I love spring in southern Indiana, and I’m SO glad it’s finally arrived! When I learned about the Indiana State Nature Program, I thought it might be the perfect way to jump into the season and shake the dust off, get some exercise, and have some fun while we used our Indiana Master Naturalist training. I purchased an Annual State Park Entrance Permit ($25 Golden Hoosier Pass for 65 and older) and downloaded the free “digital passport” app. Now I have 59 properties at my fingertips and new adventures, prizes and sweepstakes ahead!

We knew we’d be visiting family in Spencer, Indiana last Sunday, so we decided to stay a night at McCormick’s Creek State Park and spend a day exploring. It was a beautiful but blustery afternoon when we checked into Canyon Inn, and when we woke early to hit the hiking trail, it was only 30 degrees outside. Brrrrr. While we waited for weather to warm a bit, we enjoyed the Birdwatcher breakfast in the dining room and watched birds darting from window feeders to nearby trees. No rare sightings, but it was fun to see a hairy woodpecker, red belly woodpecker, cardinal, titmouse, nuthatch and chickadee flit back and forth.

The Indiana Birding Trail recommends a hike including Trail 8 and Trail 5 (through Wolf Cave Nature Preserve) for the best chance of catching a glimpse of the more unusual birds in the park area. (Click here for the printed guide – McCormick’s Creek SP is on page 33.) We weren’t lucky enough to see more than robins, thrushes and such during our hike, but we were surrounded with plenty of early spring beauty. (Learn about the park’s geology here.)

Although we didn’t see him, we could hear the pileated woodpecker knocking on trees deeper in the woods. And there was plenty of evidence of his work on decayed trees throughout the forest floor!

I’m no artist, but I do enjoy stopping to sketch plants during a hike. I made a quick marker drawing of some yet unbloomed trillium and bloodroot wildflowers that I could watercolor later. BTW, check out Wildflowers of Indiana illustrated by Hoosier Maryrose Wampler if you want to see truly beautiful renderings of wildflowers in situ.

I enjoy trying to identify the wildflower species as we walk along, but considering it was still early spring this weekend at the park, there were few blooms to be seen. It really challenged me to have only bits of greenery to give me clues about the future flowering species!

Terrain was beautiful, even though the woodlands had not quite awakened. Bare tree limbs overhead and crunchy brown leaves underfoot.

Spring rains gave us some stream fording challenges along the way. Not that water was deep, but slippery rocks and senior hikers can be an awkward combination. No worries – dry socks in the car!

We saw only two or three people in our first hour on the trail, but as we headed back toward the inn we saw several small groups setting out, visiting the Canyon Falls, and passing by on horseback. I guess we weren’t the only ones happy to be looking for spring at McCormick’s Creek State Park.

 Next week we’ll be visiting Clifty Falls State Park in our hometown of Madison, Indiana with two of our grandchildren on their spring break. Another Indiana State Nature Passport check in coming up!

Many thanks to Indiana Department of Natural Resources and Visit Indiana for creating the Passport program and encouraging us to discover new places and enjoy the outdoors.

Written by


One thing that makes my journey unique is that all of my interests are driven by a joyful and genuine curiosity. I delight in finding less expensive ways to make something or creative ways to enjoy something longer. Finding and creating joy - and sharing it - is core to who I am.