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May 30, 2006

Visiting a Southern Indiana Cavern

Kunga Choden - We left Crawfordsville at 6:00am in the morning, May 26, realizing that we were going on an adventure. Neither me nor my friend Adam had ever been to Bedford, Indiana. The trip to Bluespring Caverns took us two and a half hours of intense driving through unknown roads.We finally arrived at the Cavern gate at 8:30am, but it was closed. Aftering wandering around for a while the manager of the Caverns finally showed up and opened the gate for us. We were the first tourists there, but both Adam and I knew that at the start of tour we would be accompanied by more people. The Bluespring Caverns has the longest underground river in the US. We would explore only a small part of this lengthy river in a custom-made boat.

The Mystery River tour started at 9:40am.In the 1940's, the cave was actually under a farm pond.The pond disappeared overnight as the acid rain ate away the limestone on the cave's entrance.

Aftering entering the cave, the tour guide gave us some time to adjust our eyes to the cave's darkness.Once inside almost everyone in our tour group admired the aesthetic beauty of the cave.Even the gentleman who had visited the site ten years ago was ensnared by the cave's beauty.Our guide gave us a brief history of the cave at the entrance. She explained a series of extraordinary events that led to the discovery of the cave and the current ownership.We had to go down a while before we reached the boats. Once inside the boat the tour guide started explaining the cave formations.

Throughout the tour, Adam and I snapped a whole lot of pictures.We weren't allowed to touch any part of the cave except for one of the ceilings.Nature had carved this wonder flawlessly, and owners made sure that it stayed that way, but I wondered if they realize that the lint from the body of the thousands of tourist that visit the cave every year also do a considerable damage to the cave's natural habitat.

Every part of the whole cave was beautiful in its own way. As it had stormed earlier that night, the water was not very clear. We saw only a few crayfishes, couple of frogs, and two bats.She explained that after a heavy rainfall, the whole cave would flood in no time.

The tour guide let us experiment in the cave in total darkness and total silence. She told us that the inside of the cave is 40 percent darker than darkest nights on earth's surface. The tour stopped after a few yards, and there we were able to see a small entrance that led to the longer part of the cave which we could not explore at that time. This wasn't my first cave tour, but it was by far the best one.

In photos: Top right is one of the millions of stalactites in the cave. Lower left: Entrance to Bluespring Cavern. Lower right: One of the cave's residents.

May 25, 2006

Loving 60 Miles on the Wabash in Two Days

Zach Webb - When we arrived at the Mississenewa Lake, I began to realize how much different our project was from the others. Our group does have a lot of freedom with our topic, but at the same time, we have little room for error. Our project is to present the Wabash River, to Hoosiers, old and new, and tell them about its biology, its history, and its beauty. With Clayton Craig still overseas, (on the Glee Club trip to the United Kingdom) we were accompanied by Mike Bachner.

 Mr. Bachner is a welcomed addition to the trip, not only for his knowledge in a kayak, but also for his wonderful sense of humor. Let me just say that he is very fond of pirates.

The three of us put in at the Mississinewa Dam, so that Mr. Bachner could see the Seven Pillars, which is a limestone rock formation carved out, by years of brute force from the Mississinewa. The trip down the Mississinewa gave us an opportunity to test our equipment on a slightly more manageable river. The Missisinewa is also home to an old circus museum, which houses a shrine to an elephant trainer who was killed by one of his elephants.  

After two hours of paddling, we finally reached the mighty river where the Wabash forms a giant “Y” with the Mississinewa.  For most of the day we moved, rather comfortably, along the river at about five to six miles an hour.  The Wabash follows several different county and state roads, most notably State Road 24, and the rumble of passing cars blend together with the squawk of the blue herons. The interesting thing about the speed of our boats was the fact that the surface of the river is extremely still. However, the Wabash is known for its strong under currents and frequent rocky areas. At one point, Mr. Bachner kindly reminded me that we should avoid one of the pillars of an old railroad bridge during a particularly rough patch of water. After paddling nearly 32 miles, 23 on the Wabash, we reached Logansport. 

We made camp at Logansport, where Homer and I parted ways with Mr. Bachner.  We awoke to somewhat cloudy skies and after a tour from one of the WRHCC members, the governing body for the Wabash River, we departed Logansport heading for Delphi. 

The float to Delphi was roughly 26 miles and trying at times, with both the current of the river and the wind preventing us from making any real progress at times. It is in this section of the river that the numerous riverside residences and highways end and there is little on either side of the river, but cottonwood trees, phlox, sycamores.

After almost 12 hours on the water in two days, we began to imagine things and not in a crazy way. As Mr. Bachner said on day one of our trips, it is important to keep the inner child alive. About a mile outside of Delphi, two islands that have with a little help from the river taken the form of two ships.

When we arrived in Delphi, we found Howard Hewitt, there to pick us up, standing on a bridge a fourth of a mile from our landing spot. Homer and I were relieved. We had paddled nearly 60 miles in 12 hours and we were tired.  I believe I can vouch for Homer and Mr. Bachner when I say that we loved every minute of it.

In photos: Top right, Webb and Twigg in the final 1/2 mile of their Wednesday journey. Upper left, the two are met by a Delphi area man and his grandson who were fishing. Middle right, after a long day of rowing there is still work to be done. At bottom, the two navigate a bend in the river just west of Delphi and come into view.

May 24, 2006

Ulrey Studying How Organizations Affect Latino Community

Tim Ulrey - My project is called ‘How Latinos add culture to Indiana.' This is a pretty arbitrary title to a project. Now that I have progressed, the project is developing into something more specific. I have been and plan to continue researching how organizations in 4 different sizes of cities in Indiana affect the Latino community and what they do to the community as a whole (whether they promote the understanding of the Latinos to the non-Latinos). My new theory to the question “How Latinos add culture to Indiana” is that it’s through organizations and businesses. Organizations and businesses can be anything from small Latino community centers to a large chain of Latino-owned stores.

On the former extreme, a more social-based culture can be added to Indiana: food, dance, music, movies, etc. On the latter extreme, business culture is experienced by people who interact with the Latino business owners. For example, if two businesses (one of them being Latino) wanted to merge in order to reach a broader customer base, the non-Latino company would have to know and understand how Latinos do business; this is a part of their culture. In addition to the business aspect, a more social-based culture is brought to exposure to the new customers of the conglomerate company. Imagine a typically non-Latino scene having many Latino products in it, whether it is food, CD’s, or what have you.

I plan to do this by scheduling interviews with influential people in Latino organizations and/or restaurants in cities such as Indianapolis, Bloomington, Lafayette, and Crawfordsville. Those four cities represent the four different sizes of towns that I want to investigate. However, the list of the cities to which I may travel are not limited to these four.

My final product will be a website and a presentation. I wish to reach out to anyone interested in the Latino communities. I will do this by culminating all the information that I will have. That information will include such things (but not limited to) the following: what the organization does, how it reaches out/ helps Latinos, their view on how Latinos add culture to Indiana, a comparing-contrasting view of what different sized cities offer Latino communities (advantages/disadvantages), among other ideas that will come to me as I progress.

May 19, 2006

PIP Interns Take Advantage of Indy Resources

Aaron Spolarich - Present Indiana Project participants spent May 11 scouring through the annals of Indiana history at the Indiana State Library and the Indiana Historical Society. With a brief introduction to the library, interns coursed through the library viewing rare books, Indiana population information, and collections of periodical clippings. 

The highlight of my day came when a research librarian allowed me access to the Indiana Authors room, which is typically closed to the public. This room contained first editions of all of Kurt Vonnegut’s works, along with first editions of almost every book published by any Hoosier author. After spending a challenging morning of research at the state library, students were treated with an Indian lunch in downtown Indianapolis. The majority of interns, who never had ate traditional Indian food, quite enjoyed their first foray into a different culture’s culinary style.

We were then treated to a brief introduction to the Indiana Historical Society and the multiple resources which were available. The library of the Historical Society contains unique Indiana items not available any where else in the world. The Society’s oldest piece is a map of the new world that dates back to the early 1500s.

Interns were turned loose in the library; using a computer database to locate pieces of interest. In order to obtain these unique items, interns had to request a librarian to retrieve them from the collection, and then enter a locked room where no food, drink, pens, or cameras were allowed. We kept the librarians busy with constant searches which included early 1900s maps of the Wabash River, journals of French fur traders who used the river for transportation, unique information on Native Americans in Indiana, and even the original celebratory book which was given to those gathered for the 75th anniversary of Vonnegut Hardware almost a century ago. 

Interns were greeted with a much needed day away from campus and unique research materials not available any where else in the world during their day in Indianapolis.

In photo: Andy DeRolf listens to library staff give instructions on how to conduct research at the State Historical Society.

May 15, 2006

Parke County's Economic Heart Its Bridges

John Meara '07 - Saturday’s trip (May 15) through Indiana’s famed Parke County, left no questions why it is the “Covered Bridge Capital of the World.”  This could easily be seen from the number of covered bridges encountered on the excursion, but much more evident from the small towns’ organization, and how it relied so heavily on the covered bridges as tourism for income.

The purpose of the trip was to explore Parke County, but most importantly visit Bridgeton for the ham and beans fundraiser for the new bridge which was destroyed in an arson fire last year.  On the way, we passed Beeson, Neet, Crooks, McAllister’s, Mansfield, and Big Rocky Fork covered bridges, but at Bridgeton only the remains from arson, and the beginnings of a new bridge. While there, the importance of the covered bridges became clear. The town was arranged to accommodate specifically for the covered bridge festival, however, without the covered bridge the town would be hurt this upcoming year.

In an effort to raise the needed $214,000 we attended the bean dinner and met some of the towns people committed to the construction of a new bridge. The people were mostly elderly, and typical of the small town America characteristics. The towns had transitioned from places of importance for agriculture and their positions on creeks, to towns which, rely on the covered bridges as a source of income. This was reiterated through the signs seen in the towns and the surrounding highways and country roads. 

It was interesting to think how the bridges themselves had transformed from merely a means to cross a creek, to important symbols of Indiana and American history, and an important source of economic activity for small towns dotting the Indiana country side.  Whether it is from economic gain, or historical value, the people of Parke County care deeply for their covered bridges, and takes pride in them.  They boast 6 million visitors and $17 million a year in a county where the largest town is Rockville, population 2,696.  

In photos: Top is a before and after of the historic Bridgeton Bridge. Lower left: Meara looks at how the Mansfield Bridge was constructed.    

May 10, 2006

A Big Trip Requires a Big Map

Homer Twigg '08 - Wednesday was a trying day. This morning I spent an hour looking for a map big enough and detailed enough to be a good guide and something to jot down notes on when ideas came to me. I didn't find a thing. The best I could do was to scan the sections from my Wabash River Guide book and then draw out the map on my own.

That required big paper needs, and I didn't have them, so I did some taping, and the picture reflects the work.

Upstairs, Clayton (Craig) and Zach (Webb) have been in Lilly Library, working on digging up information about the historical and biological backgrounds of the river. Zach dug up a map of Indiana and the map dated back to 1779. Clayton is finding out that there has been a lot of research about his field of study, especially between the years of 1966 and 1994 - so his co-academics is comforting.

The map, like this project, is big.

Homepage photo: From left, Twigg, Webb, Craig look over their pieced-together map! Above: Webb and Craig look at the first leg of the trip which they expect to start Saturday.

May 09, 2006

2006 Present Indiana Program Underway

Nine Wabash men will spend the first eight weeks of their summer studying interesting cultural aspects of the Hoosier state.

Wabash students, working with faculty and staff mentors, will develop and deliver a series of modules that will compose a curriculum focused on Indiana’s culture. During the summer of 2005, nine Wabash men created the first Present Indiana projects.

These video and PowerPoint presentations will be made available to a variety of audiences who will benefit from an introduction to the rich heritage and opportunities associated with living, studying and working in Indiana.

During the course of their 8 weeks of research, they'll be blogging here about their experience, the things they've learned, and living on the Wabash campus during the summer months.

Meet the participants

Aaron Spolarich '08, Schererville, Indiana, is an English and Psychology double major. Aaron is a swim team member, water polo club, a disc jockey for 91.3 WNDY FM, and is active in the pre-law society. Aaron will conduct a review of Indiana authors, and then limit his study down to two or three. Authors such as Kurt Vonnegut, Michael Martone, and Booth Tarkington all have deep connections with the state.

Omar Mainuddin '09, Dhaka, Bangladesh, is a Biology major and member of the International Student's Association and Mulsim Student's Association. His project will study the growth of the life sciences sector of Indiana. His final presentation plans to integrate the various aspects of the industry and give his audience an idea about the increased prospects of employment, and the innovative benefits of the initiative.

Kunga Choden '09, is a Tibetan refugee from Nepal. He is majoring in Biology. Kunga is secretary in the International Student Association. His research will focus on the environmental aspects of Blue Spring Caverns. The research's primary purpose is to encourage youth and adults to appreciate nature. The project will deal with the history and geography of the BlueSpring Caverns.

Andy DeRolf '08, Shelbyville, is majoring in History. Andy is a member of Phi Gamma Delta, Brass Ensemble, Fencing Club, Sons of Wabash, and the Edmund O. Hovey Society. His project will look into the culture of "Native" Hoosiers, or Indiana's American Indians. So far, his investigation has led him to communicate with the tribal leaders of the Miami Nation about education projects for young Hoosiers.

Clayton Craig ’08, Morristown, is majoring in Biology and minoring in Chemistry and Economics. Clayton is captain of the Wabash College Diving team, President of the Glee Club, and a member of Kappa Sigma. His Present Indiana Project consists of canoeing down the Wabash River and researching its natural history. Clayton will look specifically at farming practices and the impact each has on the Wabash River.

Zachariah Webb ’08, Anderson, In., is majoring in History. Zach is a member of Kappa Sigma, wrestling team, and French Club. Zach, along with Clayton Craig ’08 and Homer Twigg ’08 will research and canoe the Wabash River. His part of the project will be to not only record the trip, but also to record how the river has affected small town life in Indiana.  His final project will be a historiography of the Wabash River.

John Meara '07, is majoring in History. John is the president and member of Phi Kappa Psi, APO, and the Bass Club. His project will look at covered bridges in Indiana, and their importance to Indiana's history and heritage.  John will work with the Indiana Covered Bridge Society, and visit many covered bridge sites. His final presentation will be a video and a presentation regarding covered bridges.

Timothy Ulrey '08, Lafayette, is majoring in Spanish with concentrations in Education and International Studies. He's a Theta Delta Chi member, jazz band participant, Unidos Por Sangre, and gives private lessons for Spanish and trumpet. His project is to investigate how Hispanics in Indiana add culture to our state. He will visit Hispanic leaders, business owners, and other influential Hispanics throughout Indiana. 

Homer L. Twigg IV '08, Indianapolis, is a Religion major. Homer recently just finished a spring at Wabash filled with rugby matches, fraternity obligations at Kappa Sigma, and the application process for oversea study next spring in India. Homer is the GM of the Wabash Radio station and member of the Newman Center. Homer's Present Indiana project is to navigate the team down the channels of the Wabash