Fall colors, hiking trails, live shows and trails bring hundreds of people to Indiana Dunes National Park on weekends in October.
“The fall leaves, the colors, even the storms add a completely different flavor to the park this time of year,” said Kelly Caddell, the national park’s park guide.
Caddell stated that he worked as a volunteer for many years and is now a paid employee, and said, “I started here on the farm when I was 17 and never left.” “This is the best job I could have dreamed of and I am so happy it worked out for me.”
“We have been fortunate here at (Chellberg) Ranch to be able to do a lot of programming, even through the winter,” Caddell said, noting that there have been over 800 programs in the national park this year alone. “But Sundays are one of my favorites.”
Caddell was talking about two of his popular Sunday afternoon events: Furs Back to the Farm and Feeding the Animals.
More than 125 people gathered Sunday to tour Bailly Farm, where the chapel and fur trader cabin were open to examine and learn about the area’s early settlers.
At nearby Chellberg Farm, Kathy Wilder was in the kitchen, demonstrating typical fall dishes dating back to 1901, the time period of the kitchen there.
“Today we made a vegetable casserole using zucchini, zucchini, red potatoes and carrots from our garden here,” said Wilder, who has been volunteering for almost 30 years. “We also made applesauce, muffins, and oatmeal cookies.
“In those days in the early 20th century, cooking was based on the season of the crop,” Wilder said.
Later in the afternoon, Caddell walked through the barns with visitors to help feed the chickens and cows.
“We did some loops on the road and came back here. It’s a beautiful place,” said Wendy Davis, who is visiting from Vermont with her friend Barb Baird of Indianapolis. “Today was a perfect fall day.”
8-year-old WP Monnig from St. Louis, Missouri, was visiting the dunes for Fall Break with his parents and siblings.
“It was a little slimy,” WP said after feeding the cow. “But he ate the food right away.”
Visitors can learn about the history of Chellberg Farm from park guides, as well as learn a little about animal care on the farm.
“We can’t run this place without our volunteers,” Caddell said. “They are all amazing and we are one big family.”
“(Dunes National) Park treats its volunteers very well,” Wilder said. “They give us what we need, trust our decisions, and encourage learning.”
“We always need more volunteers and welcome help,” Caddell said, noting that the national park stretches from Michigan City to Gary on U.S. 12. “This is a huge place and we always welcome any help, whether it’s clearing trails, helping with tours, animal care expertise, botany – there are so many ways to donate time.”
Sunday is the last of this year’s Furs to Farming Flashback from 13:00 to 15:00 and Animal Feeding from 16:30 to 17:00
For more information or to learn how to volunteer, visit: nps.org.
Deena Lawley-Dixon is a freelance reporter for the Post-Tribune.