Black-Eyed Susan along the Pumpkinvine Nature Trail

Black-Eyed Susan along the Pumpkinvine Nature Trail

Friday, May 18, 2018

Interning Along the Pumpkinvine

Hey Pumpkinvine Blog!

My name is Isabela Torres, and I am interning with the Friends of the Pumpkinvine this summer. I was raised in Goshen and graduated from GHS in 2015. I've been attending Amherst College in Massachusetts where I've majored in Environmental Studies. I'm excited to get to learn about the ecology of Northern Indiana and the opportunity to use that knowledge to contribute to the management and future success of the nature surrounding the trail.

I will be doing a variety of things with the Friends this summer, and you will probably see me out on the trail, posting on the Facebook page, or volunteering at the annual bike ride (for which registration is still open!). I'm super interested in learning more about the history and politics of the trail, along with how management styles have changed as the parks departments became more involved over time.

In summary: I'll try to contribute to this blog consistently throughout the summer for anyone interested in seeing what I've been up to. Thanks for reading!

--Isabela Torres

PS. Here is what I look like so if you see me digging up plants along the trail you'll know I'm supposed to be doing that -- if you see me around in Goshen (or at Los Primos where I work in the evenings) feel free to stop me and say hi!

Wednesday, May 9, 2018

2018 Annual Friends of the Pumpkinivine dinner

On April 24, we had our 17th annual Friends of the Pumpkinvine dinner at the Crystal Ballroom of the Lerner Theater in downtown Elkhart. It was the first time we had the dinner in Elkhart. Previously, we had rotated the dinners between Goshen, Middlebury and Shipshewana.

Around 280 attended the dinner -- about what we've had in previous years. I gave a talk about how patience is rewarded, if certain conditions exist,  citing examples of how patience our supporters have been when there were years when there was little or no progress in building the trail, and how the Community Foundation of Elkhart County was patience in requiring an onsite visit for their $300,000 grant. Both are examples of how they trusted us and we trusted them.

I also mentioned that the Amish churches have become a financial supporters through a fundraising letter we sent to them.  A less obvious way they have become supporters is by the inclusion of the Pumpkinvine Nature Trail in the 2017 edition of the Indiana Amish Directory..

A highlight of the evening was the poetry reading of the poem that won first prize in our first annual poetry contest. Matt Lind read his poem "Awe" and gave the poem some context. I've asked Matt to write down the remarks he made for this blog, but I haven't seen them yet. I found them very helpful in understanding the poem.  Here's Matts poem:

By Matthew Lind

Each day it waits, patiently.
I know it’s there
And even that
Fills me with anticipation.
It is a place where freedom lies
And comfort, perhaps
And awe…

Aren’t the Rocky Mountains “awe”?
Maybe Precipice Trail,
Red River Gorge,
Angel’s Landing,
The Highland Trail…

But the Pumpkinvine?
Let me explain.
It is awe, 
Brought down to earth;

 A miracle that forms 
This wondrous NOW.
It does not shout;
It whispers:
“Rider, awake!
Walker, awake!”

There is a place
For majestic mountain peaks,
For the overload of senses
That completely humbles.

Yet here this is:
Of forest and field,
Of understated beauty,
Of awe laid low.
Our back yard
Where we live,
Yet animated by the same
Dizzying atoms
That form Yosemite’s vistas. 

It does not shout.
It whispers:
“Come, walk my path.

Friday, March 23, 2018

The floods of February 2018 and the Pumpkinvine

Elkhart County experience record floods from the Elkhart River and other bodies of water in February, but the Pumpkinvine Nature Trail excaped major damage. Between County Road 35 and County Road 37 there is a low spot that was covered for a distance of over 150 feet, but in a few days, that water receded. That's at least the second time that area has been under water.

However, when compared to the damage done to the Abshire Trail and the trail around Fidler Pond, that area of standing water was an inconvenience, not a disaster. As I rode the Pumpkinvine recently, I was thankful that the railroad engineers of 1890s who built the Pumpkinvine had the wisdom to elevate the railroad bed so that it would not be flooded. The section of the Pumpkinvine pictured here is one part of the trail that is not on the old railroad corridor.

Friday, March 16, 2018

A printed newsletter

Every time a new physically printed Friends of the Pumpkinvine newsletter comes out, I ask myself if printing a hard copy of a newsletter is still a good idea? It is expensive to design, print and mail, and I see that other trail groups send out electronic newsletters. I know of only one other trail in Indiana that prints a newsletter -- the B&O Trail in Brownsburg, Ind.

Then today something happened that underscored the difference between print and electroic newsletters. I wrote a letter to the new president of Goshen College, Rebecca Stoltzfus, and her husband, Kevin Miller, inviting them to the Friends of the Pumpkinvine annual dinner April 24. Since I did not know their address and I didn't want to send a letter to both of them to the college, I decided to drop it off in person at their house, a location I knew. I thought it would be helpful to put a newsletter and brochure with the letter, also. I wrote the letter, picked up the extra newsletters at the Goshen College printing office and then drove to their house. Kevin was home, and I gave him the materials and talked with him briefly about the dinner and the Pumpkinvine, which he has not seen. However, I discovered that his daughter is dating someone who works at Pumpkinvine Cyclery, and he naturally had heard about the trail, so we had a connection of sorts

How much better it was for me to be able to give him a printed brochure and newsletter, rather than refer him to a website with basically the same information? (I had links to our website in the letter, also.) I think it made for a much more cordual and helpful exchange, compared to telling him to go to a website, which I would have needed to do without a brochure and newsletter in hand.

So, I'm still a proponent of a physical newsletter that I can hand to people. I'll bring the extra copies of the last three newsletters to the annual dinner, with the hope that new supporters will pick them up.

Soft trail section

From January to April, the crushed-limestone section of the PV from SR 4 to CR 28 is soft and as a result, becomes quite rutted from the bikes that ride the trail. Riding on it when it is this moist put a coat of dust on your bike frame, chain, derailleur, wheels, and usually your legs as well. And the ruts you create make it more difficult for subsequent riders to ride.

As as result, many of us avoid that section of the trail, and for those of us in Goshen, it means we just avoid riding on the PNT altogether because the cleanup involved is a hassle.

I suspect that walkers and runners also experience some of the same frustrations as the biker. Their shoes would become caked with dirt.

Saturday, September 9, 2017

On which side of the trail should walkers be?

Occasionally I have a discussion with walkers about which side of the trail they should be on Should they be on the right with the bikers or on the left facing oncoming bikers? As children, we learned that when we walk on a road, we should walk toward traffic to make sure cars are not driving over the edge of the road where we are walking. We might, therefore, assume that we should do the same when walking on a trail. 

However, a trail is not a highway, and the safest way for bikers and walkers to interact is for both to use the right side of the trail. 

Here's the general rule.

Walking (and biking) on a multi-use trail like the Pumpkinvine Nature Trail (no motorized vehicles):  Walkers (and bikers) use the "keep right except to pass" rule. When a walker or cyclist wants to pass (just like driving), they use the left lane and only pass when no one is coming and there is no curve. 

In addition, bikers need to signal their approach to walkers with a bell or a verbal warning like, "Passing on your left," and walkers should acknowledge that they've heard the warning by raising their left hand -- not a law but a gesture I'm promoting -- and moving right, if necessary. 

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Pumpkinvine one of Indiana's longer trails

I'm always surprised at how many people travel from a distance to ride the Pumpkinvine Nature Trail. They come from Detroit, Indianapolis and Chicago and all points between.

Then the other day I was looking up something about the B&O Trail west of Indianapolis on, the website where the Rails-to-Trails Conservancy has a listing of all U.S. trails. I noticed that Indiana has 110 trails listed on the site, but most of them are fairly short, like five miles or less. A quick look through the list showed that the Pumpkinvine Nature Trail at 17 miles is actually one of the longer trails. Here's a list of all trails 10 miles or larger.

  1. Cardinal Greenway - 62 miles
  2. Nickle Plate Trail - 36.9 miles
  3. Rivergreenway, Fort Wayne - 30.1iles
  4. Monon - 24 miles
  5. Panhandle Pathway - 21 miles
  6. Erie-Lackawanna - 17.7 miles
  7. Pumpkinvine Nature Trail - 17 miles
  8. Columbus People Trail - 15.7 miles
  9. Vandalia Trail - 16 miles
  10. Milwaukee Road Transportation Trailway - 10.3 miles
  11. Prairie Duneland Trail - 10.3 miles
  12. Delphi Historic Trails - 10 mile
So it's possible people come to ride the Pumpkinvine Nature Trail for its length, as well as its natural features.