Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Turkey Run Fun

Todd and I usually don't stray far from our normal hiking location, but we'd heard some good things about Turkey Run State Park and decided to give it a try.  Turkey Run is about an hour and a half north of Indianapolis, but it's a beautiful drive through small towns and open fields.   

We saddled up Borga ("Dad, do I really have to wear the harness?")...

...and started off on a main path.

Everything was so green!  We saw beautiful wild clover...

...tiny ferns growing right out of well-shaded rock walls...

...as well as bigger ferns reaching for a bit of light on the huge sandstone outcroppings above our heads.

We saw wild wheat...

...and what looked like a type of wild bamboo.  It grew in spiky sticks around the small streams that we crossed.

Closer to the water, too, we saw many moss-covered logs...

...and moss even covered the shingles of a small wooden building, something not frequently seen in the Midwest.

Our hike took us through an old covered bridge...

...and past some beautiful felled trees with gnarled roots.

They seemed almost carved out of stone!

We saw a lot of interesting creatures, too.  This is the largest millipede I've ever seen!

Millipedes don't really have 1,000 legs...they usually have between 36 and 400 legs, depending on the type.  Did you know that their hearts run the entire length of their bodies?!?

We also saw a great northern frog.

They have an interesting call that reminds me of sea lions:

Lots of butterflies have been out and about, and we loved seeing this Great Spangled Fritillary (a mouthful of a name for this little guy!):

We also saw lots of spiders.  One of the most beautiful was this Venusta Orchard spider.

Their abdomens are bright yellow with teal accents.  He positively glowed in the sun!

We saw lots of what I call granddaddy longlegs, too (shudder).

Sugar Creek goes right through the center of the park, and you're able to rent tubes, kayaks, and canoes.

The most outstanding feature of the park, though, is their amazing sandstone caverns.  One of the rugged trails went right through them.  We knew we were getting close when we noticed strange vegetation growing on the increasingly damp stone walls around us.

The cavern walls rose high all around us, and water trickled everywhere.

The sandstone broke off in strange ridged formations.  They were quite beautiful!

Water covered the floor of the cavern.

Now, you'd think this was an accident just waiting to happen - wet rock and narrow passageways.  At one point you've got to hug a wall, edging out on a six-inch ledge, to get to a small row of steps carved into the sandstone...covered in water, of course.

But the rocks weren't slick.  The sandstone gripped your shoes and allowed you to safely traverse the narrow cavern floors.

Of course, some little girls who aren't very fond of water and weren't interested in the composition of the stones had to be helped through the rough spots.

After making it through the caverns, we crossed over the long suspension bridge into the sunshine.

If you're in the neighborhood - and even if you're not! - I highly recommend Turkey Run State Park!

I'm trying to cut down on my baking.  Really, I am.  But when I saw a recipe for homemade nutter butters, I couldn't resist giving them a try.

Homemade Nutter Butters
A Thomas Keller Recipe
Makes 12 large sandwich cookies

3/4 cup unsalted butter, softened
1/2 cup peanut butter
2/3 cup packed brown sugar
1/2 cup white sugar
1 large egg
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 1/4 cups old fashioned oats 
1 cup all purpose flour

1/4 cup unsalted butter, softened
1/4 cup creamy peanut butter
1/2 cup + 1/3 cup powdered sugar

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees.

In a large bowl, beat together the butter, peanut butters, and sugars for about 3 minutes.  Beat in egg, wipe down mixer sides, and then beat in baking powder, soda, and vanilla.  Finally, mix in oats and flour until just combined. 

Drop rounded spoonfuls of dough onto greased cookie sheets and bake for about 10 minutes, until golden.  They'll be fragile, so leave on the cookie sheet for a few minutes before transferring to a wire rack to cool.  

While you're waiting, make the filling!  Beat together filling ingredients and spread between cooled cookies.

 If you like oatmeal cookies, or peanut butter cookies, or, well, any really good cookie, you'll love these!  They're lightly sweet and don't taste too strongly of either oatmeal or peanut butter.  It's a perfect balance.  The cookies are soft, the filling is creamy, and the taste is out of this world.  You'll never buy another packaged Nutter Butter again!

I hope you'll give them a try.  Have a great week!

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