In 2019, Beth and I moved into our 'downsizer' home, but we never spent much time together here. New Year's Eve celebrations are no longer what they once were, so I have taken a different approach. On the last day of 2021, I went wandering in eastern Indiana looking for angling roads. On the first day of 2023, I went seeking covered bridges that I had not yet visited and this meant a trip to western Indiana where there is a high concentration of these historic structures.
Not expecting restaurants to be open on New Year's Day, I packed a picnic lunch, but the weather wasn't very picnicky - mid-40ºs, cloudy, and damp. I ended up eating in the truck and that was okay. While Parke County, Indiana is well-known for its 30+ covered bridges, there are nine more next door in Putnam County. My goal was not to visit them all, but see the ones near Clinton Falls and then venture into Parke County.
Drove through Zionsville and west to SR 267 then south of Fayette to the RR viaduct at CR 1000N. Turned and jogged over to SR 39 into Lizton and took several pictures there. (L to R: Knights of Pythias Castle Hall, Former School now apartments)
Went west on SR136 for a few miles then cross country to SR75 and south into North Salem where I took more pictures. Went WSW to McCloud Nature Preserve and Park along Big Walnut Creek. On the way, I took pictures of an old Iron Truss bridge. Park looks nice and worth a return visit in better weather.
Slide Show: #1 Eel River School entry now attached to North Salem Elementary School, #2 Former North Salem Town Hall, #3 North Salem Christian Church with Preserved bell tower, #4 Iron truss bridge near Big Walnut Creek Nature Preserve.
Driving, especially on New Year's Day, is a time to reflect and project. I am glad to have survived another year as a widower, still trying to figure out this journey. I am so blessed with caring family and friends and engaging projects. What will the upcoming year bring? I am teaching cultural heritage tourism back in the classroom, managing several consulting projects, and hopefully some major grant work for rural communities through Rural ReImagined. And, more time as a new grandpa!
The first draft of my book, Life Off The Highway, is being reviewed by two colleagues. And, trips like today's are more episodes in my never-ending journey to wander Indiana. I hope that I can get the book to press this year. These thoughts and many more flooded my mind as I drove through rural Indiana. And, I am always conscious of Beth's 'empty seat' beside me.
Stopped at C-store just east of Bainbridge for a quick break and then began the covered bridge hunt. Downstream from McCloud Nature Preserve (worth a return trip) are two bridges that I visited -- Rolling Stone Bridge and Pine Bluff Bridge. Both span Big Walnut Creek which eventually joins Mill Creek to create Eel River near Cataract Falls. This is the southern Eel River as there is another stream with the same name in northern Indiana?!?
Stopped for pictures of the United Methodist Church at Brick Chapel (red brick, wouldn't you know). Crossed US231 and headed to Clinton Falls. I came upon Clinton Falls Community Church and across the road was Clinton Falls Cemetery with a beautiful brick arch entry with what looked like the name plate from a former school building. Following Little Walnut Creek I wound another mile or so until arriving at Clinton Falls. According to the Putnam County tourism guide, "Clinton Falls serves as the name of the small town and the name of the natural occurring waterfall along Little Walnut Creek in the northwest part of the county. Originally called Booneville until 1874 when a traveling salesman suggested it be changed to Clinton Falls in honor of the falls and Clinton Township." Took several pictures here. Just north of the falls is Edna Collins Covered Bridge.
I could tell from the scenery and the projected travel time that I was in the unglaciated portion of Indiana. It was more than a half hour to drive 17 miles to Bridgeton. On my route, I came across Big Rocky Fork Bridge which Beth and I had visited many years ago on another wandering excursion. Crossed SR59 at Mansfield and crossed the covered bridge and passed the Grist Mill we visited and took many good photos on a sunnier day.
Slide Show: #1 Rolling Stone Covered Bridge, #2 Pine Bluff Covered Bridge, #3 Brock Chapel UMC, #4 Clinton Falls Cemetery, #5  Clinton Falls, #7 Edna Collins Bridge
Continued west in search of Conley’s Ford Covered Bridge which spans Big Raccoon Creek. Before I arrived at my next stop, I came across an iron truss bridge next to a new bridge on Mansfield Road over the same stream. Next up was Bridgeton with its operating Grist Mill and namesake Covered Bridge. This bridge was rebuilt in 2006 by volunteers after an arsonist lit it up in 2005. While I already had several pictures of this bridge and other local buildings from our earlier trip, I did not have a good picture of the bridge and mill from the north side, but I do now! This is probably the most photographed covered bridge in the Parke County collection because of its location and access.
Headed NNW toward Rockville to find two more bridges over Little Raccoon Creek. First up was the Nevins Covered Bridge and then the strangely positioned Neet Covered Bridge a few miles upstream. Here, the one-lane bridge (as they all are) sits up high above the stream. Adjacent to it is a concrete slab ford with culverts. This allows for bigger vehicles, think farm equipment, to cross the creek in this agricultural valley.
Slide Show: #1 Big Rocky Fork Covered Bridge, #2 Conley’s Ford Covered Bridge, #3 Iron truss bridge next to a new bridge over Big Raccoon Creek, #4 Bridge and Mill at Bridgeton, #5 Nevins Covered Bridge, #6 Neet Covered Bridge
I tried to find one more, but couldn’t find the bridge over Cornstalk Creek near the hamlet of Raccoon, Drove north on SR231 then east to Ladoga on SR234 and continued to Jamestown. SR 75 was closed at I-74 so I turned east and drove cross country to SR39 and then SR 267 at Fayette. Drove north and crossed over I-65 and came across Boone and Hamilton Counties arriving at my sister-in-law's for dinner right on time.
No matter the reason or the season, I encourage you to take a trip. Find a road that intrigues you and take it. Maybe you want to see an historic courthouse, hike a nature preserve or park, or find a covered bridge. Or, maybe time alone with someone special. It always worked for Beth and I and still does!