Just in case you were wondering: the only available room in Brown County this past weekend, Oct. 18 and 19, was at a B&B in Nashville.
The rate for a single night? $490.
Nashville, IN, isn’t always this pricey, but when the leaves hit peak color, the demand for hotel rooms and cabins in the hilly regions of Hooiserland jumps, and Brown County is Foliage Central.
I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but the fall color has been absolutely ROARING this year. A lot of Indiana summers lately have been very hot and very dry. This year’s summer was cool and we saw a lot of rain. That’s made for colors that would turn a Vermonter green with envy, pardon the pun.
Mother Nature is smiling on the Hoosier treetops this year, boys and girls. Reds and yellows, and ay caramba, even the occasional purple shows up. I haven’t seen this many colors floating around since I saw the Dead in Philly in 1979.
So the missus, ever the optimist, went hunting all across the state for an affordable getaway option for a cheap-ish weekend in Indiana. We wanted to bike through the brilliant color. She attacked all the DNR cabin locales with gusto. (Since lows were forecast to dip in the 30s, we decided against tent camping. Plus, our ancient tent kinda sucks.)
She tried ‘em all. Nothing was available for less than around $100.
And then my wife found one of two unrented cabins in Greene-Sullivan State Forest, about 100 miles southwest of Indy. The price was right for a heated cabin with electricity (no plumbing): $30 per night, with a two-night minimum.
It’s billed as mainly a hunting-and-fishing locale, but the map reveals bunches and bunches of old mining roads through the forest. Looked like a winner.
We took off as the sun began to set on Friday eve. The colors were stellar. The suggested Google route followed State Road 67 for the majority of the trip. As we left Indy and ran through Mooresville, the asphalt followed the rail line (THIS IS CALLED FORESHADOWING, PEOPLE) until the road began to bend and twist as we gunned toward Linton, IN. Just outside Linton, we began to pick up the train tracks once more (AGAIN WITH THE FORESHADOWING).
We turned into the park. I spied an arched bridge of some kind in the distance, and thought little of it. (FORE. SHADOWING.) We found our cabin. We unpacked. The cabin’s gorgeous. The porch overlooks a lake. I built a fire. I opened a beer. We soon realized, however, these one-bedroom cabins are near a body of water called Narrow Lake are right by a fairly well-traveled road. The occasional truck roaring by on 159 might be disruptive, but hey — it’s the last cabin in Indiana.
We turned in.
Around two a.m., I heard the first whistle.
WEEEEEEEAAAAAAWWWWWWWWWWWW … “whistle” is entirely inaccurate when we’re discussing the Alarm-y-type-thing on the front of a train. This was a blaring, wailing, cacophonous Horn of Doom that echoed across the valley, followed by the racket of 78 cars That Sound Exactly Like a Twister.
Three a.m? Train two.
Three-thirty or so, we now had — get this — TWO trains passing each other. Double the WEEEAAAAWWW! Yay!
At five o’clock in the morning, I was finally back to sleep. My wife had somehow missed the whole thing in her slumber.
When I awoke the next morning — finally, at around 8:30 — I looked out onto the lake. It was gorgeous. Pristine. A virtual mirror. A fish jumped. My eyes traveled upward, and then I saw the low hill obscured by the all the hemlocks. It’s a raised trestle, just on the other side of 159.
Thirty bucks a night? Sure. WEEEAAAWWW!
We shall not be deterred. We shall brew our coffee. We shall get on our bikes.
We did, and every bloody moment of screaming locomotive wheel or rattling semi suspension was all worth it. After traveling south on the road that divides Greene and Sullivan counties, we turned onto Base Road, and the tree-lined dirt byway revealed a ridge-run that afforded us the view of a stunning palette. We looked across a wide valley and the trees beyond. It’s a coal-mining reclamation site, land once strip-mined that’s being nursed back to its original splendor. Soon, we were in a tunnel of yellow, in awe of the spectrum that’s Fall 2014 before we came upon a main highway and doubled back into the park. For the next two hours we explored, watching herons and hawks and bluejays with the binoculars we’d bought. It was a glorious day, one I’ll always remember.
The night that followed was cold. Very cold. The heater was loud, but it was the kind of whirring white noise that seemed to encourage sleep.
And drown out freight trains.