's Pick: Shawnee National ForestSpring break is coming! Yes, it's just about that time of year when you get all your friends together, pile in the cramped car, and head on down to Florida for another typical spring break. You drive for 20 hours straight, get a speeding ticket, spend five nights in an overpriced dump, sunbathe on a filthy beach, and waste all your money on cheap beer (or so I've heard). Well, if you're sick of these money-draining vacations, why not spend a couple days in the great outdoors?
The Shawnee National Forest lies in beautiful, unglaciated southern Illinois. Most of Indiana can reach it by heading west on I-70, then south on I-57. Other Hoosiers can reach the Shawnee by heading west on I-64, then south on Illinois Route 1. The forest itself consists of some of the most wild and scenic places anywhere in the Midwest. Numerous campgrounds are located within the forest, many of which are quite nice. You'll also find that many of the recreation areas are kept up quite well, and offer a wide variety of activities.
The Garden of the Gods is sure to be a place you'll want to visit. Beautiful stone cliffs offer a great chance to go rock climbing (rappelling is not allowed, but people do it anyway), and there are numerous backwoods trails through the forest. The cliffs and rock formations are a great place to have a picnic, and beautiful camping sites are in close proximity. Nearby, Bell Smith Springs is the location of a beautiful pond and a stream that flows through a carved, stone cliff-lined valley.
Cave-In-Rock state park is a short drive away, and overlooks the Ohio River. This area was a prominent hangout for the river bandits of the early 1800's, and remains a very popular destination. Boating, canoeing, and swimming is all possible at nearby Pounds Hollow, if it isn't too cold, and offers some desirable campgrounds as well. These areas tend to be well known amongst the local folk, and you'll often find yourself as part of a rather large crowd if the weather is right.
If you're more ambitious and enjoy hiking or backpacking, the River-To-River Trail would be a great place for you. Over the course of more than 100 miles, the trail connects the eastern Ohio River with the Mississippi River. It traverses many of the enjoyable sites listed above, but is probably too long to attack in one stretch. The eastern stretch is decidedly more wild, and would make for a fantastic two or three day hike.
If your goal this year is to find something different and refreshing to do for spring break, take your camping gear and drive down to the Shawnee National Forest. You'll enjoy the wilderness, and avoid all the hassle of another typical trip to Florida!
For more information on the Shawnee National Forest visit:
Joel's Pick: Michigan (in general)If you're looking for an unusual trip this spring while at the same time staying close to Indiana, then our neighbor to the north is your best bet. Whether you want to go camping, skiing, visit a big city, or even leave the country, Michigan is the answer to your need.
I've spent a number of family vacations in Michigan, and I've always come home having enjoyed myself. For the fitness conscious, Michigan is a very bike-friendly state. Regardless of whether you're into on or off-road riding, one destination I particularly recommend is the Kal-Haven Trail. It's a recreational trail on the eastern side of the state that was developed from an abondoned rail line between Kalamazoo and South Haven. Kalamazoo (the home of Western Michigan University) has many chain hotels and motels, so there's plenty of lodging available. Drive up, stay overnight, and explore the trail (which only costs $2 for an individual day-pass). Then you can drive home or enjoy the WMU night life.
If you're into winter sports, Michigan has several ski areas a short distance into the state. The one I have visited most recently (and my favorite to date) is Timber Ridge. This area, located in Gobles (20 miles west of Kalamazoo), supports both traditional alpine skiing as well as snowboarders. One popular feature is night skiing, where floodlights illuminate the slopes. The resort has lodging available, with some chain motels in close proximity. Rates are reasonable, $19 for weekday lift tickets and $16 for ski rentals. I found the slopes sufficiently challenging, with 70% of the fifteen trails rated "More Difficult."
Lessons are available as well. Timber Ridge is scheduled to close in mid-March, but since that depends on weather conditions, you will want to telephone the resort for more information. Check out this link for more information (including phone numbers).
If you're looking to get out of the country altogether while taking a great road trip, then you will enjoy the drive to Sault Ste. Marie and on into Canada. Or you can enjoy the many state parks in the more rustic Upper Peninsula. One I recommend is Tahquamenon Falls State Park. Located in the aptly named Paradise, this park boasts the second-largest waterfall east of the Mississippi. The surrounding area offers many features camping, cross-country skiing, and hiking, as well as hunting and fishing. For more information go to this site.
Finally, if you just want to shop, see a concert, or attend a sporting event, you should drive to Detroit. It has many malls and upscale stores, and if you're in a sporting mood there's always the Red Wings and Pistons.
For a fun filled spring break, don't follow the crowd down south. Save a few dollars and enjoy one of the best vacations you'll ever take. Say, "Yes! Michigan!" and you'll have agreat time.