What a perfect day in Spencer, IN. Last week we spent a day exploring another county for my Explore Indiana project. This time, we headed southwest of Indianapolis to Owen County. Half the day was spent at McCormack’s Creek State Park and the other half in Spencer, IN. It was an ideal mix of invigorating and enjoyable things to do.
The day was a lovely, crisp, clear fall day. Our 90-degree heat-wave had finally broken and we were treated to a perfect 65 and sunny day. As we headed south, the flat land and cornfields gave way to the rolling hills and treelines of southern Indiana. So beautiful!
Indiana’s First State Park
The first stop was McCormick’s Creek State Park. McCormick’s Creek is considered Indiana’s first state park. The land was dedicated as such on July 4th, 1916. The park is full of wonderful hikes, interesting landscapes, recreation, and a historic Inn.
The Canyon Inn is a lovely historic building built on and around an 1880’s sanitarium that was marketed as a place for the wealthy to relax and rejuvenate. Sanitariums and mineral springs were all the rage during that time period. Canyon Inn has expanded and remodeled multiple times since then, but the inn is still located on the original sanitarium foundations.
The inn has a rustic charm and houses a small gift shop, restaurant, several conference rooms and a comfortable lobby/ lounge area with a fireplace. We were able to check out one of the rooms, and although older, they appeared to be comfortable and clean. With such a gorgeous setting, I think this would be a very relaxing place to stay.
Behind the inn is a recreation center adjacent to a swimming pool, shuffleboard, basketball and racquetball courts. You can also pick up several trails right from the inn and its parking lot. We began our hiking on trail 3 as it went to a waterfall. It was a short and easy walk, and we were rewarded with a beautiful view of this small waterfall. We were able to see it from above and then walk down a set of stairs to the creekbed.
After this short hike, we headed to the Nature Center which is a short drive from the Inn. On the way, we stopped at the stables although they weren’t open yet for horseback riding. The Nature Center is very well done with plenty of information on local habitats and the history of the area. While there we discovered another interesting spot in the park, Wolf Cave.
Wolf Cave can be accessed by taking trail 5 about 15 minutes into the woods. The story behind the cave is that an early settler was returning home after selling butter and eggs and as she passed the cave, wolves emerged. She threw down her hat and bonnet and was able to run away to safety. The cave has not been altered and you are welcome to explore it as much as you’d like. We chatted with two grad students from a nearby University and one of them said he had grown up in the area, and it was possible to enter the cave at this spot and exit quite a distance away. They decided to go for it, but as it involved crawling and we had plans for the rest of the day, we wished them luck and headed back to the car. Perhaps another time.
After all that hiking in the fresh air, we were hungry, so we headed to downtown Spencer, IN to look for lunch. Spencer’s population is 2,217 but the downtown is currently undergoing revitalization. I love it when this happens in these small downtown areas.
We stopped at a new brewery (opened in March) called Civilian Brewing Corps. The industrial/ rustic interior and busy atmosphere had us instantly intrigued. Our friendly server let us try a few of the brews but we settled upon something a little bit different. Their homemade grape soda! It was amazing. After speaking to the gentleman who brewed it, we discovered why it was so tasty. He used grapes from the nearby Owen Valley Winery and added no additional sugar. So it had a perfect balance of sweet and tart. Very refreshing and tasted more like a kombucha than a typical grape soda. Thanks to our server’s recommendation, we also ordered a basket of their fries. The fries are battered in Civilian Brewing Corp beer and served with three different dipping sauces, a beer cheese, a garlic aioli, and spicy mustard. They were perfection!
We spent a bit of time talking to our server and the grape soda creator and discovered that the brewery name is based upon the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) who made significant improvements to McCormick’s Creek State Park in the 1930s. Some of the interior pillars at the brewery were actually sourced from the park itself. I love the tie into the nearby park!
The rest of downtown is definitely on it’s way to becoming a once again vibrant square. There are several interesting stores, a tasty-sounding Thai restaurant, and a few delicious coffee shops. We stopped at Main Street Coffee because we saw this interesting contraption outside the door and discovered it is a steamer for their homemade tamales! They keep the tamales in here at the perfect temperature and serve them warm and ready to go. Ingenious, right? Of course, we had to split one and it was delicious.
A Winery is Always the Perfect End to a Fun Day
Our last stop before heading home was Owen Valley Winery. The winery has a lovely setting with plenty of outdoor seating perfect for relaxing with a glass of wine and enjoying the countryside. The tasting room is cozy with a bar for tasting along with a few tables to sit and enjoy a glass of wine and snacks.
We opted for a tasting as we’d never tried Owen Valley Wines before (aside from that delicious grape soda made from their grapes!). The winery offers a generous selection with everything from a dry white to a very sweet red wine. They also have a nice variety of fruit wines if that’s your preference.
A newer option for the winery is ciders. Right now they have three on tap, but it’s still a little bit experimental so they may or may not be available when you visit.
We ended up liking a few of the wines enough to purchase several bottles, so it’ll be fun to enjoy them in the next few months and remember our perfect day trip to Spencer!
If you are in the mood for a fun and relaxing day trip from the Indianapolis area, I can’t recommend checking out Owen County enough. This county has the perfect mix of outdoor fun thanks to McCormick’s Creek State Park, delicious food and enjoyable wine. Definitely a winner!
McCormick’s Creek State Park, 250 McCormick’s Creek Park Road (812) 829-2235
Civilian Brewing Corps, 14 N. Washington St. 812.652.5072
Main Street Coffee, 1 N. Main, (812) 821-6169
Owen Valley Winery 491 Timber Ridge Rd. 812.828.0883
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