Plunk. Plunk. Plunk.
A family peers over the rim of a silver bucket hanging on a maple tree and watches clear maple sap drip from a tiny spout. When temperatures rise above freezing at the end of winter, the sap’s-a running.
Syrup-making in our region dates back to Woodland Indians, who mastered the technique using simple collection tools. They gashed the tree’s bark with an ax. Today’s methods are healthier for the tree. And visitors to Bendix Woods County Park in New Carlisle, one of The Bend's charming small towns, can see the process up close.
Trees are tapped in late February when winter's grip softens. Dozens of volunteers bustle in the sugar bush (the area where maple trees grow) on “Tapping Day.” A tiny hole is drilled into the sapwood of each large sugar maple. Vast systems of plastic tubing connect to tiny “spouts” tapped into the holes.
When conditions are right, sap flows from the trees through the flexible tubing into the "Sugar House" at the bottom of the hill. School groups fill buckets with sap and transfer them the wooden shelter as well.
Clouds of steam billow from the cupula atop the the Sugar House. Volunteers feed the fire, share conversation and keep a watchful eye on the boiling sap. They wait for the temperature and density to transform the gift from the trees to golden syrup.
Sap season culminates at Bendix Woods with Sugar Camp Days, a festival on the third weekend in March. Pancakes sizzle on griddles and maple sloppy joes steam under a park shelter. Horse-drawn wagon rides, tours of the sugar bush and artisan demonstrations fill the weekend.
Plan Your Visit
Come celebrate the end of winter and the sweetness of pure maple syrup with us in New Carlisle! Sugar Camp Days is scheduled for March 16-17, 2019.