Sunday, October 24, 2010

Bridges of Parke County

Our vacation took us to Parke County Indiana to the Covered Bridge Festival.  Of the over thirty-three bridges still open to the public, we visited about fifteen.  Parke County calls itself the "Covered Bridge Capital of the World."  The cost of this Festival is a little gas in the car (unless you choose to ride bicycles).  There may be the cost, if you choose, for numerous (and I mean thousands upon thousands) of roadside stands selling everything from stuff to antiques to crafts to arts and foods.  But, be assured, they are selling in the friendliest of manner; willing to share history, directions, and a talk on the weather.     

Most covered bridges are over small streams, a few have been moved to other places so modern farm machinery could cross and some are on private land.

This part of Indiana has a large population of Amish, Mennonite and Quaker families.  Several times we met buggies and noticed quite a few vendors had plain folks tending the booths.  Stopping for their homemade noodles, cheese, pretzels and whoopie pies are just a few of the pleasures these folks bring to the country markets. The Old Order Amish do not want their faces evident in photos so I made sure I didn't insult their beliefs - hence this distant photo. 

This area of Southern Indiana is especially beautiful this time of the year and driving the back roads to get to bridges over creeks called Raccoon, Otter, Leatherwood and Sugar gave us many beautiful views. 

The starting point for the Covered Bridge Festival is Rockville IN and the area encompasses Turkey Run State Park, Shades State Park, Cecil M. Harden Lake and other historical sites.  For history buffs, it is close to Dana IN where there is an Ernie Pyle exhibit, many sites housing Quaker facilities and settlements and lots of very old, tiny and "quaint" villages.   

Most of the stream beds were nearly dry from the extensive drought this area has been experiencing but those hills around the bridges are still alive with native trees and plants.  The Sycamore "Platanus occidentalis L." , Tulip "Liriodendron tulipifera L.",  plus many varieties of oak, maple and birch still line the banks.  There is something beautiful and serene about the many colored leaves laying on the banks and grounds - highlighting the old bridge structures.  

This doesn't appear to be a wealthy part of the country which may be the reason it has been preserved from the wreaking ball of progress.  Another benefit for this Hoosier is I get to be re acclimated to the friendliness of Indiana residents.  It's just poor manners for anyone to pass another person and not pause to speak and politely inquire about your day.  In my day (seriously did I just say that???), you budgeted your time to allow those friendly conversations and nothing branded you an "outsider" more quickly than lack of eye contact and a failure to give a friendly how-dee-doo.  

I enjoy the fact the trees we saw were perhaps hundreds of years old and a reminder that what we plant today is an investment in the generations of the future.  One state park brochure stated each mature tree gives off fifty gallons of moisture every twenty-four hours.  Now that's a gift for the generations!

To see more about Parke County Indiana:

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