Calumet River – Hammond, Indiana: Over The River And Through The Woods…

Coming home after a day of frustrating traffic, bad parking spots and annoying colleagues, I poured myself a glass of ice cold milk (contemplating a margarita instead) and wondered why I even bothered to crawl out of bed this morning.

Once again having to crash another one of my daily pity parties, I listened to that sweet loving voice inside my head telling me to hike up my big boy pants and BE A MAN FOR CRYING OUT LOUD! Without a single dignified retort to that admonishment, I proceeded out onto the bike paths to begin reevaluating my masculinity.

Cruising past the rustic railways of Griffith’s train-ladened kingdom onto the Broad Street bike path, just across from Griffith Historical Park (something cool to see if you get the chance), I soon found myself en route to the meticulously shaved, emerald green grass of the Highland trail.

Venturing all the way down the trail past Highland and into the border of Hammond, I reached a curious, rusted steel bridge extending over a turquoise stream. Testing my balance on the bike the way moguls challenge an Olympic skier, I carefully made my way over the springy wooden planks of the bridge, slowly preparing myself for the gravel road on the other end. Fortunately the crusty rock of the trail had been firmly padded down due to yesterday’s light rain.

Following this detour around a vast manmade pond with the eclectic Indiana Welcome Center prominently stamped in the distance, I arrived at Kennedy Avenue. Just across the intersection was an identical steel bridge leading straight onto the Calumet River Nature Trail, a personal favorite of mine. Though forced to walk my bike up a few rocky slopes to this isolated overpass, I found myself instantly back in the zone as soon as I reached the clandestine wilderness lurking on the other end.

Absconding to an oasis filled with the exotic symphony of cicadas and tranquil harmony of song birds, I lost myself in the arms of this blemished Eden. Trees rustled restlessly in the warm midday breeze as I rode through a canopy of grasshoppers jumping exuberantly into the golden kiss of the sun.

As I neared the end of the trail, my journey finished amongst a graveyard of gnarled dead trees protruding out of the swamp like vicious claws thrashing towards the sky. This bleak, dead marsh, forged by the flames of a long ago fire, was the definitive ending to this routine trip (especially in the Pre-Halloween season).

Spine-tingling screams echoed through the damp air as hawks scoured over the wooly amber waves of grass. Crickets chirped meekly, like gentle taps sounding in the distance. And the dark painted wings of butterflies floated in the wind, wraithlike ashes whispering tales of the old fire. Even under the bright, protective light of the sun’s gaze, this place had a foreboding presence that always seemed to haunt me whenever I passed through…

The road now merging with the loud, bustling traffic of Cline Avenue, the roar of engines and machinery distracted me from the fleeting fantasies of my romanticizing antics. Leaving the supernatural forest behind, I made my way across Cline Avenue to Griffith Boulevard and back to good Ol’ Broad Street. Though I was able to pedal on home from this point, the great thing about Broad is it’ll lead you right back to Griffith Historical Park if you happened to drive there from somewhere further away.

This is certainly not one of my more creative nor adventurous rides. But, for those of you who find yourselves a little too caught up in the urban rat race, it might do you good to simply run into the forest and see just where your mind might take you…

Shifting Gears

Bored with the drudgery of routine workouts at the YMCA, two years ago my father took up the wheel (or handle bars) of my uncle’s ugly, beaten up, metallic purple bicycle.

Not willing to sacrifice conventionality, I continued to exercise within the beige and gray walls of my air-conditioned fortress while my father mounted his violet steed, pedaling out into adventure.

After listening to him come home with tale after tale about his fascinating explorations, I began to envy his spontaneous and enthralling escapades.

Scoring a brand new, snow white bicycle during doorbusters, my father prepared, even in the bitter cold of our Northwest Indiana winter, for another season of Tour de Indiana.

Early last summer my workout duffle rested deflated on the living room couch as I mentally prepared myself for another monotonous day at the gym. My father came in the back door to grab his sunglasses before one of his daily rides, the warm, pleasant air slipped in behind him. Biting my lip and jingling the car keys, I attempted to silence the voice screaming in my head not to waste another beautiful day. Calling out after him, I begged… asked, if he wouldn’t mind me coming along.

Irony serving the prominent role it always has in my life, my father hopped onto his sweet new ride and graciously invited me to join him… on the dilapidated purple beast.

Desperate enough to brave the reigns of the hand-me-down bike with its snaggle-toothed cogs, I mounted the creature and rode off into the unknown.

Taking me through golden, sanguine fields, lush green forests and rustic, urban vistas, I was instantly hooked on this electrifying hobby that I once thought to be stale and old fashioned.

Riding at speeds no faster than 20 miles per hour with no windshields, doors or obnoxious blare of a radio blocking out the world, I was finally able to slow down and appreciate the subtle beauty and liberating feeling of exploring Northwest Indiana. It was this feeling that inspired me to share with the residents of “Da Region” and curious visitors alike, the wonder and character this small corner of Indiana has to offer. If only you take the time to look…

So join me this year as I venture out to ride some of Northwest Indiana’s most popular bike paths and hidden trails, filling in the blank pages of the map and showing just how fun it can be to take the long way around.

See you on the trail,

Travane Phoenix