The Sampler Takes a Spring Break

There comes a time in the course of a protracted Midwestern winter when cabin fever and seasonal anticipation combine to revive an irresistible and ancient urge for the quick getaway commonly known as “spring break.”

Now, you could climb inside your little metal box for 12 to 14 hours driving—each way. You could fight the full-on spawning traffic, and, once there, the teeming hordes with whom you will be competing for limited resources, rooms, amenities, and entertainment.
OR—you could do the smart thing this year and take your spring break in Brown County!

A little spring adventure in a peaceful, wooded corner of the world—a nice hotel, some outdoor activities, the pool, the restaurants, the entertainment opportunities, and all surrounded by the rugged scenic beauty of the state’s most visited destination.

I know, I know, some people just can’t be happy about a Spring Break trip unless the ocean is involved. But here’s a word to the wise—the ocean is a long way away from here and that long, grueling trip is going to end at a beach completely clogged with public drunkenness, objectionable mating displays, and much annoying bad behavior.

Let me tell you something about Brown County. Here, the forest is our ocean. It’s a cluster of little villages snuggled up to the edge of the great Midwestern forest; a string of little civilized Islands in and around our unique patrimony of hardwood forests.

As with the ocean, we tend to stay around the edges of the forest, perhaps strolling in a few hundred yards at the most. But if you will take the time to consciously get out into the great woods that are all around Brown County, to spend some time there, I guarantee you will see stunning beauty, majestic views, tiny wonders, and come away with a heightened sense of what it means to be an earthling.

For the novice, the clearly-marked and well-maintained trails of Brown County State Park are the perfect introductory. I can highly recommend taking a stroll around either Strahl Lake or Ogle Lake, or any of ten other trails of various degrees of difficulty.

But there’s good hiking everywhere—a couple of nice trails around Yellowwood Lake in the Yellowwood State Forest near Belmont, a number of Department of Natural Resources-maintained trails such as the Nebo Ridge Trail south of Story, or, coming soon, a loop trail around Nashville itself.

Brown County has also become something of a mountain-bike mecca, with some of the most varied terrain east of the Mississippi, from tight berms to steep switchbacks, tree roots, rock gardens, steep climbs, and natural beauty to spare.

You can rent a canoe and travel down Salt Creek, play a round of golf at Salt Creek Golf Retreat, or see nature from horseback at the state park, Rawhide Ranch on State Road 135 South, Schooner Valley Stables on SR 46 between Nashville and Belmont, or Grandpa Jeff’s Trail Rides up north near neighboring Morgantown.

Too tame? OK, Mr. Adrenaline Freak, let’s go to the zip lines at eXplore Brown County or Rawhide Ranch.

Valley Branch Retreat’s “eXplore Brown County,” has the longest, fastest, tallest zips in Indiana that soar over a mile of cable from heights of 20 feet to 70 feet through treetops and over a lake. Other opportunities for exhilaration include tower rappelling, multiple side-by-side zips, scenic tree towers, and the quarter-mile zip trip known simply as “the screamer.”

Maybe it’s the swimming aspect of a trip to the ocean that you really like, but, let’s face it—the ocean is salty and stinky and sunburn leads to skin cancer. Instead, why not stay in one of Nashville’s fine resort hotels that has a pool?

There’s a nice deep pool at the Brown County Inn in an indoor/outdoor arrangement with big doors that can be opened up on warmer days or closed when it’s cold. So even if it’s chilly outside, it has the effect of being outdoors.

Side note to dads: mom is off crawling with exquisite detail through the hundred-plus shops in town, the kids are frolicking in the pool, and the Corn Crib Lounge is about 150 steps away with major sporting events on the big screen, a direct line to the kitchen menu, and adult libations on hand.

The pool up at the Seasons is similar, with a lot of glass that gives the feeling of being outside and a terrific view. There’s a pool at the Comfort Inn and a great little pool with an adjoining hot tub up at the Hotel Nashville, which would not be such a bad spot for a little spring vacation, what with the pool, sauna and whirlpool tub, complimentary continental breakfast and “Darlene’s,” a nice little restaurant and bar upstairs.

Best water-wise is the indoor aquatic center at the Abe Martin Lodge in Brown County State Park, complete with a water slide, a lazy river feature, a large splash-and-play area for the little ones, and a grotto-like hot pool for the older ones.

What has Brown County got to offer besides spectacular natural beauty, comfortable resorts, and challenging physical activities?
Art. History. Culture.

If you are the kind of person who likes to spend an afternoon in an art gallery, Brown County is going to be a wonderland for you. In just one day you can visit the Brown County Art Gallery (306 E. Main St.), swing by the Art Guild downtown (at 48 South Van Buren Street ), with its fabulous collection of Marie Goth paintings and memorabilia, and the maybe take a short drive west to Belmont, to visit the studio and home of founding artist T.C. Steele, “The House of the Singing Winds”, a state monument.

In Nashville, you will find a number of excellent galleries and artisans.
There is a wide range of artistic expression in every form—from the blown glass at Lawrence Brothers to the fantastic ceramics at Spears Pottery; leather, weaving, woodcrafts, jewelry. Check out the Brown County Craft Gallery across from the courthouse, a cooperative featuring local and area artists.

Explore a little bit. Look at stuff. Give your eyes and your mind and your aesthetic senses and cultural yearnings a little break, too.
Take a spring break here. Invest your time on an entertaining, action-packed, relaxing, and comfortable stay in that most beautiful little corner of the world, Brown County, Indiana.