Maggie Jutte, 10, of Bluffton, Ind., at right, enjoys a ride along the 2-mile bridle path at Pokagon State Park in Angola, Ind.
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ANGOLA, Ind. - Snuggling the shores of both Lake James and Snow Lake, with two beaches and a dozen miles of hiking trails, Indiana's Pokagon State Park is only a 20-minute drive from Rob and Dawn Felts' Coldwater, Mich., home.
But it took $4-a-gallon gasoline and the need to economize for the couple to venture to Pokagon, near Indiana's borders with Ohio and Michigan, with their motorboat and camper.
The Felts plan to remedy that omission next year with several return visits, Mr. Felts said last week.
"I wonder why we haven't done it before - it's beautiful back here," he said while walking with their 2 1/2-year-old boxer, Roxi, in the park.
Named for the two 19th century leaders of the Potawatomi tribe, Leopold Pokagon and his son, Simon, the state park has lake shores, wooded hills, wetlands, and open meadows on more than 1,200 acres.
It is connected by a hiking trail to 89-acre Beechwood Nature Preserve, which has a 1 1/2-mile loop.
Pokagon was founded in 1925, and many park buildings and features were constructed by the Civilian Conservation Corps soon thereafter.
The park offers a wide array of year-round outdoor sports possibilities, as well as lodging ranging from primitive campground sites to cabin suites at Potawatomi Inn Resort & Conference Center.
Rob Felts of Coldwater, Mich., and Roxi take a spin on James Lake. Park activities include fishing and swimming.
Swimming, fishing, boating, hiking, biking, tubing, and horseback riding reign in summer. Winter brings cross-country skiing, sledding, ice skating, and tobogganing on a quarter-mile refrigerated track.
Maggie Jutte of Bluffton, Ind., spent one morning last week with cousins Kaitlin and Madison Tonner of Bluffton atop horses with a guided group on a two-mile bridle path. Tobogganing in winter on a twin track at speeds of up to 40 miles an hour is another favorite Pokagon activity, she said.
"That's a lot of fun," said Maggie, 10, who frequently visits grandparents who live on Lake James.
Defiance native Allison Kuhn said she grew up coming to Pokagon and continues to visit now that she lives in Fort Wayne.
Visitors can enjoy Lake James as well as the park s woodlands, wetlands, and meadows.
"It's close, and it's accessible for people who don't have boats," she said. "It's a nice beach area."
Kim Ladig, who has lived on Lake James for seven years, said she too has vacationed at Pokagon all her life. Now family members, including grandsons Christian Ladig, 3, and Camden Ladig, 1, of Decatur, Ind., come to her, she said.
"To me, this is one of the crown jewels of the state parks in Indiana," Ms. Ladig said as the trio enjoyed one of the park's two beaches.
For 4-year-old Amelia Kline of Fort Wayne, a camping trip to Pokagon isn't complete without a pony ride a few times a day.
The Klines spend some long weekends at Pokagon and wrap up the summer with a nine-day trip before school gets back in session, said Amelia's mother, Katrina Kline.
"This is one of her favorite things to do while we're here," said Ms. Kline, who also has two sons, 9-year-old Lukas and Nikos, 11.
"This is one of our favorite places to camp at," she added. "There's lots to do for all different ages."
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