Memorial Day Weekend in Brown County
What we did when we had a three day weekend to explore the state park
In Mission: Wanderlust, I write and podcast about our family’s travel adventures and the things that we have learned along the way.
Note: I realize that I am publishing a piece about Memorial Day nearly six months after it happened, but when it comes to holiday weekend scheduling, it’s time to start making Memorial Day weekend plans. If you are close enough to consider Brown County State Park, I highly recommend it.
We’ve always loved Brown County State Park.
When we lived in Indianapolis in our 20s, it was one of the only state parks we returned to over and over and over again. It was just over an hour from our house and we could easily pack up our tent and camping gear and Siberian Husky and take off for a much-needed city escape.
It would stand to reason that, when all of the other spots state-wide were taken five months before Memorial Day weekend, we gladly accepted the spot we found available in Brown County.
Our weekend didn’t start out the smoothest. One of the many reasons my husband wanted at least an acre of land when we bought our house was the ability to store the camper at our house for the first time since we had last lived in Indiana. We had plans to move our camper to the pad next to our house once we took care of repairs, so we were still storing our camper in our backyard. The week had been rainy and was going to get worse on the Thursday before we were to leave. My husband decided that we should take the camper down a day early, drop it off, and then come home.
Instead, the ground was already too soft; we got the truck so stuck in the mud that we had to have it towed out.
Yeah, not a great start to the weekend.
My husband was ready to give up and pack our tents and just head south, but clearer heads prevailed. Our neighbors helped us get out of the backyard on Friday, we finished loading up, and then we headed down south.
We were ready for a glorious camping weekend.
Brown County State Park is beautiful, has good facilities, and plenty of activities for all seasons, but like most older state parks, it has effectively maintained the trees and foliage that make it such a beautiful state park. The state park has pretty much left the campground as is for several decades, with few upgrades over time. That makes for lovely campsites, if you can get into them with 21st century campers.
But after sending our kids exploring and working without their bouncing bodies in the backseat, Jeff skillfully manuevered our camper up over a hump and into our tight site, even if we were a little close to our neighbor’s fire pit.
We had two full days in the park, so we started our two day quest to find all of the vistas to fulfill the Seven Vista Challenge, which takes park visitors to seven beautiful overlooks throughout the park. Unlike some of the other Indiana state park challenges, this one doesn’t require a lot of hiking and we could drive to most of the locations, which means that after three nights in the park, we were able to fulfill the requirements.
Because our family was camping in the Taylor Ridge Campground, we decided to spend our first hike of the day exploring the Taylor Ridge Trail. Trail 9 is a 2.75 mile hike through the state park and only accessible through the back end of the Taylor Ridge campground, the third and furthest back of the three main campgrounds in the park. According to the state park trail map, it is rated rugged, which appropriately describes the trail. While we were able to do it without too many difficulties, other visitors should probably make sure they are up to almost three miles of climbing and coming down hills. The bonus to the trail? A lot of different terrain and a hike along a creek bed with running water, at least in the spring. The biggest challenge? A large tree had fallen over one of the bridges and we had to go into a gully to get around it. But overall, I loved the hike.
It was a weekend for hiking (my favorite activity), so after dinner we took off for a ranger-led night hike on the Ogle Lake Trail, a 1.5 mile moderate trail that takes hikers around Ogle Lake. Our younger ranger was knowledgeable and incredibly patient with a group full of inquisitive children who had more questions than I certainly would have been able to handle while on a hike. Despite our daughter having a run-in with some kind of bug that threw off the rest of the hike (for her) and then losing part of her hiking boot in the mud, it was a good experience and excellent way to end our night.
My sister and her family joined us for a full Sunday of hiking, dinner, and games before they left our nephew with us for the night. We took the whole crew to the HHC trail, a 3.5 mile moderate trail starting at one of our favorite overlooks. the West Lookout Tower. It was a long trail but manageable for kids who ranged from five to thirteen; it even took us along a creek bed for the kids to cool off. The HHC trail goes in two loops, which meant we were able to cut it a little short, although we still did most of the trail. It’s a good, solid hike for any group.
We ended the night with the kids playing Giant Jenga, Oregon Trail, and a campfire complete with colorful flames.
Camping in Brown County State Park will remain one of our favorite camping spots for all time, mostly because every camping trip there is a new adventure. And having two full days to explore the park makes all of the difference.
The YouTube summary of our Memorial Day Weekend trip to Brown County can be found here:
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