A Ride in Brown County State Park

Please note—the following may be either an account of a real event or just another work of fiction by the author.  It’s up to you to decide.

Back in the 90’s I was doing a lot of “outlaw” riding on my dirt bikes, usually in the Yellowwood or Hoosier National Forests.  I started doing this after twenty years of trying to work within the system to gain legal motorized access to the forests.  Seeing it was a dead issue I said screw it and decided to go ahead and ride.  Not many people used the forests outside of hunting season and careful selections of where and when I rode eliminated most of the chances for interaction with other forest users.

Anyway I was chewing the fat with Bobby Schulteti, owner of Indianapolis Southside Harley-Davidson, who was telling me about how the annual state championship motorcycle cross-country race had been held at Brown County State Park until 1961.  He has a picture on his shop’s wall showing riders in Harley hats and shirts holding their trophies from the event.

Between that conversation and the riding I’d been doing (some of it just west of the park in Yellowwood on Miller Ridge) it got me thinking that it wouldn’t be all that difficult to enter the park, make a loop and then escape back into the forest with no one the wiser.

A bit of investigative research revealed that the southwestern two-thirds of the park was pretty much devoted to horse trails.  There were two types of trails—single track indicated by number and old two-track roads indicated by letters of the alphabet, according to an official horse trail map I obtained from the park.  Some of these trails connected over into Yellowwood and Miller Ridge which had a two-track indicated as the “D” trail as a part of the park’s trail system despite the fact it was outside the park’s boundaries.  At least at the time the “D” trail was still on the books as a legal road in the Brown County surveyor’s office despite it being blocked off to public use.

Finding that the area I was interested in riding was at the corner of four different topo maps I printed off these corners and taped them together.  Using the horse trail map I carefully transcribed the trails marked on it on to the topo map.  Most of these trails were already on the topo map so it was pretty easy to do this.  Using a map measuring tool I carefully logged the mileage between trail junctions and came up with a route sheet.  It proved to be amazingly accurate.  This was long before anyone had GPS units with maps on them so all navigation was done with this route sheet and an odometer.

Now I had a route—all I needed now were accomplices.  “Dave” was among the first that came to mind since he’d been doing a lot of outlaw riding with me in the forests.  “Joe Eddie” was another but was between bikes at the time if I remember correctly.  A riding buddy of Joe’s, “Steve,” was a possible candidate I’d ridden with as well.

I invited them all over for pizza one evening and outlined the plan to them.  This plan included hauling the bikes to the “scene of the crime” in a box van with the riders dressed and ready to go and picking them up immediately afterwards.  The date selected was Super Bowl Sunday, 1996.

The Saturday before the ride I was starting to have second thoughts.  For one, that particular day was damned cold and windy and I wondered what the weather would be like the next day.  The other question in my mind was what if we did get caught???  I was sure if we did we’d likely end up in jail.  Regardless phone calls were made to let everyone know it was a go.  Sufficient bail money was also given to my wife in the event the worst happened.

At that point I was still a member of the Stoney Lonesome M/C so we gathered there, got our gear on, warmed up the bikes and then loaded them into the box van.  Joe Eddie was to be our “getaway” driver and we headed off to southern Brown Co. so he could see where to go to wait and pick us up afterwards.  The initial game plan was for him to meet us after the ride on Blue Creek Rd. west of Story where the “D” trail comes out but on the trip to the drop-off point we decided to rendezvous at my property on Deckard Ridge Rd.  We headed back east and went through the park via the Horseman’s Camp entrance since there was no one there working the gate.  We saw one horse being loaded into a trailer but otherwise the park was empty, backing up my suspicion that most people would be at Super Bowl parties and not in the woods.

Leaving the park via the west gate Joe drove us to Crooked Creek Rd. and turned south.  At that point there was a small gravel parking area just before you went up the hill which is now a horseman’s trail head.  As we approached the area we unstrapped the bikes, put our helmets on and I had one of the guys turn on the police scanner I was carrying in my backpack, a speaker for which was installed in my helmet.  Joe backed into the parking area, came around, opened the rear door and as fast as we could unload the bikes and fire them up we left on a trail heading east.  Riding through Yellowwood looking like an advertisement for Honda’s lineup of off-road bikes—Dave on the big XR-600R, Steve on a new XR-400R and myself on my XR-250R, all with Kold Kutter ice racing screws in our tires and whisper-quiet exhausts–we made our way to the top of Miller Ridge and at a surveyor’s bench mark just west of the park we zeroed our odometers and rode east on the “D” trail.  A few hundred yards later we were in the park!!!

The ground was frozen and there was very little if any mud.  We rode across Taylor Ridge picking up trail “C” and then “B” to a short connecting single track marked #15 back to the “B” trail and then a loop on #14, returning again to “B”.  The next single track was trail #13 that took us north on a loop before returning once more to “B”.  At this point we were within shouting distance of the loop road that goes down to Strahl Lake and the horseman’s camp ground area.

Turning back west we rode “B” to trail #9 and headed south where after a quick jog on “H” we picked up trails #10 and #11 before getting back on “H”.  Near the intersection of “H” and “E” we picked up the single-track #12 and rode west back to “B”.

It was surprising to see the condition of the park.  There was virtually no vegetation up to as high as a deer could reach and the ones we saw looked very unhealthy.  While the two-track trails were basically smooth the single tracks were basically a rut 6-8” deep where the horses rode nose-to-tail through the woods making us jump back and forth to the high ground on each side.

After returning to “B” the game plan had been to ride north on a short segment of two-track to where #15 headed southwest, ride back northeast on “B” and then pick up the eastern segment of trail #16.  Unfortunately we missed the turnoff and quickly found ourselves at the south edge of the park where the “D” trail looped back into it.  We ended up riding down to where trail #16 continued on west.  All of us agreed this section of single track was the best part of the ride, a narrow and fairly rough trail that made it’s way up a ridge and then across to Miller Ridge and the “D” trail where we exited the park.  An easy two-track took us westward through Yellowwood to Crooked Creek Rd. where we exited the forest at the southernmost “Handicapped Hunter Access” and idled along on our studded tires on the paved road down towards the boat ramp area.  Just north of there on Dewar Ridge Rd. we turned back west into the woods, climbed a ridge and made our way through the woods over to my property.

Unfortunately Joe Eddie wasn’t there and we couldn’t raise him on the cell phone.  I could make contact with my wife in Indy who in turn was able to call Joe and get him directed to us.  Turns out he was up the road a couple of miles looking for us, worried we’d been caught.  He came back, picked us up and we headed back to Stoney and our tow vehicles.

When I checked the odometer if I remember right we’d ridden about 28 miles that day, certainly more than we normally covered when we rode cross-country through the forests without trails but far less than a day riding on the then-legal trails down in the Daniel Boone National Forest.  On this particular day it wasn’t so much about the mileage covered but where we’d ridden.  We’d gone where a motorcycle hadn’t been in decades and had a ball doing it.  Not only was it fun riding it was great to flip the bird at the authorities who’d banned motorcycles from the Indiana public woods.

The first person I told about this ride was Bobby Schulteti when I visited him at his shop the following Tuesday.  He got a huge kick out of hearing about it.

A snow storm hit within a day or two that likely erased any tracks or other signs we’d been in the park.

So did this ride actually happen?  Or is this story simply another product of my fertile imagination?  Contact the author at this website and let me know what you think.  I’ll never tell…