Weekend Trips: Pokagon State Park and Toboggan run

I get sucked into Instagram sometimes. I look at travel sites and want to travel both near and far to see all of the glorious places that the snapshot captured.

It’s actually kind of a running joke between my person and myself. I’ll say, “Let’s go see the pelicans migrating in Indiana!” And we’ll drive three hours to see the pelicans, only to find a skunk and a mattress. Or I’ll say, “Look at this beautiful waterfall! Let’s go see it!” And we’ll plan a whole trip around this waterfall only to find the waterfall that is less than pictured.

I love that a tool like Instagram can help people find beauty and encourage them to take adventures, but honestly, sometimes I feel underwhelmed when I actually arrive at the destination.

That is my own issue that I need to deal with.

But, last winter, I found an Instagram gem that is sure to basically please everyone in the entire world: Pokagon State Park in Angola, Indiana.

What drew me to Pokagon State Park was the quarter-mile refrigerated toboggan run. What makes me yearn to return is the Potawatomi Inn.

Let’s begin with the toboggan run. Between November 24 to February 25 visitors to the park can rent a toboggan for $13 per sled per hour. Luckily, I was not by myself because the sled weighs quite a bit. It really takes two or more adults to carry.

Of course, there is a line because this is a great winter pastime, but once you get up to the stairs to the 30-foot toboggan drop, you are safely placed with your crew in the sled. When the time is right, the supervisors help you start down the slide.

Depending on where you are in the sled, your fingers will more than likely be holding onto the side of the sled, so I would suggest wearing gloves so your knuckles don’t get skinned from hitting the sides of the slide.

Other than that, this is definitely a great winter experience. There was nothing but laughs and playful screams coming from the visitors as they glide down the slide. As the sleds go under a spectator bridge, riders can glance at a speedometer to see just how fast they are going.

I don’t know if this is legal or not, but many people, especially those with children, carried the sled to the parking lot located near the bottom, loaded it into a van, drove to the top of the run, unloaded the toboggan and jumped back in line.

We spent our hour on the toboggan, then just listened to the children have fun on the run. We were there over the weekend, and the hours are Friday: 5:30-9 p.m., Saturday: 10:30 a.m.-9 p.m., Sunday: 11 a.m.-5 p.m. People continued to sled until final call!

I highly recommend visiting Pokagon just for the toboggan run, but if you’re coming from Mahomet, you’ll probably need to make overnight arrangements, as Angola is about 4.5 hours away.

Now, I’m going to make a side note here: Going up through Chicago is fun, and everything, but if you take the route through Lafayette, then to Fort Wayne, you can stop at  the Seven Pillars Nature Preserve in Peru, Indiana. It’s a bit out of the way, but I also found the Seven Pillars on Instagram.

While the site is interesting, what is also worth stopping for are the bald eagles that inhabit the area during the winter months. When I’d visited the Seven Pillars during the summer, a local told me that the bald eagles are abundant during the winter months. He said nationally recognized photographers come out to take photos of them because they are so abundant.

With that said, I visited again last winter, and saw a couple eagles, but they weren’t abundant. The winter of 2016-2017 was not cold, so I don’t know if that played into the equation.

It’s definitely worth the stop, though.

Okay, back to Pokagon. If you’re going to stay overnight, you should definitely stay at the Inn during the winter. We tried a cabin first. I’m sure staying in the cabin is the best option for families, but for me, it was underwhelming. The cabin we were in was decorated once in 1970, and I’m not sure much had been updated since then. The killer for me was that the floors were dirty and there was popcorn under my pillow.

So I called up to the front desk, explaining the situation and they offered to let me stay in the Inn.

As I got to the room, I was floored by the beauty of the original woodwork, the quaint bathroom and the tranquility of the space. Not only did the room make me feel like I was walking back into the 1930’s, the rest of the Inn provided the same experience.

There was no rush. I felt like the Inn said, “Here. Come be. You don’t need to go anywhere else. Just sit for a while.”

The whole experience was about connection and family. I enjoyed sitting in the Potawatomi Inn gathering room that included long tables that families gathered around to play board and card games, large windows overlooking the lake, couches that people curled up on to read books and a large fire that filled the entire room with warmth.

The Inn featured daily craft activities, a library, rocking chairs throughout, a restaurant and a snack bar. The back of the building boasted a beautiful stone terrace with chairs for gathering with loved ones. The terrace faced the lake where I imagine boats and kayaks float all summer long.

Just below the terrace families also gathered around an enormous fire pit where you could roast marshmallows or spend long nights near.

The Potawatomi Inn isn’t like any other “hotel” I’ve been to. It is a place to go if you want to connect with yourself or loved ones, if you want to have a bunch of opportunities to either play or relax and somewhere you need to go if you’re looking to be restored.

I believe the Potawatomi Inn has a sort of healing quality.

While visiting the area, I checked out a few other places that I want to let you know about, too. There are a few wineries in the area. I cannot speak to the quality of wine, as I do not drink, but each location hosted wine tastings and the staff were friendly.

Take time to talk to the folks at Satek Winery, Briali Winery or the Hartland Winery if you’re in the area. We did not have time to stop by Chapman’s Brewing Company or The Hatchery, but other visitors and locals seem to enjoy these two venues.

Another must-see attraction that was closed when I visited was the Wild Wind Buffalo Preserve. Note, during the winter, this venue is only open from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Saturdays. From April to December, it is open Wednesday through Saturday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Establish in 1992, the 600-acre preserve was built to revitalize the buffalo population. Through guided tours, the preserve is now known as a spiritual center where people can gather, heal and seek peace as they learn from the buffalo.

Animals lovers may also want to check out the Black Pine Animal Sanctuary where over 100 displaced captive-raised exotic animals have found a forever home.

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I may do it all, but I have not done it all.

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