Spring Breaths

The first day of visiting parks, in the hopes of seeing a waterfall, took my friends and I to some… bumpy terrain. Nothing that would give a healthy individual pause. Other than those who simply do not enjoy going for walks of course. But for those of use with pulmonary issues, there wasn’t a whole lot I could recommend.

Yes Anderson Falls is right next to the parking lot. Clifty Falls state park has a handicap viewing area for the main waterfall. And some of the other water falls and trails would be possible for those PF patients on low amounts of supplemental oxygen, no supplemental O2, or post transplant. But none of them were anything I could, in good conscience, recommend someone with compromised lungs go out of their way to see.

But the second stop of our second day was different. If you’re planning a trip through southern Indiana, enjoy out door site seeing, and are healthy enough to be out and about. I.e not a breath away from hospitalization as I eventually go to be. Than I would recommend placing Spring Mill state park onto your itinerary. More specifically the Grissom Memorial Museum and the Pioneer Village.

I wasn’t expecting a museum when we arrived. But was pleasantly surprised to see it. A small building dedicated to Air force Pilot ‘Gus’ Grissom. Indiana native, second American to fly in space, and casualty of the Apollo I disaster. It houses a space capsule, Gemini suit, personal belongs, and interactive displays. There is only one level, takes maybe 10 minutes to see, and is completely doable with a supplemental O2 cart, a rollater, or wheelchair.

The parks big draw, at least for me, however. Was the Pioneer village. Where the grist mill that Spring Mill park gets it’s name from is located. I really enjoy walking around historically preserved and/or restored locations. One of my favorites being the Fort Davis National Historical Site in Texas. I actually filled an entire SD card with photos and videos when I stopped there last year. (Breathing in Fort Davis)

There is a little bit of a walk from the parking lot to the Pioneer village. But thankfully it is not a crazy distance. If you’re using on a higher amount of liters per minute you may have to rest along the way. But there are benches and picnic tables where you can stop to catch your breath. With more places to take a breather once you’re exploring the village. And while things tend to be a little spread out. The ground you have to cover in order to see everything isn’t massive.

The village is relatively flat. With paved walkways to help you traverse the area. Making it relatively easy to get around with an oxygen cart, rollator, or wheelchair. With the exception being a few of the restored buildings. Where you’ll come face to face with a couple steps. But if you are able to walk around for short durations without your wheels, than you’ll be okay. The interiors aren’t huge. So you won’t have to be on your feet long. And thankfully the mill itself has a ramp you can use.

Among the buildings you can enter, my personal favorite was a small novelty store. Inside were the usual knickknacks and touristy items one would expect to see in such a place. Many of which I found neat, but none of which I would usually buy.

One of the drawbacks… or perhaps benefits. Depending on how you look at it. Is the simple fact there is not a whole lot of room for souvenirs in a school bus. So when you pick something its got to be rather special.

But I did purchase one thing… There was nothing old timey about it. Nothing to mark it as from Spring Mill… But, when I was a child my grandma worked at a florist shop. Where these same candy sticks were sold. And whenever I went in there, my grandmother would buy me one. So when I saw the display it reminded me of her. And I simply could not walk past without buying one.

Of course this trip wasn’t meant to be a stroll down memory lane. It was meant to create new memories and… find some freaking waterfalls. So you may be wondering, “Wheres the water fall?” And the answer is… past the village, a little ways into the woods, down what is actually a pretty smooth path.

It may be a little bumpy, and if it’s been raining you may need to worry about sinking into the soft dirt. But on a nice sunny day, if you’re managing to get around the village okay. It shouldn’t be that much more effort to get to the water fall. Be it while pulling a cart, walking with a rollator, or riding in a wheelchair. You will notice a decent sized set of stairs. But they are not anything you have to endure to see the falling water.

The park also boast several trails. Which, since they are not a necessary part of getting to the pioneer village, my compatriots and I skipped. Meaning I can’t review them as I have the trails at other parks. But if you’re healthy enough to visit the Spring Mills State park, than trail 6 should be a safe beat for almost everyone. Reportedly it is pretty level, only a quarter mill long, and paved. So there shouldn’t be any issue with oxygen carts, rollators, or wheelchairs.

Speaking of wheelchairs… A family from Bloomington donated an all-terrain wheelchair to the park in 2019. I couldn’t find any information on how to rent it. But the news reported it as free to use by those, “who could no longer easily walk the trails, to still be able to get out and enjoy them.” It appears you’d need an O2 tank small enough to sit on your lap. But it’s definitely worth looking into.

One of the things which really stinks about pulmonary fibrosis. Among a whole host of annoying things. Is that for our mental health we really need to get out and do things. But for our physical health it’s can be risky to hang around large crowds. Making the great outdoors more appealing. But finding places to enjoy that aren’t to rugged for our lungs to handle. Can be exhausting in and of itself.

Which in large part, is why I hate being unable to suggest more of the places I visit to my fellow pulmonary fibrosis patients. I know what it’s like to crave getting out and feeling alive again. But I guess that is also why I absolutely love when I can say, “Hey, take a look at this. You may be able to do this!”

Everyone’s trek along the fibrosis path, pre and post transplant, is a little different. Maybe the idea of roaming around in nature scares you. I’m not saying I’d have enjoyed Spring Mill when I was sucking down 10LPM+. But I’m pretty sure that with enough tanks… and that all-terrain wheel chair. I’d have been tempted to give it a try.

But regardless of your comfort level. I hope seeing me out exploring. Helps motivate you to live as best you can within your comfort level. There are no guarantees, and that is true for the negatives in life to. So enjoy the life you have as best as you can, try not to be worry to much, and never give up.

Spring Mill State Park 3333 IN-60 E, Mitchell, IN 47446

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