To greet the first day of the new decade on a sunlit mild morning, my wife, Helen, and I walked along Sugar Creek Trail to the trestle bridge. We paused then, studying Sugar Creek which was brimming and bustling along under the leafless sycamores. Then we heard a garrulous clamor above--high up, overhead, a flock of ducks, glinting black and white, turned in the sun, writing in that wavering, avian script, which, whatever else it may be saying, speaks of beauty. We felt blessed.
And, more generally, I feel we folks of Crawfordsville and its environs are blessed to have Sugar Creek flowing through our county, offering Hoosiers daily occasions for canoeing, fishing, sauntering--in short, opportunities for being unembarrassed idlers.
I want to use our column this month for glancing back over 2019 and our Friends of Sugar Creek year and also to give you a heads up for our plans for 2020.
As per usual, we hosted our spring and fall creek cleanups. Our fall cleanup was particularly ambitious. Thirty-three volunteers scoured the Creek from the Sugar Creek Nature Trail near the ball diamonds all the way down to the Bachner preserve. Our volunteers retrieved quite a miscellany of junk, including over a dozen tires, a rusted bicycle, plastic chairs, a fence post, and an ancient washing machine. The following week, a band of NICHES volunteers extended the operation down to the Jim Davis Bridge.
Alas, heavy rains and high water on two consecutive dates kept canoeists from competing in the planned 2019 Friends of Sugar Creek Canoe Race.
Conditions were kindlier in July. That month board member Doug Calisch led a flotilla of canoes and kayaks carrying twenty adults and seventeen kids. The vessels bore the equipment of a Victorian natural history expedition: field microscopes, dip nets, animal hides, and specimen jars. Four naturalists--Michael Mycroft, Angie Williams, Karen Thada, and Leslie Warren--instructed the young explorers and their elders in the local creek biology and the wider expanse of geological history. And the kids got to do plenty of their own aquatic ecology, fully immersing themselves in the object of their study.
A surprising opportunity came to Friends of Sugar Creek when a young filmmaker, Hannah Lindgren, decided that Sugar Creek would be a favorable setting for a portion of Fifty Little Birds, her film about Indiana folk artist, Geoff Davis. Mr. Davis creates wooden sculptures of birds from sketches he makes in the wild. He particularly loves canoeing and has made long journeys via canoe on streams winding through our northern forests. There he finds inspiration for his bird sculptures. So Ms. Lindgren, her film crew, and Mr. Davis did some shooting on our creek in mid-September. With a kayak and a canoe of their own, and a couple of canoes borrowed from Friends of Sugar Creek, they set out late one afternoon, and met with success: the late sun glittering on the creek below Shades provided a lyrical setting for Mr. Davis’s reflections on his work and the gift of wilderness. Alas, the water was very low and the going difficult and slow. Full night came to them on the creek, far short of their planned terminus. Eventually, they were able to make it to the High Bridge beyond Shades. Some stalwarts from Friends of Sugar Creek helped them lug their canoes and gear up to the road and a waiting trailer. Wine and cheese were served the hungry voyageurs, and the adventure concluded on a festive note.
The Friends of Sugar Creek plans for a similarly ambitious 2020: again, our spring and fall cleanups, the Spring Canoe Race, the Kids, Canoes, and Crinoids field trip, and our presence at the Farmers Market the last Saturday of each month, including our kayak raffle.
Here are three important events to put on your calendar for this spring: the Friends of Sugar Creek Annual Meeting (4/16/20), the Spring Cleanup (4/25/20), and the Friends of Sugar Creek Canoe Race (5/16/20).
See you on the Creek come April! In the meantime, stay warm.
Marc Hudson is Editor of Currents.