Nothing beats fresh donuts on a brisk winter morning! Pair donuts with a visit to a sugar camp and you have the perfect start to a new family tradition!
WheelHouse Donuts is located north of US36, one block from the courthouse square in Rockville.
Begin the day with a stop at Wheel House Donuts in Rockville. Pick your icing. Pick your topping. Relax on the couch or at a small table. Large groups can gather at a community table on the lower level. Chat with some local customers before heading out into the cool winter morning.
Photo credit: Joanna Beasley Suitors
Exploring Sugar Camps
Parke County’s abundant woodlands are home to a thriving maple syrup industry. Stop by Sweetwater Farms a few miles north of Rockville for an authentic sugar shack experience. Sugar camp owner Jim Meece says “look for the smoke.” The green tubing snaking around trees means you’re in the right place.
The smell of warm maple syrup slams into visitors as they walk through the wooden door of the sugar shack. Watch as Jim boils down 55 gallons of sugar water into a gallon of maple syrup. Tasting the flavorful sweetness and seeing the beautiful amber color makes one wonder why we bother with tasteless white sugar.
Country Lane Sugar Shack
Blue tubing connects about 750 trees at Country Lane Sugar Shack south of Rockville. Alvin and his little brother Chris are manning the evaporator. They stoke the fire with hand-split logs, and store finished syrup in barrels. The modern equipment at this Amish sugar shack is surrounded by smells of sweet maple syrup and fragrant wood smoke.
Yesterday's Sweetness Today
Tubing and vacuum pumps make today’s sugar-water gathering less labor-intense than in by-gone days. People used to trade a day’s labor collecting sugar water from buckets attached to trees for a gallon of maple syrup. Lots of work is still involved. Indiana weather is always a factor. And the final product is only as good as the person manning the evaporator. The end product, the result of trees, weather, heat and tradition, is a sweetness that floods the senses.
A true Indiana winter experience awaits visitors curious enough to get out of their cars and go for a walk among the maple trees.
Later in the season and the longer the sugar water cooks the darker the syrup. Four grades of syrup range from light (left) to dark (right).
Blue tubing stretches through the woods at Country Lane Sugar Shack south of Rockville.
Alvin and Chris devised a wooden cart system to easily move wood to the evaporator.
Syrup leaves the filtration system and is stored in barrels.