International Writers Magazine: Hoosiers
in the Fall
for me, will always mean baseball. But during my second October
outside of a warm climate, I was gladly re-introduced to the brilliant
colors that are the foliage season in the east and Midwest. On
a sun-soaked Saturday in late October, with temps in the low 60s,
my girlfriend and I left my downtown apartment and took a little
drive into the country to see what we could find.
In Indiana, within
half-an-hour, even from the urban area in which I reside, the surroundings
and geography quickly changed for the bucolic and the better.
Maria and I rolled along I-65 southwards toward the Indiana state line,
the Kentucky border and the Ohio River, but exited 60 miles or so short
of that in the architecturally stimulating town of Columbus.
town of nearly 40,000, one crosses Central Indianas White
River to enter, and is immediately hit with the Bartholomew County
Courthouse, framed by the countys war memorial, a series of
thin vertical pillars inscribed with the names of the heroic men
and women who fought for the U.S. in past wars. Not being a guru
on architecture, I can still say that Main Street, lined with peak
foliage, was splendid and as we left, choosing to head down State
Highway 11 instead of the interstate for the next dozen or so miles,
I was pleased to have stopped for cursory glances.
(And for those who
want particulars on Columbuss architecture, it really is known
as a hotbed - Saarinen, I.M. Pei, Eero and the like.)
as this may be, the exodus paved the way for the luscious Hoosier
National Forest and gorgeous Brown County State Park to be created.
This county, much of it no more than 30 miles from the heart of
downtown Indianapolis (whose metro area is nearly two million),
is now 80% forested
After taking flat, loopy Indiana Highway 11 southwest, crossing I-65,
ripping through the town of Seymour (population 18,000, home of famed
rocker, John Cougar Mellencamp), we hit the small town of Brownstown
- pop. 3,000, home of a lovely courthouse with leafy memorials, steel
cannons and spectacular sycamores full of color on all sides - which
serves as the proverbial jumping off point to something
better, I suppose. This time it was the Jackson-Washington State Forest,
shared not by the 7th and 1st presidents themselves, but by the adjoining
counties that bear their surnames.
Lakes, hiking, camping and plenty of leaves welcomed us to this marvel.
Now I had found the foliage fantasy I had longed for. Maria and I walked
around, sat on a small bench to gaze at one of the lakes, and tried
to catch and collect the falling red, orange, yellow, brown and green
leaves that would occasionally drift from the limbs of the overhanging
trees when a big gust would arrive. One of them is now in my desk.
After about an hour, we were quenched, headed out, filled up with gas,
then began the 35 or so mile drive up windy (whine-dy not
win-dy) Highway 135 northbound toward Nashville and Brown
County State Park.
The road was as spectacular as advertised, engulfed by leaves, hills,
streams, farms and bluffs. I had to drive so Maria snapped photos including
a cute one of a big cement pole about 100 feet high that said Jackson
County surrounded by amazing foliage as we left the county and
arrived into Brown County.
Moments later, the road dead ended at the Story Inn in the haunted
town of Story, about 6 miles shy of Nashville. Suddenly, the empty road
had cars and tourists on all sides. After seeing horses, food and a
Historical Marker, I decided to stop to gawk as well, pulling into a
gravel parking lot on a beautiful later afternoon with about 50 other
cars, donning license plates from local states like Illinois, Ohio,
Michigan and Missouri. Most people had cameras. Clearly this was worth
The story behind the famed Story Inn (www.storyinn.com),
in a nutshell, is that the town was named for a medical doctor with
that last name after the land was granted to him by then President Millard
Fillmore in 1851 following Hoosier hero (and ninth US President) William
Henry Harrison gained the land during westward expansion days back in
1809. The historic plaque at the edge of town (about 25 feet from the
center of town) notes this.
For nearly 50 years, Story has hopping. It was, all things
considered, a large settlement. Between 1880-1929, it had two general
stores, a church, a one-room schoolhouse, blacksmiths forge and
a post office. Four years later, after the Great Depression had fully
hit, Story began losing its citizens and never recovered. As a whole,
the county of Brown, lost half its population in the 1930s.
Story now survives
on tourism, with a beautiful, serene Country Inn offering food, music
and souvenirs as well as a quaint four room bed and breakfast, notable
for their year-round occupant, the Blue Lady. Apparently,
the Inn is haunted. Maybe the complimentary wine has something to do
with it, but it is booked solid much of the year. Wedding, reunions,
retreats and business meetings are common in these parts, but there
is no cell service, clocks, televisions, radios or telephones, in general.
Rooms range from $107 to $210 per night.
And then we motored off up a hill to the east, then north along tree-lined,
Northern California-esque roads until hitting the Southern California-esque
traffic in the touristy town of Nashville. The town, established in
1872, is a Pioneer Art Colony, just 20 miles east of Bloomington,
home of venerable Indiana University.
Apparently, these thronging crowds are common on Saturdays, especially
in the fall. I had planned to write of this town, but we couldnt
get into it, nor did we really want to after seeing the yuppie clientele,
so we proceeded to Brown County State Park as the afternoon sun still
shone brightly at 3:30pm or so.
A fairly long line of cars, knowing the fall foliage was at its zenith,
awaited us at the entrance, but after a nominal fee, we were ensconced,
and winding along an elevated, smooth road that reminded Maria and me
of Skyline Drive in Shenandoah National Park or the Blue Ridge
Parkway, only this at a slightly lower elevation (maybe 1,000 feet).
We stopped twice for quick walks, a photo or two, and one amazing panorama
view at a place called Hesitation Point. We didnt
hesitate to explore it and gaze breathtakingly at its landscape of incandescent
colors in the forests below that did look exactly like Virginia, Pennsylvania
or Vermont. Tourists with out of state plates abound, so we this park
was no secret to the knowledgeable masses, many of them European and
Finally, we descended down a steep hill where more hordes awaited us
in the parking lot by Ogle Lake. With the temps at their most pleasant
of the day (63, Id guess), I convinced Maria, who wasnt
feeling that well, to take a 1.2 mile traipse around the lake with me
on a trail deemed moderate.
It was a bit more strenuous than moderate and with her non-hiking
shoes (to say the least), my Maria was not too thrilled about climbing
paths, rickety bridges and little muddy streams, but we made it in a
little less than an hour. There were a lot of people on the trail which
also slowed things down, but nonetheless, some views were quite nice
and the sun splattering off the lake made our decision worthwhile
least in my mind.
We matriculated back to the car, drove up the hill, past the aforementioned
viewpoints, still filled with people, back out the park, over a bridge
and river, through some woods to dinner in Bloomington right outside
the university and the well-placed Monroe County Courthouse (our third
or fourth of the day, I might add), arriving about half-an-hour before
Quite a Hoosier Day for two transplants from Southern California and
South Florida, eh?
© Ari Kaufman November 2006
Ari Kaufman is the author of "A Year in Americana,"
available now at iuniverse.com. He is also the co-author of an upcoming
book on educational reform. Read his archived work at: http://indeed.blog-city.com.
Kaufman resides in downtown Indianapolis, Indiana.
Buy Ari's new book on educational reform here
all rights reserved - all comments are the writers' own responsibiltiy
- no liability accepted by hackwriters.com or affiliates.