Steve Charles—A few months before his untimely death in 2006, Wabash Bookstore Manager Mike Bachner ’70 came into my office with a grim look on his face. An unusual expression for Mike. 

"Another one is gone," he said, referring to the closing of another public access point to Sugar Creek. It was the second such "closing" of a public access point that year. While frustrated to lose two places to put in to his favorite stream—the place he considered the most beautiful waterway in Indiana and his personal place of solitude and refuge—he was more concerned that the lack of public access would mean that fewer people would spend time on the creek. Fewer would learn to appreciate, respect, and take care of it. He was unsettled by the direction things were going.

I thought of that conversation when I first heard that the Mike Bachner Reserve, which will be dedicated at 10 a.m. on Saturday, April 25, includes an access point to the creek. An access point only a few yards from the very one whose closing had Mike so worried. 

Can you imagine a better tribute to the man who had been drawn to Wabash nearly 40 years ago by Sugar Creek? 

I couldn’t help but think of another image of Mike (above), his fist raised in celebration during his 2005 Chapel Speech in the Wabash Chapel.

Then I found out where the new Bachner Reserve was, and I was taken aback. Just off Offield Monument Road in a wide valley, this place that will honor Mike is located in the very place where one of his most memorable moments on the creek occurred! 

Mike wrote about it for Wabash Magazine‘s "Refuge" issue in 2005. I’ll reprint his words below. 

We’ll have more about how the Bachner Reserve came about—an amazing partnership between Friends of Sugar Creek, the NICHES Land Trust, the Indiana Department of Natural Resources, Pheasants Forever, and the Indiana Heritage Trust—along with more about Mike, and even a couple of audio recordings of him.

We’ll have directions on the Wabash Web site on how to get there, too. 


But I wanted to get this date out there now so you can mark it on your calendars—April 25, 10 a.m. for the dedication. The rest of the day we’re all welcome to stay and help plant the thousands (yes, thousands!) of trees that will help restore wildlife habitat to the area. Should be a great day.

 
Here’s Mike’s memory of the place the new Bachner Reserve is located:
 
Sugar Creek drew me to Wabash almost 40 years ago. My second visit to campus included a fraternity canoe trip. That did it; I was hooked.

 I spent my share of weekends as a student in the ’60s canoeing with friends. Gondoliering down the Sugar Creek wilderness, singing show tunes. On one high-water trip we discovered a canoe lodged beneath a logjam. We returned later and, after considerable underwater sawing, we retrieved not one, but two canoes. One became the first of my now five-boat stable.

 Over the years, I’ve taken several students out to share my love of Sugar Creek. The trip I best remember was about 10 years ago. I took Waseel Azizi ’95, a Pakistani student, down the creek for a couple of hours.

 When we passed through the wide valley where the first settler of record, William Offield, built his homestead, Waseel began quietly singing, "Mani, mani, mani/busan cahani ching . . . "

 I asked what prompted the song, and he told me a tale of traveling with his mussein grandfather in Pakistan to experience a Sufi water ritual at a stream recalled by our location in Sugar Creek.

 I still use that Sufi chant as a meditation focus. It carries me back to one of my many moments of refuge on Sugar Creek.

—Mike Bachner, from Wabash Magazine, Winter 2005

In photo: Mike celebrates during his 2005 Chapel Speech at Wabash.