Shrader-Weaver Nature Preserve
Two trails traverse this National Natural Landmark; in the process, they pass near some very large trees. From the parking lot, walk across the driveway of a private residence and head down the path. The largest black walnut tree in Indiana is along this initial stretch, as are several other gigantic specimens of the same species. The first junction has a registry box and (sometimes) brochures; it marks the start of the Old Growth Woods Trail.
The Old Growth Woods Trail is about a half mile long and has 22 marked stations; each corresponds to a feature described in the brochure. You will find yourself surrounded by very tall trees, and when their leaves are out it can be rather dark down below. Spring wildflowers of many species thrive here Ė nodding trillium, jack-in-the-pulpit, Solomonís plume, squirrel corn, twinleaf, several violet species, and many others. DNR literature states that a yellow-flowered form of toadshade occurs here, though I canít claim to have seen any. By late summer, nettle will probably dominate the forest floor. Maple and beech trees are most prominent, but others are also present; station 4 is an impressive specimen of chinkapin oak, and station 7 marks the largest tree in the woods, a stupendous bur oak. The walking is easy Ė there is very little elevation change, and the trail is obvious and well-maintained. The remote location means itís also likely to be quiet, save for the sound of birds and insects calling far overhead.
On rejoining the entrance trail turn right and head for the Succession Trail, which is half again as long as the Old Growth Woods Trail. In keeping with its name, I can testify that this area of the preserve has grown up considerably in the years between my visits and will doubtless continue to do so. While most of the trees are still relatively young, there are also some giants; station 2 is an enormous Shumardís Red Oak, and station 3 marks the spot of another gigantic bur oak. Early spring visitors should encounter amazing stands of blue-eyed Mary, particularly along the western portion of the loop, south and east of station 4. Wet ground to the west between stations 4 and 5 is home to expansive skunk cabbage colonies.
TRAIL MAP (Click to enlarge)