Not in front of the Union. The University Police frown on it. Besides the idea is to get away from Lafayette. One pleasant way to spend a weekend is to pack up some gear and head for the woods. Fortunately, there are a number of recreational areas not too far away which offer good camping and hiking opportunities. There are also cabins available for around thirty dollars a night if you prefer a more stable roof over your head. Turkey Run is about an hour's drive from West Lafayette and offers many camping opportunities. If you are more adventurous, or have more time on your hands, Mammoth Cabes in Kentucky is worth the drive. There is a lot of information on the state parks in Indiana at http://www.in.gov/dnr/parklake/.
These three lakes are about 1 1/2 to 2 1/2 hours northeast of Purdue and are actually reservoirs created by the Army Corps of Engineers in the late sixties. The lakes serve to control the flood stage of the Wabash River. The Indiana Department of Natural Resources maintains a recreational area around each lake that includes campgrounds, boat launches, hunting regions, swimming areas, and hiking trails. Each lake has a small, man-made beach, and the lakes are popular local motor-boating and fishing spots. Campgrounds at the beaches are not among trees, but each lake has a camping area separate from the beach region. Salamonie State Forest has especially nice campsites; each is separated from its neighbors by a stand of trees.
The best way to get to the lakes is to take SR 25 northeast out of Lafayette to Logansport. Then pick up US 24 and take it to Peru. In Peru, turn left on SR 19. Cross the bridge, then turn left (east) on SR 124. SR 124 passes just north of Mississinewa and just south of Salamonie. Watch for the signs to the lakes. Warning: Heavy doses of viewing corn may be hazardous to your health.
Mississinewa Lake info can be found at http://www.in.gov/dnr/parklake/properties/res_mississinewa.html, Slamonie Lake is at http://www.in.gov/dnr/parklake/properties/res_salamonie.html, and Huntington Lake (also known as Roush Lake) has information at http://www.in.gov/dnr/parklake/properties/res_huntington.html.
These parks, both within an hour south of Lafayette, are well-maintained, and are not too crowded in early spring and late fall. Both have many miles of beautiful trails, some of which run through gorges and quite rugged (and perpetually wet - wear your boots!) terrain. Sometimes you forget that you are in the heart of the corn belt!
Try to get into Turkey Run, if possible, because it has better trails. If it is full, you can almost always camp at the Shades. To get to both, take 231 south to Crawfordsville, then head south on 47. Watch for signs for the turnoff to the Shades (about 10 miles). If you want to go on to Turkey Run, just stay on 47. There are two entrances: the first one you encounter is the main entrance, and the second leads to a campground. There is also a trail riding barn if you wish to view the beauty of Turkey Run from the back of a horse. For camping reservations or additional information about Turkey Run State Park, call 765-597-2635 or visit their web site at http://www.in.gov/dnr/parklake/properties/park_turkeyrun.html.
Located in the beautiful hills of Brown County near Bloomington, this park is bursting with color when the leaves turn in the fall. It has excellent hiking and bridle trails. It takes about 3 hours or so to get to the park, which is 15 miles east of Bloomington. If you have problems getting into Brown County, you might consider going to nearby McCormick's Creek State Park, which, although smaller, is just as nice. For those of you who enjoy horseback riding, there is a trail ride barn which offers rides close to the park (call 812-988-8166). For camping reservations or additional information about Brown County State Park, call 812-988-6406 or visit their web site at http://www.in.gov/dnr/parklake/properties/park_browncounty.html.
While you are in the area, be sure to visit the little town of Nashville, Indiana, which is an artists' colony. On nice days you can spend hours poking around in the quaint specialty shops, visiting the small art galleries, and viewing historic homes. Nashville is also known for its ``Little Nashville Opry.'' Local restaurants and accommodations are very good should you desire a brief respite from the hard camping life.
Also near Bloomington, this area offers 182,000 acres of rolling hills, hiking trails, lakes, and streams. The best place for camping is at the Hardin Ridge Recreation Area. The campsites are very nice and spacious. Since this area is right on Lake Monroe, there is a beach for swimming. To get to Hardin Ridge, take 46 east out of Bloomington, then go south on 446. Within several miles is the Hickory Ridge Hiking Trail. Being about 15 miles long, this trail can be used for both day hiking and backpacking.
Located on the shores of Lake Michigan, these areas each have nice, large, sandy beaches for sunning and swimming, and good camping facilities. Also, there are hiking trails, and, at Indiana Dunes, a bicycle trail. But watch out for Trail #2 at Indiana Dunes. To get through alive you need wading boots and several cans of mosquito repellent per person. Over the years, the dunes have slowly moved inland and as they do so, more and more stable vegetation is able to grow on them. It is interesting to see how the type of plant life is related to the distance from the beach.
To get to these fine spots, take I-65 north to I-94 (near Gary), then go east on I-94. For Indiana Dunes, follow the signs from I-94. For Warren Dunes, continue northeast on I-94 into Michigan to New Buffalo and take the Red Arrow Highway. From New Buffalo, go north on the Red Arrow Highway and then follow the signs. It is about 2 hours to Indiana Dunes and 2 1/2 hours to Warren Dunes. For camping reservations or additional information about Indiana Dunes, call 219-926-1952 or or visit http://www.in.gov/dnr/parklake/properties/park_dunes.html. For camping reservations or additional information about Warren Dunes, call 800-5432-YES.
Kentucky Mammoth Cave National Park is next to Cave City (what else!) in the heart of Kentucky. The park provides camping and hotel accommodations. Mammoth Cave is the world's largest cave system; the name comes from the size, not from the mammals. Total length of connected caves is over 215 miles, but “only” some 25 miles are open for tourists. You can't enter the cave by yourself for obvious reasons, but park rangers lead groups on many different tours. The easiest ones are only a few miles long in developed caves with paved walkways, and the most difficult is an all day “wild tour” (helmets and headlights provided by the park; you need just old clothes and boots). The wild tour is offered only in the summertime, and you should make reservations for it weeks or months in advance. There is usually room in the other tours, but we recommend making a reservation. Also reservations for a campsite are a must.
The park is open year-round (a few holidays excluded), and the temperature in the cave is a constant cool 55-57 degrees. To get there you follow I-65 south for 5 hours. Turn right at the Cave City exit (about 30 miles before Bowling Green) and just follow the signs. There are other caves in that area too (they may be connected to Mammoth Cave), but you really want to go to the official Mammoth Cave National Park. For more info call (270)758-2180 or check out http://www.nps.gov/maca/.
You have three choices when it comes to canoeing (assuming you don't own your own canoe): you can either rent a canoe and take it anywhere you want to, or you can get in on a packaged trip, or you can get in touch with the folks in the Purdue Canoe Club. The state of Indiana provides an extensive list of local canoe liveries at http://www.ai.org/dnr/outdoor/canoegui/liver.htm. If you dare put a canoe on the top of your car, and you know of a good stretch of river to take it on, you can rent a canoe from Burnham's (743-2136, on the Levee) or from Midwest Rentals (423-5541, Brown Street on the east side). Monitor Canoe Rental (589-3506) offers canoe trips on Wildcat Creek. They are located about 10 miles east of campus on SR 26.
A little further from home, you can canoe on Sugar Creek at either Turkey Run or the Shades. Turkey Run Canoe Rental (phone: 569-6705 or 597-2456), located about an hour and a quarter south of Lafayette, is probably your best bet. It is located near Turkey Run State Park, about a half mile north of the junction of 41 and 47 on the east side of the road. They have approximately 600 canoes (some of which float) and offer you a choice of 5 trips lasting from 4 hours to 2 days. Usually, we go on their `A' (gentle) or `B' (Indiana whitewater which is the same as 'A') trips which last 4 to 6 hours and cost $13 for 2 people for all equipment and transportation. The rental corporation will pick you up downstream (`A' trip) or take you upstream (`B' trip). Clements also offers similar canoe trips on Sugar Creek near the Shades. They have a launch site at Deer's Mill near the entrance to the Shades, and another in Crawfordsville. The phone number is 362-9864.
Additionally, Clements rents kayaks for those with an adventurous spirit. Don't attempt to eskimo roll in Sugar Creek, though; it isn't deep enough in most places, and you're liable to be run over by crazed canoeists while upside-down. Besides which, the kayaks don't come with a spray skirt, so the boat will just fill up with water and you'll be embarrassed. If you're really into whitewater, there's an artificial whitewater slalom course in South Bend; contact them at (219) 233-6121. It's usually open on weekends in the summer, and is benign enough for beginners.
The Purdue Canoe Club holds callouts early each semester, and “roll sessions” in the RSC pool most Friday evenings. The Friday evening sessions are a good time to meet club members (and join up yourself; all you have to do is pass a pretty simple swimming test) and to work on your kayak/decked canoe roll, if you like. The club has a good selection of kayaks and canoes, including some nice Perception boats. They also take several trips each semester, involving streams of varying difficulty. If you'd like to progress beyond the “bambi whitewater” found in Indiana, these are the people to learn from.
Some tips on your float trip: Wear old clothes and tennis shoes. Pack your lunch and camera in waterproof bags. Bring along a change of clothes in the car. Leave your wallet in your car and your car keys with the rental people. Bring along sunscreen and plenty of fluids to drink. Beer is allowed, but make sure you don't leave any cans in the river; just because some locals occasionally think it's a trash can doesn't mean that you have to reinforce the idea. Reservations may be a good idea if you are planning a weekend jaunt. Start early in the day; some canoe liveries won't let you start any later than 10 a.m. (to ensure that you'll get back in time to return the canoe). Don't run over kayakers - some of them edit survival guides and would like to be around for next year's edition.
Tubing can be done on Wildcat Creek and Tippecanoe River. The Wildcat Creek is narrower and faster flowing than the Tippecanoe, but at certain times of the year the Tippecanoe is the only waterway around (besides the Wabash) with enough water in it. Be careful about blocking the road when you park. The local police have been known to tow as many as ten cars from near the creek on a Summer's afternoon. There are numerous access points to Wildcat Creek which have sufficient space to park your car.
Topographical Maps of the area can be obtained at Hodson's Bay Company on the Levee (limited selection) or at Blue Print Specialty (1500 Union, Lafayette). Highway Engineering Dept. in the Courthouse Annex downtown Lafayette also sells a large-size county map for 50 cents.
You will probably want to get a truck or tractor tube as opposed to a car tube. The tractor tubes are preferable because they generally don't have a long, possibly painful stem in them. One of the best places to buy tubes is McCord's Tire Store on Sagamore Parkway near the intersection with Main Street, or at their Levee Plaza location.
Fishing opportunities are limited, but not nonexistent. Although there are no large lakes in the immediate vicinity, there are several rivers that contain bass, bream, and catfish. The Wabash always has people fishing for catfish (watch for them when you cross the bridge), but if you've ever looked at the water at the end of the summer, you may have second thoughts. The Tippecanoe River and Sugar Creek have smallmouth bass and catfish. It is best if you have access to a boat or canoe if you're interested in bass. There are 2 man-made lakes near Monticello (45 minute drive). The lakes themselves are overrun with speedboats, but the fishing below the dams can be quite good. It can also be terrible.
Some of the best fishing can be found on small local ponds. Be careful where you fish - you might get more than you bargained for if you pick a pond on private property. You also need to have a valid state fishing license.
Deer Creek Stable, just south of Delphi, Indiana offers hourly trail rides when the weather is nice. The stable is a little grungy but the trails are great. The stable also offers longer trail rides on occasion with a stop at one of the local bars. Deer Creek Stable is located about 1/2 hour north of West Lafayette on SR 25. To get to the stables, take Sagamore Parkway east and turn left on to SR 25. After a half hour or so, the stables will be on your right. If you hit Delphi, then you have gone a little too far. It is usually a good idea to call ahead to make sure the trails are in working order. Phone number is 765-564-6350.
For a somewhat different summer Saturday night experience, you might try driving to Monticello (45 minute drive North) for a nighttime cruise on a sternwheeler on Lake Freeman. The cruises leave every two hours or so (beginning around 7:30) from the dock on the East side of the bridge in Monticello. The admission price ($7) buys you a ride for all evening (as many trips as you wish until 2 AM) and a free drink. The boat holds about 200 people and usually has a dance band. It is probably best to call ahead for information and reservation.
Unfortunately, all ski areas lie some distance from Lafayette. There is one place in southwestern Michigan that's pretty popular called Swiss Valley, sometimes known as Swiss Ditch, and two places in Indiana, one near Greencastle, and one down by Bloomington, may satisfy your needs. In any case, don't forget to take along old gloves for the rope tows, sunglasses, and extra socks and jeans. Swiss Valley is a good place for beginners, with reasonable rates, but it's about three hours away from Lafayette near Jones, Michigan. SV has three rope tows, a T-bar, a J-bar, and triple and quad chair lifts serving about 13 runs, most of which are ideal for beginning skiers. Runs are short, to be expected in the Midwest. The highest “peak” at SV appears to have been man-made, judging by the gravel pit next to it. Vertical drop is 210 feet. Lift lines are not bad (5-10 minutes max on weekends.) For more info call (616) 244-5635
To get to Swiss Valley, take Rt. 25 to Logansport. Stay on 25 until it intersects with 31 near Rochester. Drive north on 31 to South Bend and Michigan, bypassing the city. 31 merges with 33 near South Bend; continue north to Niles, Michigan. Follow signs as though you were going to Three Rivers, and get on Michigan 60 east. After passing through Cassopolis, and before getting to Jones, there'll be a Swiss Valley sign on your left. Turn immediately after the sign (Patterson Mill Road) and go north three miles to the resort.
Ski World is a new skiing resort in Nashville near Brown County State Park. To get there, go south on I-65 past Indianapolis until you get to Columbus. Then go west on 46 until you get to Nashville.