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Oak Ridge Prairie: Beyond The Hedge

September 30, 2012

Welcome back, travelers!
For chapter 2, the earth travelers decided on Oak Ridge Prairie in Griffith, Indiana as our next destination. Squirreled away south of Main Street down Colfax Avenue, Oak Ridge Prairie is a slice of savannah surrounded by an urban prison. When the gatekeeper is on duty, there is a $5 parking charge…which we avoided when we went on Friday. There was no gatekeeper on duty.

Score one for the Earth Travelers!
There is a bit of a drive down to the park though despite the gate being so close to Colfax. Fortunately enough, the drive does give the avid hiker a foreshadowing of things to come with long grassland reaching up from the ground on both sides surrounding our car through every twist and turn. It was like we were being guided towards our destination by mother nature’s giving hand.

With the success of our last trail, we entered with high expectations for what lay beyond the hedges. We desired experiences beyond our wildest dreams, our hopes of finding interesting and exciting sights within the trail, and taking some lovely photos along the way. It then began to rain.

We got lucky since the tree cover kept us dry for the most part (except for Troy who seems to get wet even in the driest of places). The trail is very mild starting parallel with the bike trail and then branching off at various points along the way. While the bike trail stays paved with asphalt, the hiking trail is more of a matted dirt and grass. Not necessary for hiking boots but I wouldn’t recommend a nice pair of sneakers either. I’m not sure what I stepped in but it was very sticky.

We took our chances and delved right into the trail, our senses heightened and our cameras at the ready for anything interesting. We were children once more, ready to explore a world just as frightening and alluring as a haunted house. Trees sprouted from the grass bunched and huddled like “bud” circles at Woodstock. Underbrush tickled at our feet if we veered too far off to one side of the path. Beyond the reaching hands that did not want us to reach wherever it was we were supposed to go, we still felt like we were being guided. There was something here that we had to witness, to experience as if our very lives were being manipulated solely for this purpose.

Onward, we trudged along. Even the rain at our backs couldn’t stop us (and believe me, it tried as hard as it could). Further and further in, trees closed in at our backs like packs of hungry zombies waiting to taste flesh and redeem a life once lived.

No redemption for zombies here.

We would fight to the death if necessary.

Incidentally, there are more fight photos in this week’s gallery.

After the horrendous battle, we lost the tree cover. Drenched in the increasing rain, we also lost the trail. We knew we were still on one. We just couldn’t seem to figure out which direction we needed to go to get back towards the main parking lot. Many of the trails have been out of use for some time but unlike the Indiana Dunes Trail, Oak Ridge Prairie does not have any kind of gated areas that people should consider not walking. Not exactly working in our favor either at this point.

Where do we go?!

I see railroad tracks!

Now how does that help us in any way?

I don’t know!

(there’s a lot of intelligible screaming at this point)

Recollecting ourselves, we found another path to freedom. Every autumn season has a hayride that travels through the lesser used trails which would explain some of the more matted down areas. We found ourselves at the top end of a large hill mainly used in the winter season for sledding. Beyond the hedges was always another mystery, each one more maddeningly enticing than the next. One must be prepared to look around the corner and witness just what lies ahead.

This is it.

Ladies and gentlemen, this is exactly what we have trudged through the rain to see. Even in the cloudy distance, there is a wilderness out there to be explored.

Were there no fence here to keep us out, I imagine we probably would have spent our time traversing what lay beyond.

It is also very likely we would have found ourselves more lost.

Chapter 2 Notes:

1. We counted this trail to be a very mild trail which I would recommend in sunny weather to anyone. If you decide to take on the trail in less than pleasant weather (like we did), then you can take comfort in the fact that the tree cover will shelter you from the worst of it.

2. Oak Ridge Prairie features many other attractions such as a fishing hole, a massive playground for children, etc. There are many things to do.

3. Chinese food is probably the best thing a person can have after hiking a trail in the rain. If you followed number one just like we did, I highly recommend going to the place of your choice. I mean come on. Look how happy he is!

Until next time, keep trucking along around the bend. After all, there are much more interesting things to be discovered if one is willing to peek beyond the hedge.

Happy Trails!

Daniel Carr

Troy Lolkema

Earth Travelers


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  1. Another well-done mix of informative detail and funny personality you’ve got here. You described the area nicely, and humorous bits like the “fight” against the trees are good. The photos complement the entry well, and you once again show good writing skills throughout – not much more I can really say.

  2. Oak Ridge Prairie has to be one of the best parks in Lake County. I still have fond memories of my four year old self running around pretending it was Jurassic Park.

    That, and of course the sliding down Ol’sledding hill.

    Perhaps your friend Troy will feel more safe around frozen water on a return visit… maybe.

  3. I really liked reading this; especially about the fight with the trees and also liked the dialogue. You’re very informative about what you saw and what people should see when they go but it’s funny all at the same time. Very good!

  4. Loved the story about the trees and the reference to zombies. Perhaps I will buy you a zombie dust beer at Three Floyds sometime. Har har. One thing. though. “Intelligible” means something that can be understood. Did you mean to say “unintelligible?” Unless you understood the screaming…

  5. Thanks for the input everyone!

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