By: Julie Borgmann, executive director of Red-tail Land Conservancy—
Muncie, IN—People often ask me, what is your favorite Red-tail property? I honestly have to reply, it depends on the season and the mood I’m in. When I visit Baskin Robbins, I always have to walk along the cooler before I choose which of the 33 flavors I want to eat. The same is true of planning a hike. What do I want to see, hear, smell, and feel?
In late November as the leaves have nearly all fallen, I like to be in the woods among the big trees. We don’t have large mountains or vast lakes in east-central Indiana, sights that make me feel small in the universe. But we do have forests with huge trees. Places to hide away on a chilly day and sit in the cathedral of nature.
Sam and Stella Stout Memorial Woods is the perfect place to hike this time of year. If you had to make a fall leaf collection for school, you could find your quota here! The forest floor is littered with leaves from beech, maple, walnut, cherry, hickory species, oak species, paw paw, and many others. Stout is full of huge trees that have seen more than a century of change in our state.
High-quality woods are also important habitat for wildlife. Signs of animals making homes and storing food are scattered throughout the forest. With the leaves off the trees, I can see the nests and holes in the trees where animals will make shelter through winter. Under the oak and hickory trees, I can see where squirrels and deer have been rooting around for nuts to eat.
For a forest to be truly special, it needs to include both what you want to see and what you don’t want to find. At Stout you won’t find many invasive plants. I can look through the understory of the woods and the view is dotted with small trees and native plants.
Unfortunately, in many woodlands this time of year you will see green and red shrubs. Most of these are non-native, invasive plants like bush honeysuckle, winter creeper, autumn olive, or burning bush.
They spread quickly and can overrun the forest because they can outcompete our native plants. They are still photosynthesizing and growing in late November and will be the first to leaf out in March. When everything is turning brown, their green and red leaves stand out like trash this time of year.
Step back from the road by a quarter-mile; it is easy to leave your cares behind when you hike among the giant trees at Stout Woods. Join us to walk these majestic woods on Friday, November 23, at 1pm. Learn about the history of Sam and Stella Stout Memorial Woods, identify trees by their bark, and enjoy one of my favorite Red-tail preserves.
A new bench will be dedicated honoring our founder and director emeritus, Barry Banks. Thanks to the permanent protection and caretaking by Red-tail, the trees in Stout Woods and their offspring will be around for centuries to come.
Sam and Stella Stout Memorial Woods – (located just south of Sulphur Springs) 3500 N County Road 300 W, Middletown, Indiana.
Balance the chaos of Black Friday shopping with a hike at Stout Memorial Woods, hosted by Red-tail Land Conservancy. This free event is open to the whole family at 3500 N CR 300 W (1 ½ miles south of Sulphur Springs) from 1-3pm, Friday, November 23.
Enjoy this gem of east central Indiana, a high-quality woodland with majestic mature trees and native trees and shrubs. You can join a guided 1/2mile+ hike or enjoy wandering the trail at your own leisure. Follow signs to the parking area, ¼ mile east down a grassy lane.
For more information, contact Kim McKenzie at Red-tail, email@example.com or (765) 288-2587.
For more information about this event or other Red-tail preserves visit www.fortheland.org.