“A mind that is stretched by a new experience can never return to its original dimensions” – Oliver Holmes. A fitting quote for Pathfinder Outfitters, whose website it can be found on. Pathfinder, which specializes in local canoe, kayak, and boating trips definitely pushes the boundaries of its customers, expanding their horizons and providing them with an experience unlike any other they’ve ever had!
Guaranteeing a true wilderness adventure, Pathfinder takes its trip-goers along the backwaters and into the backwoods of Brown County. Exploring the less traveled parts of the county and beyond, they’re all about getting rid of life’s distractions and simply enjoying nature.
When I found out that I was going to have the opportunity to experience one of Pathfinder’s kayak trips with my fellow co-workers at the CVB, I was beyond excited. I knew I liked canoeing, which I had done a couple of times, but kayaking was uncharted territory for me. Looking forward to trying something new, our crew made our way to the T.C. Steele State Historic Site on a sunny, beautiful morning to begin the escapade.
Close to where we would be launching our kayaks at Crooked Creek, T.C. Steele was a good meeting location for us all to convene and gather our bearings before heading out. Plus we were told it was the last place we’d be getting any sort of cell phone reception for the rest of the day, tipping me off that a real wilderness adventure was to come.
Having some time to kill before we started kayaking, we decided to check out the grounds at T.C. Steele. Admiring the beautiful gardens and landscaping, we wandered around the property. Looking inside Steele’s well-preserved studio, it was easy to see why he was such a respected and esteemed artist. Portraits from his early days, along with picturesque landscapes of Brown County, filled the studio. His pallets and paints were even on display! Squeezing in some time to sneak a peek of a cabin on the grounds, we also were able to see how some of the earlier Brown County residents lived. Talk about stepping back in time!
Before long it was time to head back to our cars and drive to our kayak departure zone at Crooked Creek. As we drove farther and farther into the woods, it was obvious that we were getting ready to see a new side of Brown County…the wild one!
Arriving at our destination, we were greeted by the sounds of nature. Crickets, birds, and other nearby animals echoed around us. A calming sensation immediately hit me, as the stresses and to-do lists of normal life seemed to fade. It’s funny how something as simple as getting outside can clear your mind and lift your mood.
The stillness of the trees and the water that was in front of us was such a peaceful sight…and we hadn’t even launched our boats yet! Pathfinder Outfitters owner Steve Chafin, who also was going to be our guide for the day, explained a little bit about how the trip would go and gave us some paddling pointers. Steve even shared with us some of his story, including how his family has called Brown County home for several generations.
Finally time for us to get in the boats, I chose my ride for the day and waited for my turn to board. With a little assistance from Steve and Jodi, our other Most High guide, I plopped down into the kayak, hoping I wouldn’t tip it over right then and there! Luckily, I made a safe landing and began to paddle out. While at first I felt kind of awkward trying to maneuver my paddle, I caught on pretty quickly and found my rhythm. Actually it was pretty easy to get the hang of things, convincing me that just about anyone can kayak.
Making our way down a stretch of narrow water, we took in the sights and sounds around us. Not only did trees line the bank, but they also could be seen submerged in water, making a pathway for us to paddle through. Still waters and nothing but the sound of the woods…we were definitely off the grid.
Following the creek a bit farther, things suddenly seemed to open up, as we found ourselves in the Wilderness Waterway. With water and trees as far as you could see, the scenery was breathtaking. Completely alone on the open water, our group was getting a true picture of the natural beauty of Brown County.
As we traveled along, Steve explained the flow of the bodies of water and how they all connected, as well as pointed out different ridges that could be seen along the horizon. All I can say is that I’m glad we had a guide! Being bad with directions in general, there’s no way I would be able to navigate by myself. Never fear though, Steve had us covered. With his water and wilderness knowledge, there’s no way we’d get off course.
Raised in Brown County, Steve has spent a lot of time on the backwaters. He even remembers driving through the area before it was flooded. Kayaking, fishing, hunting, hiking, and exploring the woods is second nature to Steve, who has an obsession for the outdoors that can’t be cured. But…who would want it to be anyways?
Following in his father’s footsteps of working on the water (his dad owned a boat rental company on Monroe Lake), Steve lives for the next adventure. Prior to Pathfinder, Steve’s love for the outdoors led him to a career in the environmental science field where he worked as a consultant on water restoration projects and even started his own business doing hands on restoration of not only waterways, but also prairies, forests, wildlife habitats, and more.
With lots of knowledge and personal experience under his belt, Steve now leads others along his beloved backwaters, spreading his passion for nature, as well as creating lasting memories for his fellow adventurers. Needless to say, we were in good hands with Steve as our guide.
Working our way down the Middle Fork Wilderness Area we passed by a waterfowl hotspot, a great place to see bald eagles, along with other birds and animals. Unfortunately we weren’t able to catch a glimpse of an eagle on our trip, but Steve did point out a couple of their nests as we paddled by. Before long, Steve was directing us to the bank for a quick break to re-energize. Little did we know that he was taking us to the shoreline of the Deam Wilderness area of the Hoosier National Forest.
Talk about seclusion! Steve informed us that the area where we were taking our break was part of some nearly 13,000 acres protected under law where no motorized equipment or equipment used for mechanical transport is allowed, including motor vehicles, motorboats, wagons, carts, etc. We truly were alone with nature…and it was great! In fact, according to Steve, it’s one of the best places in Indiana for a “true wilderness experience.”
Hitting the water again, we continued our trip for a few more hours. Of course, we had to make some more pit stops along the way. After all, some fresh, cold fruit and swimming was necessary on a trip like this!
Over four hours and nearly five miles later, our kayaking expedition was finally coming to an end as our launching point at Crooked Creek slowly creeped back into sight. Slightly sun-kissed and totally relaxed, it was time to call it a day. One thing’s for sure, there’s way more to Brown County than meets the eye. Behind the trees and beyond the gravel roads, are beautiful backwaters begging to be explored. And Pathfinder will gladly take you there!
Glad to have had the opportunity to take on the water and to see some of the less traversed areas in the county, it’s safe to say our kayaking adventure was a hit! I’d do it again and I can guarantee my fellow paddlers would too. Next time we may try out Pathfinder Outfitters’ Fall Color Wilderness Kayak Tour (where you can admire Brown County’s famous fall foliage in a whole new way) or maybe even their nighttime moonlight excursion.
Get alone with nature and wander (or in this case, paddle) the wilderness in Brown County! Make sure a trip with Pathfinder is on the agenda during your next visit.
812.340.0700 / www.pathfinderoutfitters.com
Group Minimum 8 | Group Maximum 70
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