Trillium sessile

Sycamore Land Trust’s Porter West preserve.

Although we’ve been closely observing Indiana’s stay-at-home COVID-19 requirements, this last weekend we took a very short drive to the Sycamore Land Trust’s Porter West preserve. It is just west of our town, Bloomington, Indiana. You may find the following map created by the Sycamore Land Trust helpful in orienting yourself.

Sycamore Land Trust Map:

Sycamore Land Trust - Porter West nature preserve map
Porter West

Once you leave town, Indiana SR 48 is a pleasant winding highway through green and rolling hills. We parked on Vernal Pike where there is a very small, two-car parking lot. Because it was full we had to park on the road. Indeed, several other cars were parked on the road as well causing us to pause and wonder whether it would be a good idea to even go in. After all, we really were trying to keep our social distance from others.

Nonetheless, with 188 acres we thought surely we could manage it. And we did. We met only two other people the entire time we were there. It is a big – or at least a big enough – place! (And lest you ask, here is the relevant bit from Indiana’s Stay-At-Home order that was in effect that day: “Families can go outside and take a walk, run, ride a bike, go fishing or boating, but they should continue to practice social distancing by remaining 6 feet away from other people.”)

Porter West Nature Preserve
Alicia and Gwen model the latest in outdoor wear.
Roundleaf ragwort
The sunny areas were brightened by Roundleaf Ragwort.

After entering the preserve we followed the “southern” route that goes by an historic cemetery (dating to about 1820 if I remember correctly) and then proceeded to go by the ponds in the lower section.

Porter West pond
The ponds appear to be spring fed.

The path then curves north around the pond and heads uphill, i.e., north. It isn’t terribly steep and there are some interesting areas along the way.

Heading north from the ponds
Heading north from the ponds.
Porter West sinkhole
A sinkhole begins to swallow a tree.

This part of Indiana is known for its limestone (used to build the Empire State Building, among others). Limestone does strange things given enough time and water. In particular, water dissolves limestone causing caves, sinkholes, and karst formations.

Fern fiddleheads unfurl.
Fern fiddleheads unfurl.
Trillium sessile
Toadshade (Trillium sessile)
Dwarf larkspur (Delphinium tricorne)
Dwarf larkspur (Delphinium tricorne)

There were lots of wildflowers along the way. The larkspur are particularly beautiful and look like their other delphinium relatives, although much smaller. The flower stalks are about 12 to 15 inches tall.

Forest canopy.
The forest canopy starts to fill.

We didn’t hike up to the northern part of the preserve (time was running out) where there is supposed to be a mature forest. These trees are along the lower east-west path.

Power line easement
Power line easement.

The path goes under this power transmission line, which is surprisingly interesting. With the increased light, the mix of plants changes dramatically.

Vernal Pike
Evening shadows start to fall along Vernal Pike

Before moving to Bloomington we heard wonderful things about the Sycamore Land Trust. The accolades are well deserved. It is a great organization that has preserved a number of important natural areas, totaling over 10,000 acres, here in southern Indiana.

Back to the car and back to staying at home, but our visit did wonders for our mental health. We’ll be back!

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