Back by popular demand, Indiana Humanities will launch a limited run of the “Next Indiana Campfires” series, which was created for Indiana’s bicentennial. The events pair literature with nature to help Hoosiers explore Indiana’s wild places and spark conversations about conservation and stewardship.
In 2017, Next Indiana Campfires will take Hoosiers to a scenic overlook along the Ohio River, an old growth forest in Shelby County and Eagle Creek Reservoir at sunset. A humanities scholar will serve as facilitator and lead attendees on a hike or paddle and pause periodically to read aloud the words of important Hoosier authors. Participants will then gather for food and drink around a campfire to discuss connections between nature, literature and place.
“We originally imagined this as a one-time program associated with the bicentennial but we found that our audience is clamoring for more of these rich, conversation- and literature-based activities,” said Keira Amstutz, president and CEO of Indiana Humanities. “All of us want to learn, but we want to do so in fun, unique ways. This is an indelible experience that you can’t find anywhere else.”
The series locations and dates include:
- Saturday, April 15: Meltzer Woods Nature Preserve (Shelby County): Early spring is the perfect time to walk through this old growth forest, located just 35 minutes from Indianapolis, as the woods comes back to life with new leaves, wildflowers and nesting animals.
- Wednesday, May 3: Hanover College (Jefferson County): Follow the Daryl R. Karns Natural History Trail as it winds its way along the Ohio River and through Hanover College’s beautiful wooded campus. Following the trek, participants will watch as the sun sets over the river’s famous S curve, depicted in an 1892 T.C. Steele painting.
- Sunday, July 16: Fall Creek Woods (Henry County): 2017 marks the 50th anniversary of the Nature Preserves Act, a 1967 law that creates “living museums” by permanently protecting naturally significant areas around the Hoosier state. The hike will go through one of Indiana’s newest dedicated nature preserves, a hardwood forest along Fall Creek near Mechanicsburg.
- Friday, Aug. 18: Eagle Creek Reservoir (Marion County): Attendees will unwind with a sunset paddling trip at Eagle Creek Park. The paddle will last about two hours, followed by campfire, beers, food and discussion.
- Thursday, Oct. 12: Tom and Jane Dustin Nature Preserve (Allen County): On a crisp autumn evening, attendees will explore this ACRES Land Trust property, which includes an unusual and distinctive tunnel valley formation created by glacial forces and present-day Cedar Creek, one of three state-designated Natural and Scenic Rivers in Indiana.
Each event costs $15 and includes food and a beer (available to those 21 and over). A limited number of need-based waivers are available.
During the first year of Next Indiana Campfires, Indiana Humanities coordinated nature outings in some of Indiana’s most significant natural areas—places like the Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore, the newly restored “Limberlost” wetlands and the wide-open prairies of Prophetstown. More than 450 people attended 17 events across the state. Photos are available on request.
Do-it-yourself “Trek and Talk Toolkits” are also available for free to those who want to create their own Next Indiana Campfire. Toolkits include suggested itineraries, a literary text and discussion prompts, a Next Indiana Campfire patch, snacks and more. Learn more at www.IndianaHumanities.org/Campfires.
Next Indiana Campfires is generously supported in part by the Ball Brothers Foundation, which will fund the Fall Creek Woods excursion. Upland Brewing Co. and UGo Bars LLC provide in-kind support. Indiana Humanities is supported in part by Lilly Endowment Inc., and the National Endowment for the Humanities.