Battle Ground, Indiana, in Tippecanoe County, is so named because it is the site of William Henry Harrison's famous battle with the Indians at Tippecanoe. Battle Ground is far off any beaten path and Wolf Park is even farther.
The quickest route (about two hours from south Chicago) is I-80 or I-90 to I-65 south. Exit on route 43 north, and after about four or five miles look for route 225 and a sign pointing you to Battle Ground. A few miles down this pleasant road is Battle Ground (population 850). Pass over the railroad track, turn left on Main Street, and go down a couple blocks to Jefferson Street. There's a tiny sign there pointing the way to Wolf Park. Take a left and follow the washboard road way back into the woods until it ends.
Wolf Park is open to the public May through November, 1 to 5 PM Saturday and Sunday only (317-567-2265). Wolf-bison demonstrations are Sundays at 2 PM. The wolf howl is at 7:30 PM Fridays year-round (weather permitting). This is an interesting tradition that whets the appetite for more contact with wolves. Dr. Erich Klinghammer begins with a brief talk on wolf behavior and the history of his pack before taking his guests up the gravel road to the ridge near the pond. There everyone howls on cue for about 20 seconds. Then you listen to the chilling sound of the wolves and coyotes howling back.
Admission to the howl or to the park on weekends is $3. The howl is free to children under six, and park admission is free to anyone under 14. Certain hotel discounts are available.
The most famous attraction in Battle Ground itself is the Tippecanoe Battlefield Museum (317-567-2147). It's located in a pleasant park, but the museum's appeal is in direct correlation with one's opinion of Indian massacres. Admission is $1 and the hours are 10 AM to 8 PM this summer and 10 AM to 5 PM otherwise. An annual park tradition is the fiddlers' festival during the last weekend of June. Fiddlers, folksingers, and bluegrass musicians come from all over the country. Changes in management, though, mean that whether or not the festival will continue after this year has yet to be determined. For those interested in the battle, an outdoor amphitheater featuring weekly reenactments just opened outside Battle Ground. Admission is $12 for adults, $6 for children on weekends, and $10 and $5 during the week. Family rates are available.
Many of the charms of the area lie beneath the surface; they don't appear in guidebooks. On your way to Wolf Park you can stop in at Crossroads Pottery (317-567-2678) in the home of former Chicagoan Scott Frankenberger, 104 Main St. in Battle Ground. He'll invite you into his basement where you can buy pieces of his ceramic pottery for mostly between $10 and $50. His hours are noon to 5 PM daily, but it's best to call for an appointment. Just off 225 on 43 is the home of Iva Titus and her son Dale, where you can buy handmade rugs for $10 and up. You'll have to look hard to see the sign. They don't exactly reach out for business. When we asked to see Iva, who's in her 80s, Dale said, "She don't talk to no one." But once a rapport has been established Dale will show you around and tell you of how he learned the art of the loom from his mother as a child, just as she learned from her mother. Dale is also a bird lover, and plenty of wild birds come around to feast in his feeders. The rug business is closed on Saturdays.
Another hidden treasure is the Clegg Botanical Garden (317-423-1325) just off Creasy Road and route 26 on the other side of I-65. It, too, is very hard to find, but it's worth the trouble. Open 10 to sunset daily, the park has five hiking trails that wind through five acres of hills and ravines covered with more than 500 species of trees and myriad native wildflowers. The aroma is amazing. Admission is free but there's no picnicking or camping, just hiking. The property is the former summer home of Harold Henry and Ruth Clegg, who in 1964 established the garden as a memorial to their only son, Richard, who was killed in a car accident.
An interesting attraction in nearby Brookston is Kathryn and Howard Clark's Twinrocker Paper Company (317-563-3119). With the help of their small staff, they make paper from scratch, selling it directly to the public as well as shipping it all over the country. They're especially proud of their watercolor paper, which is in great demand. The operation is currently run out of their home but soon will be moving to the main strip downtown.
Also on the strip is the Top Notch bar (317-563-6508), where we got the best meal we had that weekend. Top Notch serves only sandwiches (cheap!) during the week, but on Friday and Saturday nights you can get a great filet, among other dinners. The onion rings are very good too. This is an unpretentious local bar where you'll be surrounded by sensible Hoosier faces. But there are only about a dozen tables and most were occupied by 5:30 on Friday. The locals didn't seem to mind the wait, though. Just down the street is another popular place among the locals, Klein Brot Haus (317-563-3788). The European atmosphere was eye-catching and the specialty is homemade bread and pastry. On the soup-and-bread bar are a variety of spreads. The soup was good. But prices seemed rather high for a small town. There's entertainment like folksingers and jazz combos on Friday night. There's no cover, but the prices are higher during entertainment time. Klein Brot Haus is more of a novelty in a small town than it would be to big-city people. Also on the main strip, Joe's family restaurant looked promising in a meat-and-potatoes sort of way. But we could never find it open.
Another good eatery is the Cracker Barrel (317-447-9544) just off 65 on 26 in Lafayette. This country-cooking restaurant and country store is part of a chain, but the food does not taste mass-produced at all. Their specialty is rosin-baked potatoes. The homemade soups and desserts are excellent. Locals also suggested two other places we did not get a chance to visit: the Pub in Lafayette, a peanut-shells-on-the-floor bar that is said to have good prime rib on weekends, and Steiney's, on route 43 in West Lafayette.
Lodging is pretty much a coin flip. Most every chain has set up shop and there appears to be little difference. Beginning in July, Al and Cherrie Buckley will be using two of the four bedrooms of their home as a bed and breakfast called Harmony Farms (317-474-1293). It's located just off route 38 east of the town of Dayton. Look for the sign. Reservations are required.
It's a treat if you happen to catch something going on at the Long Center (317-742-5664) in Lafayette. This 1930s vaudeville house features a 16th-century pipe organ, with frequent concerts. Take a look at the courthouse in Lafayette too. The elaborate architecture is stunning. Local artisans sell their wares in the annual art fair held outside the courthouse on the Saturday of Indy 500 weekend. Another annual event is the Feast of the Hunters' Moon every October at Fort Ouiatenon (317-743-3921) in West Lafayette. The fort, open 1 to 5 PM Tuesday through Sunday, commemorates the first fortified European settlement in what is now Indiana, established by the French in 1717. The feast seeks to re-create life in the settlement. It features costumes, music, food, and crafts of the period.