Let me tell you a story….
A couple of years ago, I went on a little vacation. I reserved myself a nice suite at the Inn at Clifty Falls, I packed up a bag full of library books I never got the chance to read, and I left the kids with Hubby and headed south. The inn was lovely. Everyone was friendly. The sounds of the Ohio River came in through the open door of my own personal deck. I spent the first 24 hours or so doing nothing but reading books and eating junk food. Then, on that fateful second afternoon, as I was finishing up the book Drop Dead Healthy: One Man’s Humble Quest for Bodily Perfection, that is when it happened. I thought, “I should go get some fresh air and stretch my legs.” Big. Mistake.
Let me amend that. Not a big mistake had I done it like a normal person with a sense of direction and distance. Then I could have grabbed a map, paid attention to where I was going, and taken a reasonable jaunt through the woods. I did none of those things. I walked to the observation deck, saw how beautiful everything was, then decided to go a little further. And a little further. And a little further. Until I ended up on Trail 8, taking it for all 4.5 miles through the park. Already I was pretty sure I was going to die there. I am NOT a 4.5 mile- through the woods kind of girl. Nor was I prepared to be this day. I had no water, shoes that were more cute than functional, and no map. So I FINALLY make it out of the trail and it spits me out AT THE COMPLETE OPPOSITE END OF THE PARK. I had to walk to roads the complete length of the park, from the North gate to the South gate where the Inn is located. Finally, at about 7:30 p.m., I made it back to my room. Covered in blisters, dehydrated, exhausted. Yet with a strange feeling of accomplishment. I got lost in the wilderness and lived to tell the tale! I should write a book about this harrowing adventure (yes, I’m being dramatic. I understand I was never in real danger. But that’s not how it felt at the time!).
So it is with these mixed feelings I decided the family should visit Clifty Falls State Park this past weekend. Let me say first, the drive is LONG. It did not seem so long when I was on my own, listening to loud music and probably driving a little too fast. But with the children and lunch time approaching, it felt like it took FOREVER. And the park is HUGE. So once we finally entered (and, by the way, the first thing I did was ask for a map), we still had to drive for a few minutes to get our bearings and figure out where we wanted to be. We decided to start with Trail 7. It is considered “moderately rugged” and leads you to the Big and Little Clifty Falls.
We saw Little Clifty, got the obligatory pictures, then kept going. The trail leads you down to Clifty Creek bed.
The creek bed was a favorite spot of the boys and dog. There was very little water in it. Enough for Steve (the dog) to have a drink, but not enough for the boys to stomp around and get messy. It was very rocky. Little Man loved jumping from one rock to another and climbing around the fallen trees. He could have spent the entire day down there. Really I could too, but for a different reason. It was just so beautiful and serene. But, it was time to head back up.
Trail 7 takes you back up the same way you went down, so in the end we stopped at the Big Clifty overlook. A little less magical because we weren’t nearly as close as Little Clifty, but pretty cool nonetheless. After all, how many waterfalls do we get to see in Indiana??
Once we finished 7 we jumped in the car and headed to the other side of the park to see the Nature Center. I wish I’d taken more pictures of it, because the kids loved it. We got to see a few native snakes, which the kids liked because they were in aquariums and they didn’t have to touch them. Big Boy refused to go to the “Snakes Alive” talk that was available in the nature center earlier in the afternoon, because he didn’t want to see the snakes TOO up-close and personally.
They thought this replica of the falls was really awesome. Big Boy also liked the bird room, where you can sit and observe the birds outside. There are posters and books to help you identify all the birds you are seeing in the trees outside. Overall, for Big Boy, the nature center was the best part of the day.
After the nature center we took the short walk on Trail 1 over to the observation deck.
Little Man loved climbing up and down it to compare how things looked. We took the trail a little further then back up to the road and eventually back to the nature center parking lot where the car was parked. Again, uphill was not our friend. But again, we survived it. I tell myself that every time I feel like I’m probably going to pass out from exhaustion, that’s one moment closer to better health.
All in all I’d say this was a successful trip. Little Man loved it. He loved the cliffs, the rocks, pretty much everything that we said “be careful!” about. It catered to his sense of adventure. Big Boy loved the nature center, but the trails made him nervous. If we go back, we will not take Steve. He held his own, but I felt it was too steep and rocky for a dog. The water was truly beautiful but I thought Brown County trails overall were more picturesque. Due to the travel time and the ruggedness, we won’t be going back again too soon. But I am really glad we went.