Deam Lake Recreation Area, IN 9/07/19/9/08/19

Trails: Trail 1, Trail 2

Length: 1.5 miles

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After meeting up with Joel, we drove about half an hour north from New Albany, IN to this tucked away camping gem. Named for Charles Deam, the first state forester of Indiana of whom a Wilderness area is also named in honor of, the spot is a quiet place to camp on the nearly 200 acre Deam Lake. Built in 1965, it’s mostly used for flood control and recreational activities. Unfortunately, not bringing my kayak would mean not getting to explore it by water, as the center that rents out boats was closed for the season. It’s worth noting the campground itself closes from just before Thanksgiving to March. When we arrived, I was surprised to see how few people were camped here, despite the wonderful early fall weather. This would be Joel’s first camping trip in a number of years, and my first time back camping in Indiana since the Great Midwest Trip of 2015.

Pulling into the recreation area, we stopped to chat with the folks at the pay station, mostly about the trails. They recommended several of the shorter ones, but also told us the southern terminus of the state’s longest trail, the Knobstone Trail, was here too. At 52 miles long, that would be something for another trip, ha! After the previous night’s nightmarish bug problem, we decided to check out the bathhouses, and I was again shocked at what I found. However, this shock was from how nice they were. I’m not sure I’ve used bathhouses that were this well kept anywhere I’d camped before. We easily found the campsite, and I picked well, as there were a number of trees to hang a hammock from. I was surprised at the lack of other campers on such a night day. We were the almost the only people in this entire section. After a quick setup and testing of things, we drove over to the nature store to see the gift shop (a lot of local crafts), and very impressive array of interpretive exhibits. Perhaps my favorite thing about the place was the long box style bird/squirrel feeder on the outside of the long window which gave me lots of ideas about constructing similar at home. Instead of hiking here afterwards, we decide to go explore Charleston State Park (that’s another journal!), and arrived back here after dark, later than expected.

Our game plan for tomorrow was to either hike the two short trails here or one of the longer trails before departing for Clifty Falls State Park. True to camping form, we stayed up until almost 1am making s’mores. This trip featured an experiment with a Hershey Gold bar in place of the chocolate, which we used too. The Hershey Gold was surprisingly good, and sort of blended in flavor with the marshmallow. Sleeping came in fits and spurts, as we unfortunately both used a younger tree as a tie off, and I could feel every move Joel made in his hammock. One of the drawbacks of relying on vibration to wake me due to my hearing loss. The forecast ended up off track as well, with the low temp reaching the lower 50’s instead of upper 50’s. I ended up cold and spent the last few hours sleeping in the car where I finally warmed from the lightweight sleeping bag that didn’t do it’s job. Joel looked like a cocoon in his hammock, and after attempting to nudge him awake, I instead went on to hike the short quarter mile Trail #2. I opted to just walk down to the trailhead within the campground, which was not really a trailhead and sort of sits behind one of the campsites at the far end of the campground. I walked the edge of the brush line, and climbed the initial little dirt mound past goldenrod blooming. This was a younger forest, with a lot of storm damage. It didn’t take long to reach the bridge that was in view from almost the start of the trail, surrounded by chest deep jewelweed, and even taller woodland sunflowers. While the bridge itself was about 60ft long, the stream here was only about 10ft across, and a couple feet deep. Though it didn’t have much movement to it, I’m not sure it sees backwash from the lake, which is controlled by a large dam. Even the meanders were a bit hidden from the thick smartweed and jewelweed that extended the length of it downstream towards Lake Deam. Ahead, the forest looked clearcut. Researching this afterward, it was once home to a stand of pines, and while there are remnants now, most of the stand fell about 10 years ago, and the regrowth has been all deciduous in nature. With no canopy for shade the trail cut through here since then has become an overgrown mess. I picked up several ticks through here, but managed to get them before they attached. This area brought a plethora of wildflowers into the mix, from goldenrod, morning glories, white snakeroot, slender false foxglove, and more woodland sunflowers. I took my time stepping through this area despite the ticks just to see the wildflowers. As the trail ventured to the left, I came across another bridge, this one only about 10ft in length. This little stream also had a little water, but stunk heavily from stagnation. Beautiful lobelia was in bloom along it’s banks. The bridge marks the end of the trail, just across the road from one of the picnic shelters. I wandered down in an attempt to get close to the lake, but again the brush was high.

I opted for a road walk back to the campsite, which took longer than I’d intended. I’d originally hoped to be up and it, hike here and be on the road to Clifty Falls State Park by 9am or 10am, and it was already approaching 10am. I located the start of Trail #1, which the brochure says goes through a stand of loblolly pines, but I’d be sorely disappointed in this, as there wasn’t a single pine tree to speak of. First, though, I wandered back to camp and roused Joel awake. And after a quick breakfast and enjoying the last of the warmth from the morning fire, we packed up camp. Stick bugs seem to be out and about right now, and I had to coax one off my backpack onto a tree where it wandered up until it felt safe and promptly blended in. We then headed for the horse parking area, which serves as a starting point for several trails, including Trail #1. The trail makes a loop, but it’s not clear from the start here where the other part of the loop ties back in. The obvious path was to the right past the little footbridge, and it’s a wide easy path clear of pretty much any brush or weeds. After three hikes the last two days on trails where I felt like I was constantly wading through them, this was a relief. We passed an old wooden bench that I’m not sure I’d trust myself to sit on before finding a dry stream crossing after a brief walk up a hill. The path followed alongside the drainage for a little while before lifting to the right through old storm damage and up to the top of another little ridge. Following the ridge for a while we then dropped down again, with another dry stream appearing well downhill to the right. A side trail seemed to lead off down to the creek, but we quickly found a sharp steep embankment separating us and the creek by about 20ft.

As the trail continued to bend to the left, we came across more goldenrod in bloom, and a small purple plant I couldn’t identify. They both sat next to an old Native American marker tree. I know little of the tribes in this area, and it’s direction would eventually lead to the man-made Lake Deam and beyond. A small social trail or game trail existed here and well, and I scurried to the bottom for a few photos, hoping to find cardinal flower in bloom, but came up empty handed. The trail drops off into the dry bed here right beside an undercut area, exposing the rock strata for about 15ft. I did come across an Odin Stone, which was a nice find, especially so close to the marker tree. Upstream I could see more storm damage, or maybe it was pine beetle damage that destroyed the loblolly stand the trail was supposed to showcase. I scrambled back up the 20ft embankment almost on hands and knees, and we continued on, crossing a grassy dry stream bed on a bridge before heading slightly uphill. The trail stayed high on the north ridge above a different wide stream below to our right that appeared to have some water, but we didn’t venture off trail to explore it. Soon the trail would drop down again into a drainage, crossing another bridge right at the junction of two arms of the larger stream we’d been paralleling. Both of these streams were quite dry as well. The last quarter mile or so of the trail was uneventful, heading uphill past another rotting bench before ending at the small playground area just past the campground entrance.

Crossing the road, we decided to make an effort to get down to the lake itself, driving to the beach where the concessions were closed for the season. As such, so were the boat rentals, which was a bummer. Only a few folks were out swimming. Interestingly, there were more people with metal detectors in the water than swimmers. On the far south end of the beach area was a pier that extended out a bit, so we walked that instead of the beach, even if the pier was slightly tilted at an odd angle. The water was extremely clear, and given that one picnic table was submerged off the end, it was likely 5 or 6ft deep here at the pier’s end. The only spot it wasn’t clear was the south side of the lake, with one shore of this cove/arm so thick with small water lilies extending about 30ft from shore it was hard to see the water. I spooked a green heron photographing these lilies, and luckily the heron sat still long enough on a far fallen tree to get a photo of him as well. Time had really slipped away from us this morning, but it was a great night camping. It was time for one last adventure at Clifty Falls State Park before the long drive home.

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