Eunice H. Bryan Woods Nature Preserve
MULBERRY -- Most of the thousands of motorists who race along Indiana 38 each day don't know they're within a mile of a rare and precious slice of "old" Indiana ... Indiana as it was before axes, plows, soybeans and sawmills came along.
It's the Eunice H. Bryan state nature preserve, a sobering survivor of a lost world. Some of the oaks are more than 4 feet in diameter and more than 250 years old. They were dropping leaves and acorns when Native Americans were the only people in what now is Clinton County.
The preserve, sometimes called the Bryan Woods Nature Preserve, consists of 29 acres bequeathed to the state in 1971 by Henry R. Smith, in memory of his mother-in-law, Eunice Hamilton Bryan. Read the entire article. (Article by Kevin Cullen for the Journal & Courier)
Western Clinton County is a largely agricultural area. Vast expanses of corn, soybeans - and in the colder months, bare ground - surround isolated woodlots. Bryan Nature Preserve protects one of the largest and finest of these woodland oases. Things aren’t what they were before Europeans arrived – there are signs of disturbance, including a concentrated animal feeding operation next door – but the woods have recovered to the point where they provide a tantalizing hint of what things were like in central Indiana, long ago.
I prefer to visit during April and early May, when spring wildflowers are at their best and the mosquitoes have yet to reach stupendous densities. Expect to see great swathes of May apple, Dutchman's breeches, and spring beauty, along with bloodroot (left). Trout lily, also known as adder's tongue, is especially abundant here. This plant takes several years to bloom, and bears a single nodding blossom (shown below) between two long mottled leaves. The trout lilies in this preserve seem to bear paler blossoms than the usual bright yellow ones seem elsewhere; perhaps they are a different variety or species. Salamanders are common, though hard to spot. I’ve also enjoyed winter visits, when crunchy snow underfoot, crisp air, and the slow creaking of gently swaying trees combine to make for a brisk and invigorating stroll through the woods.
Begin by heading east along a narrow strip of overgrown land between two fields. Trail guides are sometimes available in the registry box that stands along this stretch of the path. You’ll soon enter the woods and veer off to the right (south). From here, the trail is a loop, with a cut off option so that you can hike the long loop, short loop, or do both as a figure eight. There are several wooded ponds, and during the spring or especially wet weather, the trail often has standing water. In the warmer months, this can mean that frogs serenade you as legions of biting insects eat you alive.