Day Trip to Turkey Run State Park, IN

woodlands

During my recent trip to Chicago, I grabbed the opportunity to meet up with a good friend from way back, Roselle. Two decades ago, when we were still at the University,  we became close when we joined an academic organization, and since them she and I shared an apartment until we graduated. A few years after we started working, she and her husband moved to the US, and we kept in touch through social media. We met up every several years thereafter when she would visit the Philippines. I was so excited I get to be the one to visit her this time.

Before we met, Roselle asked me what I would like to do for the weekend. I asked if we could do something that involved exploring the outdoors. She said she’d bring me to the Turkey Run State Park in Indiana – it’s where her family goes to regularly to trek. It sounded enticing, so I said let’s do it!

So on a Friday night, she picked me up after my paint party at Park Ridge, IL. We drove to her home in St. John, IN. We had an early start the next Saturday morning, where we drove a couple of hours (108 miles) from St. John to Marshall, IN. We arrived at the Turkey State Park at 11 o’clock in the morning – Marshall had a one hour difference from our point of origin.

It was a beautiful day – the weather was perfect for walking – even though it was late spring/early summer, it was not yet too hot, and the shades of the trees was enough to keep us cool.

As per the park’s map, there were 11 trails – each having different levels of ruggedness. We planned to take Trails 3 and 5. The map said that Trail 3 was very rugged, and was 1.7 miles long. Trail 5 was moderate, and was 0.7 miles long.

So off we went, and crossed the footbridge over Sugar Creek. I watched people canoeing and swimming in the water.

I had to be careful of my steps as we passed through the ravines of Trail 3. There were steep and rough rocks at the trail, with some parts having water passing through. There were small pretty falls because it was still late spring. I was told in a few weeks they would dry up in time for summer. I met some furry friends along the way – one of them had to be carried by the fur-parent as they climbed up a rock.

We passed through lush woodlands for Trail 5. I love how the sun would peak through the canopy of the trees. There was hardly any people in that trail – the place was peaceful and quiet, and left me to my imagination. Several times while walking I would imagine I was an actor in a scene in movies that crossed my mind – mainly involving forests.

trail
trail through the woods

It took us about 3 hours to finish the trails – because along the way we got lost and ended up doing some parts of Trail 9. At the campsite we rested under the trees, munching on light snacks and refreshments. We headed off shortly after and had barbecue with Roselle’s friends at a small park halfway through St. John.

It was a fun, tiring day – and what better way exploring the beautiful outdoors than to spend it with a good old friend! We had some giggles reminiscing college days, and I’m happy Roselle and I got to spend time together during this trip. It’s the simple things like this that I cherish the most. Rosel6

 

 

 

Five Fave Things to Do In and Around Baler, Aurora

Baler

This is a late post, so pardon me for reminiscing…

I’ve always wanted to go to Baler. I’ve heard a lot of raves about it but it just seemed so far from Metro Manila. I finally had the motivation to go, when early this year I won a free trip to the Tribes & Treks Tour by Mad Travel. So we booked a 2 night stay in Baler, packed our bags and went to an adventure to the north.

It was indeed a long drive from Manila. We left early Friday morning to beat the weekend traffic, and arrived after 6 hours of driving (stopovers for breakfast and snacks included). We were able to see a Tourist Information office along the way and everyone was more than willing to help give us directions to our hotel.

Baler Town
Baler Town Proper

Our hotel was about 200 meters from the Sabang Beach. We could see the huge waves from our room, and I instantly fell in love.

First things first: Surf.

I’ve been fascinated with surfers and how they could balance themselves and glide through the waves with such grace and ease. I was told it was not as easy as it looks but it was tons of fun. The competitiveness in me kicked in such that as soon as we checked in to the hotel I asked where I could learn surfing. Surfing lesson and board rental cost P300 per hour. My instructor, Kuya Gerry, was kind enough to encourage me saying he would even waive my lesson fee if I do not make it to ride the waves successfully within an hour. I gleefully agreed and began my lesson. It was the most surreal experience ever – and I was able to ride the waves three times in 35 minutes! I would never forget how exhilarating surfing felt.

Surf Lessons
Learning to surf was tiring and fun!

Rent a motorbike and explore.

To get around in Baler, we left our car in the hotel and rented a motorbike near Costa Pacifica. The rent was P500 per day, and we had the gas tank filled. We were able to go to the town, Museum de Baler, and the Baler Hanging Bridge  which was about ten minutes away from Sabang Beach. The bridge is made of wood and it was a bit of an adventure walking across it. We got there at sunset and it was beautiful.

Baler Hanging Bridge
Walking along the swaying Baler hanging bridge

Vegan Resto: Charlie Does

I was pleasantly surprised to find this resto. It was a few meters away from the beach, right behind Costa Pacifica Hotel. The place looked very cozy – you wouldn’t miss the garden with its couches. They were pet-friendly too as I saw a cute labrador and beagle ‘parked’ next to one of the couches in the garden.

The vibe in Charlie Does is relaxing and homey. Their wait staff were also very warm and friendly. We got ourselves a banana shake and an all green shake, hummus and pita for our afternoon snack which was filling and refreshing.

Food at Charlie Does
Vegan snacks from Charlie Does

River and Falls Trek

On Day 2 I woke up early for the trip with Mad Travel to Diteki, San Luis. It was about 30 minutes’ ride by tricycle from Circle Hostel. We trekked through the Diyaboboo River and came to the our swimming area where there was a falls and the water was so clear. We had the place all to ourselves – well, along with hawks flying above us. Yes, there were hawks! It was so magical to see them, and for a few minutes I was just basking in the fresh air and the peaceful unspoiled place. I really wish that this piece of heaven on earth will be preserved for many more generations to come.

When we headed back to Diteki, we feasted on the local food prepared by our hosts, the Altas. The Altas are the indigenous tribe in Aurora, and they shared not only good food but also their stories and a bit of overview of the medicinal herbs they’ve used through the years.

Diteki Falls
Clear waters of Diyaboboo

RV Cacao Farm

Before heading back to Baler, Mad Travel also brought us to RV Cacao Farm. We were welcomed by JM, who manages the farm. He gave us a quick tour and showed us how to harvest the cacao fruit. We also were able to have a taste of one of their best sellers – chocolate ice cream. Their products are all organic and preservative-free. JM shared how he developed the farm and grew the business. I was inspired by JM’s story and I became more appreciative of homegrown enterprises.

RV Cacao Farm
RV Cacao Farm

I am honored to have been given a chance by Mad Travel to participate in the Tribes and Treks tour. Their advocacy on supporting the tribes and local livelihood through tourism is very inspiring, and tours like this make a difference to these communities.

When I have friends or family coming over and asking where best to go to within Luzon, I’d say Baler in a heartbeat. The surfing and the good food were all fun and memorable, and the Tribes and Treks tour was the icing on the cake.