Hoosier National Forest

Jack and I stayed two nights in the Charles C. Deam (yes, that’s supposed to be an “m” not an “n”) Wilderness area, 13,000 acres of the Hosier National Forest in Indiana. The campground we stayed in Sunday, July 31 and Monday, August 1—Hardin Ridge State Recreation Area—is one part of the Wilderness area that was designated as such in 1982. The entire area is managed to preserve a natural condition and provide opportunities for solitude.

The campsites are mostly level and actually better-maintained than the above description might lead one to believe. The really noticeable aspect of this being a wilderness area is there is quite a lot of greenery and un-tended space between each site. 

Hoping for a bike ride if the weather holds
Our set up and Jack’s home for the next week
Under the awning and in the outdoor kitchen

On Monday, it was raining, so we decided to head into Bloomington to do some shopping. A nice bridge or causeway spans the enormous recreational lake adjacent to the area, Lake Monroe. It was fun to drive through Bloomington, because one of our fave movies is Breaking Away, a cycling story set in that college town. We did our shopping but it was still rainy or threatening rain, and this was my “send off” dinner night (before I went to Indianapolis/Carmel for my business meeting). So we endeavored to build a campfire in the intermittent rain, and had some success. Grilled steaks with fresh corn on the cob and portobello mushroom caps (also grilled—Jack was the chef of the evening) were yummy.

Building a campfire in the rain takes patience and persistence
This gives a good idea of the space between campsites
When it really poured a couple of times, we took refuge in the screened porch

It finally cleared up enough for us to sit by the fire to finish up our wine and the day.

Skies clearing above

We took a bike ride Tuesday morning, before I had to head north. We rode all around the campground and rec area and logged 12 miles by following all the loops, and heading all the way down hill (a rather steep grade, at that, which was delightful heading down, but somewhat of a chug climbing back up) to the beach and public access area for Lake Monroe. 

Boat launch area for Lake Monroe
Lovely swiming beach and picnic area
At the top of the chug back up from the beach is a pretty overlook back to the Lake

Our observations, having seen the 4 or 5 loop areas where camping is permitted (plus one section where there are just a couple of cabins) indicated that the first two loops closest to the ranger station are the oldest. The shower/restroom structures in these two loops are the oldest. While they are certainly clean, the fixtures and structures themselves are showing quite a lot of wear.

The loops farther away from the ranger/check in area appear to be newer facilities. Not all—in fact, relatively few—of the sites have water hookups on site. There is a wide variety of electric, however, but also many areas where walk-in camping sites for tents are available, and even sites that have tiered levels for tents and RVs, and primitive RV sites with no hookups.

A person can find most anything in this camping area, and the managers and rangers are all quite nice and helpful, and (at least at this time of year) there is hardly anyone using the entire place. We might have seen a total of 12 users other than the camp hosts on each loop. Of course, it was Sunday/Monday, and one of the folks said that school starts hereabouts in a week or so. That might have something to do with it being relatively quiet.

There are lots of trails for all types of uses—hiking only, multi-use, equestrian. And among the materials about the area the Rangers hand out when you register is some interesting history about the Hickory Ridge Lookout Tower, which I’ll reproduce below, for those of you who like local lore as I do. If you don’t want to read about it, you can skip that part.

With the rain and humidity came the flowering of rather amazing fungi. I loved all the shapes and colors, so I took a few photos to share. These were all around our campsite and all totally amazing.

We left around 1PM for the ride to Carmel and my convention at the Renaissance North Hotel. Everything you never wanted to know about beer will be my life for the next 4-5 days, although Carmel Indiana is reported to have some very fine bicycling trails so I will also be exploring those if the weather cooperates.

Quite a passable IPA from a local brewery (whose name I cannot remember) kicked off my stay in the big city

Hickory Ridge Lookout Tower

This structure stands guard over the Charles C. Deam Wilderness area, the last lookout tower remaining in the Hoosier National Forest. Built in 1939 by the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC), it was manned and used for fire detection until the 1970s. It is 110 feet tall, made of steel, with a 7 share foot cab and 123 metal steps. 

Early lookouts were simple perches in the crowns of tall trees, or mere ladder steps nailed to a tall tree so someone could climb up to look around. By the 1930s, however, the design for lookout towers had become uniform. At their peak, there were 5,060 towers in the nation, eight of which were in the Hoosier National Forest.

Inside the cabin, entered through a hunger trapdoor in the cabin’s floor, was an alidade on a podium. The alidade was a circular map with the fire tower’s location in the center, and compass directions around the edge (it has been removed from this tower). Attached to the map was a swivel range finder with a sighting wire. When smoke was sighted, the tower man lined up the sighting wire with the smoke, and by plotting the intersection of the lines of sight from different towers, the precise location of the fire could be determined. A telephone or radio could be used to report the fire and dispatch crews. It was common for the towers to be the first site in a rural to get a telephone or radio, and they often served as the community’s link to the outside world.

Raymond Axsom manned the Hickory Ridge Lookout for 26 of the years it was in use. Axsom stayed in the tower during periods of high fire danger. When he wasn’t on duty in the tower, he helped survey land lines, marked timber, routed signs, and did maintenance work on the Forest.

Axsom had a farm 2 miles from the tower and was hired in 1936 as the first tower an. He was replaced in 1938 and 39 by young men from the CCC camp who were assigned to keep watch. Axsom noted the young men kept falling asleep in the tower: a few fires got unnecessarily large because they were not reported promptly. So in 1940, Axsom was called back to be the lookout.

While many of the towermen were local farmers recruited to man a tower during high fire danger, at least two of the towers were “manned” by women. These were the wives of the men originally hired to do the job. According to Clarisse Carroll, former lookout in one of the towers, her husband just gave her the job when other duties called him away. “The rules weren’t as strict as they are now,” she said. “I never told anyone I was taking over. I just did it.”

During periods of high fire danger, a small crew of fire fighters was stationed at the base of the tower. If smoke was spotted, the crew was immediately dispatched to put out the fire. Axsom recalls periods when there might have been 4-5 fires a day, so the fighters were kept busy.

He recalls the wors fire in the Hickory Ridge area was in 1952. A farmer was burning off his garden plot on a windy day, and the fire got away from him. Before it was put out, the fire burnt 2,000+ acres and spread over ~6 miles. It was stopped with on a half mile of the Hickory Ridge Tower.

As frightening as the fire was, Axsom said the time the tower was struck by lightening with him in the top was worse. Still, he said he was the most frightened when an unexpected storm hit with high winds. Since towers had been known to blow over, he had quickly started down toward the ground. But the wind blew so hard he said he had to sit down and wrap his legs around the stairway to keep from being blown off the top.

Over time, the open farmlands around the tower have reverted to forest. Raymond Axsom is now gone, and the house near the base of the tower has been torn down. Today, the tower serves visitors to the Charles C. Deam Wilderness by offering them a panoramic view of the forest and Lake Monroe.

Havs Vidden, Baltic Sea

Relatively uneventful ride north from Kvarnbo to the resort on the Baltic Sea called Havs Vidden. Quite a special place, rocky and isolated.


Our route took us a round-about path north as shown here: direct route would be about 25 kilometers; our ride was about 45.


Some random thoughts I had along the way, that I call “things I should not forget.”

Brackish water better preserves wood because it has no salt water worms, which eat the wood of sunken ships.

Christian at the brewery saying “jeest” for yeast. Wonder if the word is spelled with a Y and the Swedish letter is pronounced like a j (or soft g), or whether it is spelled with a j (or g) and his interpretation of English converted it to a j-sound.

Plowing fields in alternating left and right rows (not circles) by using a plow attachment that lifts and rotates to reverse direction.

Riding through a beautiful fir wood and smelling balsam that was so energizing that I felt I was lunching on the aroma.

Heather or heath blooming – another sign of fall, like the aspen (?) leaves turning yellow and blowing in the breeze across the road. I think they are aspens because on many occasions, their voices have sounded like a hidden stream falling into a quiet pool; or the warning of oncoming traffic.

First rooster crowing I have heard since leaving home.

First tour bus we’ve seen since leaving Mariehamn (we did, indeed reach my goal, stated as we neared departure from Stockholm, of finding a place with fewer tourists like ourselves).

Saw our first road kill: a little vole – additional road kills next day, two badgers and a fledgling bird. No other road kills or debris that we’ve seen at all.

Saw our first maple tree among all these firs and aspens: a hybrid/decorative tree, deep deep red leaves (plum colored), in a beautiful yard.

Many, many dragon flies everywhere. Very few butterflies.

Saw a soaring bird, either a fishing hawk/eagle or a vulture (haven’t seen too many vultures at all) – then saw a definite hawk, flying into the wind over the road. it took it a while, so I got out my binocs and I am 90% sure it was a goshawk, although it could have been a European kestrel, but I think it was too big. Very long tail, but little striping. It was backlit by the sun, however, so difficult to id by coloration.

Ate lunch in Getta (pronounced Yetta) — horrid sandwiches but good crisps and doughnuts. A retired Swedish steel worker and his wife sat to have lunch with us at the picnic table in the grocery store parking lot (when I say everything is remote up here, it’s not a joke). He had some English, she had little. He explained that it was just too expensive to eat in a restaurant, so they had chosen one of the entrees from the grocery store, and used the store microwave to heat it (possibly better than our sandwiches, but I doubt it). He said, “not like she fixes” indicating his wife. We had some more discussion, with the Mrs. being mostly silent. Then we took our leave. He wished us safe travels and then said, “Take it easy!” After some discussion amongst themselves the Mrs. said, “Have a nice day. Take it easy!” They were very cute. Waved at us as they drove away.

This area north of Kvarnbo is serious apple country.

Lovely rock scramble along the shore once we arrived in HavsVidden.

Sunset over the Baltic Sea as we ate our late dinner in the dining room made of triple-paned glass windows.














I’m afraid I’m a sucker for stories; including those about history. Here are a couple of stops we made yesterday, while cycling to the east of our lodging in Kvarnbo (Saltvick) in Åland. By the way, if you are wondering how to pronounce the place we are cycling around, think of the word AWL and add “land.” It is as if you are forming the letter O with your mouth but actually vocalizing the letter A. Say it with that initial vowel sounding like, if you’d never seen it written, the hearer would not know if it was spelled with an initial A or an initial O.

Anyway. Here was our first stop – ancient, Viking history.


First stop: Borgboda Iron Age Complex
A high concentration of pre-historic structures can be found on Borgboda Farm as well as remains from Medieval times. The oldest finds date back to the Bronze Age but the area is dominated by remains from the late Iron Age (400 – 1000 AD). These include four cemeteries, a hill fort and extensive layers of refuse. Excavations have also revealed the foundation of a building as well as traces of pre-historic farming. The hill fort, enclosing an area of 6 acres, was situated at the center of Åland’s then most densely populated area. Excavations have indicated that the fort was not permanently manned but rather served as a refuge for the population in times of unrest.

Grave mounds from the late Iron Age.
The Ängisbacken cemetery comprising 65 grave mounds, is typical of the late Iron Age. In the pre-Christian tradition, the dead were cremated with a few of their belongings. The ashes were then buried and covered with stone and earth, forming a mound. A cemetery, which could be used for several centuries, usually represents the population of one farm. Two of the graves in this cemetery, which were excavated in 1985, were dated to the late Viking age, around 1000 AD.

The Hill Fort
Enclosing an area of six acres, the hill fort is the largest of Åland’s six hill forts. Placed in a rock with steep northern and eastern sides serving as natural defenses, it only required defensive walls to be built on the southern and western sides. The low stone walls, which are double at the main entrance, ought to have served as foundations for further woden constructions. Inside the fort can be seen the remains of several building foundations.

For more photos of the historic site as well as pix of our ride, see:

Second stop, Bomarsund, where a rare military alliance among British, French, and Turkish armies defeated the Russian Empire.


Åland became part of the Russian Empire in 1809. Prior to this, the islands, together with mainland Finland, belonged to Sweden. The Russian period lasted until 1918.

The Russian fortifications at Bomarsund included some of the largest buildings ever constructed on Åland, and were the center for the most significant military occupation in the islands’ history. The fortress represented not only Russia’s military authority, it was intended to change the very nature of Åland: from an island group populated by fishermen, farmers, and coastal traders, to a fortified outpost of the Russian Empire.

The planning and building of Bomarsund continued for 45 years. The Main Fort would lie in the center of a great circle of defensive towers and other buildings. But when Bomarsund was attacked in 1854, only 25% of the planned work had been completed. The enormous size of the proposed facilities was the fortress’s greatest weakness.


A small but significant society grew around the fortifications. The population comprised merchants, craftsmen, and civil servants, together with their families. They came from every part of the Russian Empire, including Åland. They lived in planned residential areas, where the cosmopolitan lifestyle was quite unlike the traditional Åland lifestyle. This society was dominated by the military and its fate was closely tied to that of the fortress.

In 1854 Åland was caught up in a war fought between Russia and the allied forces of France, Britain, and Turkey. A powerful fleet, together with troops, attacked Bomarsund. Following a short battle, it was captured. A few weeks later the fort and other buildings were demolished. During this battle the residential areas around Bomarsund were also destroyed. When the war ended, in 1856, Russia was forced to sign a treaty that led, amongst other things, to the demilitarization of the Åland Islands.

Where the walls of Bomarsund once represented Russia’s military authority, today they symbolize the autonomous Åland Islands.

During the attack of 1854, the Main Fort was attacked from both land and sea. The defenders did everything they could to hinder their attackers, but it was simply a matter of time before the Main Fort lay in ruins. On the 16th of August, following a 24-hour bombardment, the fortress’s commander, Major-General Bodisco, surrendered and he and his troops were led away to prison in France and England.


The Orthodox Church was the most beautiful part of the fortifications. Religion was an important part of the military’s day-to-day life, but not everyone at Bomarsund was Orthodox. Bomarsund was a multi-cultural society with Catholics, Protestants, Jews, and Muslims, as well as the Orthodox Christians.

The main fort was like a boundary town, with offices, bakeries, churches, a prison, wells for drinking water, and toilets. It is the largest building ever to have been built on Åland, with a total of 246 rooms (over 18,000 sq. meters of floor space), accommodation for 2500 people and places for 115 cannon. The main fort was built between 1832 and 1843, and was the heart of the fortress of Bomarsund.

(The last structure we visited was Brännklint Tower)
During the attack of 1854, Brännklint Tower was the only part of the landward defenses to have been completed. Thousands of French soldiers armed with cannon and rifles assaulted the tower. For 24 hours, the 140 occupants struggled to hold the enemy at bay. The number of casualties mounted. Finally, the decision was made to abandon the tower and blow it up. While the charges were being laid a French force managed to enter the tower and capture the few soldiers that remained.


Again, for additional pix from our travels east of Kvarnbo, see: