The air here in Madison is heavy with the perfume of honeysuckle. Trees are leafy and lush and the undergrowth is spreading its green coat through the woods. Wildflowers poke through everywhere in splashes of purple, pink, yellow and white. And the birds sing, free and happy in the balmy air.
Since spring is not coming to us, we've decided to go find it down in southern Indiana. On a rainy and snowy day, we pack our bags, our food and our dog, leave this dreary northern county and drive south to Madison perched on the Ohio River. Right outside of town, we find our destination and turn in at the gate to Clifty Falls State Park.
Up the winding road that follows the canyon and through the woods, we reach the inn and our pet-friendly room where we settle in. Then it's time to explore. As we drive along the park road, we see few people, but those who walk by are wearing boots or hiking shoes covered with mud.
As we pull off to the side to see our first view of waterfalls, we are happy to have brought our own heavy-duty hiking boots. We follow the stairs down to the edge of the canyon, cross a footbridge and just like that we are hiking steeply up and then down on a muddy path. Large unwieldy roots cross the trail and stone outcroppings stand over us as we hear the falls before we see them. The dog, Stella, pulls me along, excited to explore and sniff along the trail. She easily jumps over any obstacle, then patiently waits while I find my way.
And then, at a turn, we see the water falling over the layers of rock. As we stand and watch, listening to the steady sound of splashing, the sun breaks through the brand new leafy canopy and adds magic to these inner woods. The way back is steep and slippery. What we thought was a walk turns into a rugged hike. We return to our car with mud on our shoes and find a sunny meadow for our grilling picnic. The pulled pork and beans never tasted better, especially after that hike.
Day two starts out warm and sunny. We tackle three more trails and find three more waterfalls. We stop for another grilling picnic. A tired Stella stretches out at our feet and sleeps. And we're glad to rest our aching muscles also. The air is fresh and mild and spring unveils copious greens. Ferns curl out, redbuds bloom and even the poison ivy is leafing. We feel the energy of new things all around us.
Later, we drive into Madison, a historic city full of old brick buildings and houses. We stroll along the riverwalk that borders the Ohio, then stop at The Red Roaster Café for coffee. It's warm enough to sit outside with the dog at our feet. We soak in the balmy breeze and the smell of spring. Trees are full of blossoms and scent the air. Over by the gas station, a lone fiddler scratches out a tune.
Back at the park, we follow one more trail, soak in one last ray of sun and call it a day. Tomorrow, we will drive back north, leaving behind the 79-degree day, and head into steady rain knowing spring will follow us back. I can't wait to see the redbuds bloom in my backyard.
La Bonne Vie's Rachel Shenk has been an artisan baker for 30 years. Born and raised in Belgium, she has lived in Goshen since 1973. She has been writing about food, traveling and the good life for about 10 years. You can connect with her on her Facebook page, La Bonne Vie, or at her cheese shop in Goshen, The Wedge.