It was a beautiful fall day with a high temperature of 68 degrees and I was headed out for a hike! I decided to visit a nature park that I had not hiked in awhile:, the Sodalis Nature Park.
This is a unique park in that it’s a habitat for an endangered species in Indiana: “the Indiana Bat” (Myotis Sodalis). Thus how the park got it’s name. This bat was put on the endangered species list on March 11, 1967, and is protected by the 1973 Endangered Species act. The word sodalis comes from a Latin word for “companion” or “social” which refers to this bat’s habit of forming colonies in both summer and winter.
Sodalis Nature Park consists of 210 acres of beautiful, mature woodlands and reforestation areas, which serves as home to an abundant array of native Indiana wildlife. The park came about through the efforts of the Hendricks County Department of Parks and Recreation, the Indianapolis Airport Authority, and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. The park operations were transitioned over to the town of Plainfield from Hendricks County in 2019. Visitors can enjoy fishing in the 5.5-acre pond or hiking over 5 miles of nature trails.
I arrived at the park in the afternoon and retrieved a map of the trails from a display case near the entrance. The trails, five in total, are all loop trails that connect to one another. Each one represents a different part of the nature park. I took off across a wooden bridge that lay before me to begin my day’s adventure. There was one trail in particular that I was wanting to hike, “Bat Haven”. Supposedly this is the trail that leads to where the bats hang out.
I started with the “Beaver loop” trail which led me by the pond along a shaded gravel path. There were beaver cuttings on trees, many were older but the hike also afforded some nice views of the pond. There were informational displays at each new trail intersection.
Next up was the “Bat Ridge” trail. I stopped to read the display and I learned a few things. Some of the things I already knew, such as the fact that bats come out at dusk and eat insects. They live under the bark of trees, in caves, in hollow trees, and man-made structures, but prefer natural habitats. The females form colonies under the bark of trees while the males prefer to hibernate alone. Bats usually hibernate in the winter in caves or under tree bark. I learned that bats can live up to 30 years of age.
As I took off down the shaded path, I found myself thinking about the bats that live in the park. I am not a big fan of bats but I do understand their importance in the bigger scheme of things. Mosquitoes are one of their primary meals which is a very good thing. One bat can eat up to 600 mosquitoes in an hour. This makes them a natural form of insect control. This trail was smaller in width and led me into a deeply forested area. This section was only 0.7 miles in length though it felt longer. The canopy overhead combined with the thick understory below made for a very shaded path.
I think that I must have watched too many Dracula movies with my cousins when I was a kid. I think many of us did. You know, where he turns into a bat. This might have instilled a subconscious fear of bats into the recesses of my brain. All I know is, I was just happy that it was daytime and that the bats were roosting at this time. Being an adult now, I know that bats are our friends.
I was happy that this place existed to help conserve these important mammals. I explored a couple of other loops before I left, and then headed back to the parking lot. It was an educational hike to be sure. The park is home to many other animals and birds. It is also home to many hardwood trees native to Indiana as well as many plants and wildflowers. It had been a very good hike. And it was a beautiful day!
To find this place: The park is located at, 7700 S County Rd 975 E, Plainfield, Ind. 46168. It’s only about a 45-minute drive because it’s a quick drive up State Road 67 North. Take a left turn off of 67 onto South County Rd 1025 East, drive 0.7 miles and turn right on East County Rd 800 South. Then turn right on South County rd 975 East. The park will be on the left. The park is open seven days a week from dawn to dusk.
A quote for your week: “Advice from a bat: “Trust in your senses. Spend time just hanging around with friends. Don’t be afraid of the dark. Get a grip. Enjoy the nightlife. Sometimes you’ve just got to wing it. Guano happens.” - Ilan Shamir - Author.
Until the next trail, Susan
This article originally appeared on Evening World: Hiker's Path: Sodalis Nature Park