September 18, 2013

‘Buffalo tro’ set for Touch of Nature next month

by Christi Mathis

CARBONDALE, Ill. -- The upcoming “buffalo tro” at Southern Illinois University Carbondale’s Touch of Nature Environmental Center will bring back the spirit of a time when Native Americans from the plains area dined on buffalo cooked directly upon hot coals.

The annual event by the Friends of Touch of Nature is Oct. 4 at the historic Freeberg Hall and Sledgefoot Lounge at Touch of Nature’s Camp 2.  The camp is located about eight miles south of Carbondale on Giant City Road.

The festivities begin with a 5:30 p.m. reception featuring light refreshments accompanied by local wines and beers.  Alto Vineyards, Big Muddy Brewing and Venegoni Horrell Distributing are providing the local wines and beer.

Dinner begins at 7 p.m. and features marinated beef steaks prepared much like the Plains tribes cooked buffalo, with the steaks cooked directly on a bed of hardwood oak, hickory and maple chips.  Cooks cover the steaks with piled wood that burned for hours allowing the intense heat to sear the meat and seal the juices inside.  The steaks are then “klinked” to remove the coals.

Diners may also enjoy the vegetarian option of stuffed portabella mushrooms.  The dinner includes the entrée, dinner salad, baked potato, hot bread and dessert. 

Lloyd B. Sharpe introduced the tro to SIU with the support of then-president Delyte Morris, and William Freeberg, a recreation visionary; the three men were also instrumental in the development of Touch of Nature.

From 5:30 to 8:30 p.m. there will be live and silent auctions featuring a variety of donated items. A complete list of auction items, event sponsors and the history of the Buffalo Tro is available at

Tickets are $75 each.  Those purchasing tickets will receive a $50 gift receipt indicating the contribution above the value of the dinner.  Reservations are available online at or

Those planning to attend are asked to RSVP by Sept. 30.  For more information, visit the website or call 618/453-1121 or email

Seating is limited and the event is frequently a sellout.  Attire is business casual. 

The funds raised in the past two years have facilitated numerous improvements at the camp including adding three new challenge elements -- the elevator, a zip line and a pamper pole.  Monies have also gone toward the purchase of kayaks and new outdoor recreation equipment along with new air conditioners for cabins used by Camp Little Giant summer camp participants.  Proceeds from this year’s event will also go toward program enhancement and facilities improvements. 

Donations are also welcome for the support of Touch of Nature, which opened in 1961 on a 150-acre plot along Little Grassy Lake.  The center has grown to 3,100 acres surrounded by Giant City State Park, the Shawnee National Forest and the Crab Orchard National Wildlife Refuge.  The experiential outdoor learning laboratory is home to Camp Little Giant, the nation’s first university-affiliated residential camping program for youths and adults with disabilities, as well as numerous other programs, activities and services including Environmental Education, Therapeutic Recreation, Underway Adventures and summer camps.