Originally Published August 6th, 2019
“Tend to the part of the garden that you can touch.”
The year is 1996.
A young boy sits on his front sidewalk—taking sips of a Jolt Cola as the bottle sweats droplets near a stack of aging comic books. He’s wearing a pair of jean shorts, ratty tennis shoes, and a once white t-shirt that’s been wiped so many times by dirty fish-gut hands—it’s starting to look like a Jackson Pollock painting.
The kid eerily resembles Fred Savage—he even sounds like him. As he begins writing in a notebook—you can somehow hear his inner dialog as the pen moves across the page.
***Sipping dangerously caffeinated soda pop. Fred Savage’s voice:
Ahh, the flavors of summer. “No—what?”
It was the greatest summer of my life. “Huh? I’m 11.”
It was the summer we played baseball in that old sandy lot. “Wrong story.”
There’s nothing like the freedom we experience during the summers of our youth.
Once we’ve made it through the neurotic rigidity of the school year—where every moment is planned, suddenly all that structure melts away. Freedom explodes in a humid burst of color, hot black pavement, and sharp bike peddles on bare feet. There’s nothing like that first day of summer and the potential that it holds. It’s like Kerouac’s America, the vastness of it all. When you wake up early to a hot sun beaming through your bedroom window—you watch reruns of superhero cartoons & Gilligan’s Island before grabbing your fishing pole, your bike, & riding down to the lake.
It was the summer that I sold all of my Spider-Man action figures to buy new fishing lures & a few fireworks (how did that investment pay off Tim??). It was the summer I rummaged through trashcans, bubbling snake infested lagoons, & alleyway gutters in hopes of finding a Pepsi bottle top. Every cap I found was like finding cash. I saved up enough to buy a chain wallet. Freedom.
What an amazing time to be a kid! Let’s face it gang, there’s nothing more American (gangster/hipster/rebel) than a Pepsi chain wallet. When I needed real money to fill said wallet, I would search couch cushions, heater vents, & under ancient rugs for loose change—finding enough to buy a cold pop and Laffy Taffy from the gas station. It was the summer I learned to hustle—and everywhere I went was by bike. It was like an episode of Stranger Things meets (insert hustling movie example) except without all the bonding friendships, monsters, drugs, murder, and crime.
Fast forward twenty two years to a hot Monday in July. I’m not a teenage kid anymore. However, I still read comics and I still have a chain wallet (though it’s no longer an advertisement for the worst brand of cola). I’m slowly buying back all my childhood Spider-Man action figures on eBay. Freedom.
On this humid Indiana morning—I have nothing but my bike, my camera, & that vast open road. As I peddle down Diamond street—already sweating—for a split second I experience that rare sense of childhood freedom. I can relive that seemingly endless summer—except this time instead of hunting crawdads, lures, and bottle tops—I’m hunting photos as I document the Fishing Line Trail.
For me, this trail represents a connection with my past—joining together my current home town of Kendallville, with my childhood town of Rome City. Every time I explore this trail I’m filled with a sense of nostalgia & the freedom of growing up as a street kid in Indiana—the Freedom to just get on my bike and go.
The Fishing Line Trail
The Construction Of The Trail
“The connections we make in the course of a life-—maybe that’s what heaven is.”
Thanks to the efforts of the nonprofit group Noble Trails Inc., a paved trail now seamlessly connects the communities of Kendalville & Rome City.
Construction of the trail began back in 2016, when a small portion was paved near Gene Stratton Porter. Today, the trail follows an old railroad corridor—completely paved and snaking it’s way through beautiful rural vistas. Known as The Fishing Line Trail—this system of bike, walking, & running paths will eventually connect Noble County with trails in Fort Wayne & Lagrange County.
Noble Trails Inc. is currently applying for an IDNR Next Levels Trail Grant in order to complete a portion of the trail here in Kendallville. The goal is to connect the finished portions between Riley Road & Friendly Village, with the Sports Complex on the south east side of town. After the funding is acquired—the plan is to have additional trail constructed along US 6 connecting US 6/Kammerer & Fairview, US 6/Allen Chapel & Dowling, and US 6/Progress Drive West (Walmart) intersections.
Once completed—there will be 13 total miles of trail. For now you can make your way to the trailhead at Angling Road and follow that all the way to the Noble County Convention Center in Rome City.
Documenting The Trail
“Sometimes I do get to places just when God’s ready to have somebody click the shutter.” —Ansel Adams
Since the major sections of the trail were completed this year, I’ve spent much of my summer biking & walking various parts of the path—camera in hand. I’ve experienced everything from scorching heat (my wife almost burst into flames during a midday run) to surprise thunderstorms. I’ve swallowed countless mosquitos and witnessed all sorts of wildlife—from a family of tiny raccoons (con growling madre) to a stalking long legged heron.
My goal was to strike out into the wild—like a wide eyed (handsomely bearded) Ansel Adams. Instead of documenting a National Park—my goal was to bring awareness to Noble County’s growing trail systems.
Like Adams, I wanted to patiently search each section of the trail in order to find the perfect light & composition. My aim was to genuinely slow down and focus on making the best images I could in order to showcase the beauty of the trail. In fact, my initial plan was to photograph the entire trail on film. However, I would probably still be waiting for it to be developed (not to mention my medium format camera wasn’t quite up to par yet). Instead, I shot mainly with my Fujifilm X100F Rangefinder on the Velvia Film Simulator—which helped capture the amazing colors of the trail.
I focused on documenting the portion of the trail beginning at Angling Road and ending at The Convention Center in Rome City.
With the help of my wife Ashley—we mapped out the trail using an Apple Watch. We thought this information may be useful to folks who plan on running various sections of the trail.
Angling Road Trailhead To Stonebreaker Drive——.24 Miles
Stonebreaker Drive Section——.55 Miles
Stonebreaker End To Sawyer Road——.34 Miles
Sawyer Road To Parking Lot On CR 600 East——.63 Miles
Parking Lot On CR 600 East To Crosswalk On CR 600 East——.31 Miles
CR 600 East To W. Rimmel Road (CR 800 North)——1.54 Miles
W. Rimmel Road (CR 800 North) to Limberlost Trailhead——.51 Miles
Limberlost Trailhead To Gene Stratton-Porter Parking Sign——.75 Miles
Limberlost Trailhead To CR 850 North Crosswalk——1.28 Miles
CR 850 North Crosswalk To Trail End At Convention Center (CR 900 North & CR 315 East)——.29 Miles
For a grand total of 5.69 miles from Angling Road to the Convention Center.
This was my summer photo project and I had an amazing time spending mornings & evenings making photos and experiencing the outdoors. I can’t wait for the fall colors to show up—maybe that’s when I’ll bring my tripod, Mamiya, and a roll of film.
“If you are lazy, and accept your lot, you may live in it. If you are willing to work, you can write your name anywhere you choose.” —Gene Stratton Porter, Girl Of The Limberlost
Speeding down The Fishing Line Trail during the early morning is like looking through a vibrant kaleidoscope of neon green. Sunlight pours through tiny gaps in the surrounding forest—spilling stripes of gold along the smooth black pavement. The whole trail seems to glow in technicolor. As I pedal fast along the dark flat surface—above, the trees make an almost perfect archway. They frame the leading lines of the old railroad corridor in a blur of green, red, gold, and blue—resembling a towering cathedral. This forest ceiling of leaf & limb graciously provides segments of deep black shade during midday hours.
The trail is flanked by a number of swamps, marshes, and trickling creeks that groan with the heavy bass tones of bullfrog song. Tiny woodland creatures rustle leaves below and the forest above—causing debris to fall along the trail. Flocks of buzzing swamp flys hover over piles of mashed wild berries. The whole chorus is interrupted as the eerie cadence of a deer treading water seems to overpower the entire woods.
The thick morning air is lightly scented by the smell of manured fields, musty hot swamp, and if you’re smart—bug spray. Gaps in the tree line reveal vast areas of Indiana farmland, the gravel quarry on CR 600 East, and an occasional deer stand or gloomy forest shack.
For the most part the trail is flat & linear—stretching out into a green infinity—like a huge exclamation point. Other parts rise, drop, and curve—causing my bike tires to hum as I glide by tall leafy cornstalks of Indiana July. There is a section of the trail that takes a country road (E. 800 North) past battered mailboxes and an old amish farmhouse. This only serves to add more rural charm to an already quaint country trail. As I look out at the damp waking fields, I see farm animals moving among rusting equipment and dazzling wildflowers.
After taking a right at the four way stop onto N. 450 East, I hop on the trailhead just past Iglesia De Christo Mi Roca. Here I find my roots—as I approach Rome City on the same railroad corridor that I explored as a kid. I imagine the lady of the Limberlost hiding somewhere in the trees—attempting to photograph a rare bird. Rays of sunshine dance across blackened swamp water, reflecting the trees above. A dense forest frames a field of blowing Black Eyed Susans—flaming in a brilliant yellow. As I approach the Convention Center, I can hear the distant sounds of blaring radios and rumbling speedboats on Sylvan Lake.
The paved trail ends at CR 900 North & CR 315 East but Ashley and I often follow the road in and take a right on Lions Drive—which brings us to Sylvan Lake. From there we make our way to Sundaes On Sylvan for a much deserved cone—heaping with some of the best ice cream around.
We’ve made visiting the trail a part of our summer routine and I hope this blog has inspired you to do the same. Noble County is blessed to have such an amazing trail with plenty of sites to explore. Despite riding the trail dozens of times—we’re always finding new places to venture.
Grab a friend & go enjoy the trail.
For more information on the trail & ways to donate visit: www.nobletrails.org
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Thanks for reading!
Special Thanks: Kari, Gabrielle, & Marc for allowing me to photograph them on the trail.
Thank you Ashley for making all those trips to Sundaes On Sylvan with me. I know it was difficult eating all that ice cream, but it was part of the research process. Freedom.