Imagine a world like no other hidden in plain view right in Steuben County’s own
backyard. McClue Nature Preserve sits unassumingly on the side of a quite county
road, but step onto one of the three trails and a fantasy starts to take shape. Families
with elementary age children and photographers alike will immediately see the magic.
Giant uprooted trees on Tulip Trail reach toward the sky like moss covered
monsters while others form an arch welcoming visitors deeper into the woods.
Before you reach the makeshift gable the whispers of birds and frogs call you in.
Around the bend, one of many ponds is visible. The inhabitants grow quiet for a
moment, but if you’re still, it won’t take long for the peepers and wood frogs to sing.
Wood frogs, by the way, sound like quacking ducks. And if you’re really lucky, you
might hear the deep croak of a bullfrog.
Further down the path there are choices to make as the trail splits first between
Tulip and Juniper (a the intermediate trail) then later between Juniper and Long
(the longest trail). But don’t worry, they’re all just a big loop that bring you back to
the parking lot.
Along the way, you’re bound to hear woodpeckers and hawks, or see some of the
ground-dwelling tenants such as the opossums, deer, and a flock of turkeys. Then
there are the other locals that you never quite see, but are almost sure are there. If
you look closely enough and have a good imagination, it all begins to make sense.
Tiny fungi steps wrap up the sides of many trees, braided vines form bridges
overhead, and hollow logs look suspiciously like a small houses!
Follow Juniper Trail deeper still and you’ll come to a set of lovely benches—one old
and moss-covered the other new. In the little clearing beyond them is an old-
fashioned red water pump. Just one pump is enough to refill several water bottles
from the cascade of the refreshing stream.
Early morning light filters through the trees perfectly as does the sun of golden hour
(right before sunset) making for ideal shooting conditions all year round. All the
photos in the accompanying video were shot in the first three months of 2016.
This magic land is just five minutes from the circle in Angola, north on Indiana 127
right on W 400 N and down about a mile on the right. From I-69 take the Fremont
Pokagon exit, turn right off the ramp. At the first cross-road turn left onto W 400 N.
Parking and trails are free.
Erika Celeste is an award-winning journalist who has worked in radio, print, television, and marketing. She owns and operates New Moon Media Group where she’s written several documentaries and books.