So my brother (aka Uncle), the Honey Badger, and I went on the Bailly/Chellberg Hike earlier today (or at least a modified version of the 3.3 mile hike…more on that a little later).
One of my bucket lists is to complete all 60 of the hikes that are listed in my book, 60 Hikes within 60 Miles book by Ted Villaire [if you know me personally and would like to join me on these adventures, please let me know]. I have the 2nd edition of this book but I realize that the 3rd edition is out now and that there probably are a slew of updates and corrections that I don’t have reflected in my current edition.
Looking at the book for me in this instance didn’t really matter with this particular trail and location because I have been here a hundred times over the course of my life (literally!). There is a Maple Sugar season where you can come in the spring and learn about how the pioneers and Indians tapped Maple trees for their sugar sap and how they cooked it down to the type of Maple Syrup that we know and love today…I remember my dad getting some sap taps and putting them on maple trees when I was growing up. He collected them in old, cleaned up milk jugs and spent all day cooking the sap to about 8 ounces of syrup. Wowzers!
Along these trails there are three main sites to visit. If you start by walking to the right of the main parking lot off of Mineral Springs Road north of route 20 in Porter, Indiana, you will come to the farm and home of Anders and Joanna Chellberg. Their original farm property included 80 acres and this site spanned three generations of Chellbergs, a Swedish family. However in 1972, the land became the property of the National Park Service. When I was a kid all the way through high school, the farm was actually somewhat operational. There was a huge pig (I mean HUGE), a horse, a couple goats, and some chickens. I believe there were a couple cows and sheep at certain points, but I don’t recall them as much.
At some point in the late 1990s, the farm animals slowly started being phased out and they were no longer kept on the Chellberg Farm. However a couple weeks ago when TBF, Honey Badger and I went to the Maple Sugar fest, we saw some chickens. I am guessing that these chickens got shipped in for the Maple Sugar events because I have been back there twice and there are no chickens in the coup. There had to be a National Park funding cut, because that is the only thing that I could guess on why the animals are no longer kept in the barn, pasture or coup.
I also recall as an elementary school student that I was part of one of the re-creation days with my mom, a family friend and a lady named Martha Miller. Martha had written a couple books about the Indiana Dunes: Joseph Bailly: Dunes’ Settler, The Indiana Dunes Science and Coloring Book, and a Chellberg Farm Cookbook. What I remember the most about being part of the re-creation of the Chellberg’s home was that Martha was baking bread in the stove, while my mom and our family friend were doing something else. I was in charge of the kitchen pitcher pump and showing the student field-trippers that were coming through on how to get water out of the pitcher pump (like an indoor sink of the 1800s)–I must have been some kind of 1980s child expert because my parents would take us out to my uncle’s old farm where there was a pitcher pump that we would bathe in when we went camping when we were kids…the 40 acre farm my parents later moved us to but that is a story for another day.
Anyways after leaving the Chellberg Farm area, you will hike north on an obvious path. There are stairs that have been added over the past two decades that help with the terrain, which didn’t exist when I was a kid. As you go through the woods you will come to a bike path and a road that you can choose to cross. We always go across the road to the cemetery, which is an amazing site. Spoiler alert: the mausoleum is huge and has a cross at the top, which is an amazing site to behold. The cover photo for this post is me, my brother, and the Honey Badger standing on top of the Bailly’s mausoleum with the cross in the background. The funeral processional of the Joseph Bailly family funerals are still left in tact, where the horse-drawn carriages would have processed around the mausoleum with the departed in the carriage.
After leaving the cemetery, you will have the choice to go the regular route on the 3.3 mile hike or you can go straight to the Bailly Homestead portion of the trip. My brother and I decided to take the long route, which we found to be a muddy, hysterical mess. We also discovered that due to the recent rains, part of the trail was actually closed off, but we discovered this only after soaking our socks and shoes all the way through with mud and water! I felt like I was a kid again today and I think that the Honey Badger thought she has been given to a crazy mamma!
Once you get to the Bailly Homestead, which is just off the Little Calumet River, there are National Park information holders that are in the ground that tell you more about the people that lived in that area in the 1800s. Joseph Bailly was one of the original settlers in Northwest Indiana. During the summer months on Sundays for a couple hours during the day, the houses of both the Chellbergs and the Bailly’s are open to the general public.
At the end of the trail, before you get back to your car, there is a visitor center that is pretty much never open, except for special event weekends and even then there is no guarantee. But I can promise you one thing, the bathrooms that are there are usually always clean!!
Also along the trails, there was a recent addition of more wooden bridges and stairs to make the terrain in some of the muddier parts a little easier to deal with. If you are an avid hiker, this will be the easiest trail ever. If you want to take small children and your family to these trails, they are well marked and very easy to traverse!
Today was filled with beautiful memories!