KA-THUNK! That was our first clue that the campsite we’d chosen at Mounds State Park in Anderson, IN, wasn’t the best choice. Although large and shady, we quickly realized the shade was provided by walnut trees; walnut trees that were rapidly dropping their fruit to the ground. A brisk wind helped bring the nuts down even faster.
After a relatively restless night with the adults kept awake by loud thumps on the roof of the camper – I still don’t know how the kids slept through it – we decided our best bet would be to see if a different campsite was available. Lucky for us, there was one left. This one had no trees at all to provide shade but the temperature was comfortable enough without it. Unfortunately we didn’t move quite fast enough as we discovered two large dents in our Durango; dents that hadn’t been there the day before. We should have had the kids wearing their bicycle helmets, too, because as we were hooking up the Fun Finder to relocate it, a perfectly timed falling nut bonked The Boy on the head.
Walnuts, 3; campers, 0.
Move complete and head injury soothed, we decided to explore the park. Mounds State Park is one of only a few places in the country that has preserved Native American earthworks. The titular mounds at the state park are believed to have been built by the Adena-Hopewell peoples around 160 B.C. There are several examples of the earthworks in the park, including the Great Mound and the Fiddleback Mound. We hiked around these two formations and interpretive signs were helpful for understanding why these prehistoric people built them. According to the Indiana Department of Natural Resources website, archeological surveys indicate the mounds were used for religious gatherings and for viewing astronomical alignments on the summer and winter solstices (http://www.in.gov/dnr/parklake/2977.htm). Archeologists have uncovered later burials within the mounds but that was not their original purpose, contrary to what I had always thought.
The park trails wind through hills, ravines and hardwood forest. It was quiet and cool in the woods even though it was an unseasonably warm fall weekend. The White River borders the state park and a trail leads hikers to an ideal fishing spot on the river. We hadn’t brought our poles so the kids contented themselves with putting a hand in a small spring trickling into the bigger river. Mosquitoes drove us out of the woods fairly quickly, which is unusual in early October.
Mounds State Park is a small park that is located only a few miles from Interstate 69 so it was an easy drive for us from northern Indiana. With only about 60 campsites, the campground is also smaller than most we’ve visited. There’s a nice mix of shade and open sites so you have a pretty good choice. I would just recommend avoiding the sites covered with walnut trees in the fall.
The kids enjoyed the playground area, which is set off from the campsites a little bit. The campground was small enough that I felt comfortable letting the kids go play by themselves. Aside from the walnut bombs, there were two other things I didn’t like about the campground. First, a railroad track runs close to the park and it’s very busy. Second, a small airport borders one side of the campground, also very busy with small planes flying in and out regularly. I enjoy camping to get away from the sounds of the city and these two things were a small annoyance. I’m not complaining, really, just be aware if you’re looking for a more peaceful experience.
All in all, Mounds is a nice park and gives local kids a chance to learn about the ancient peoples who once inhabited our state. The nature center is top-notch, with aquariums full of native species and a gorgeous wildlife viewing area. They have lots of hands-on displays for the younger kids and plenty of interactive stations for the older ones.
I’m sad that it’s time to put the Fun Finder away for the winter. We have had some great trips during our first season as camper owners and learned from multiple mistakes. We stuck pretty close to home this summer as we were getting used to towing the beast and learning all the ins and outs of travel trailer living. I’m already dreaming of next summer’s adventures and planning to get farther away from home on our travels to Find Fun.