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The Versailles Republican

May 21, 2015 • Headlines

Many from the county and out of state enjoy Versailles State Park for kayaking, canoeing, boating and fishing.
The fishing at Versailles State Park isn’t just for people. This river otter made a good find in the winter.
Fisherman not only enjoy the bluegill and other fish in the lake at Versailles State Park, but no doubt, the beauty surrounding it. Rowboats and canoe can be rented.
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Extreme traveler
Park ranger explores country, lands ‘dream job’

Mary Mattingly

Brad Walker has found his dream job. Not many people can say that. The assistant property manager at the Versailles State Park has traveled the country, either on foot or motorcycle, satisfying a “wanderlust” he’s had as a child. After a year of hitchhiking and exploring in 2012, he was in Brown County with his wife who spotted a friend at a restaurant who worked for the Dept. of Natural Resources. Call it fate, luck, or good timing, the Purdue business major interviewed and found himself immersed in the lovely 6000 acres of Ripley County he now calls home.

Brad Walker


Pictured left, Brad Walker, asst. property manager at the park, at the northern terminus of the Appalachian Trail.

“This is my dream job. I have a passion for it. It fits all the pieces that make me tick,” he said, sitting in his office at the park. “I’ve always wanted to be a park ranger, but I just kind of went my own way about getting here.”

The 37-year-old park ranger has seen and experienced what few will do in a lifetime. He has written about his coast-to-coast and continent-to- continent travels. Walker said he has always liked to write, and his wife encouraged him to log his many journeys, on paper and not computer! His prose is in a 120 page paperback and available on Amazon. Walker is not as interested in selling the book “More than One Way Back” as he is in sharing his observations. “It’s me taking down life as I see it. Some travel stories I’ve experienced along the way. It could be a night in Kansas City or South Dakota or Santa Fe.” You could call Walker a modern day hippie (but he does not look the part), maybe a hobo (except he is employed and has always been), but perhaps he’s best described as just an extreme traveler, seeing the country whether it be by kayak, motorcycle, mountain bike or hiking. Walker is drawn to nature, always has been. As a kid, he lived on a dead end dirt road in Lafayette surrounded by fields and creeks. “I liked being outside,” he said, and never went on a vacation until he was on his own at age 18. He saved his money to travel, but he is not one to catch a flight, but more likely to catch a ride. He hitchhiked or motorcycled to some 40 states. It’s not surprising that he and his wife Joleen backpacked for their honeymoon in Italy. At the end of 1999, he and a buddy drove a car to Key West in case the whole Y2K thing happened, “and thought what better place to be than the Keys.” They slept in a car and had a great time. Today, the Walkers live in the yellow house on the property, and she commutes as a professor at Purdue.

Appalachian Trail
With his wife’s blessing, Walker quit his job and took off in 2012 and hiked the Appalachian Trail.” I went to Maine and hitchhiked my way down the coast. In Georgia, I got a car and drove to Gulf Shores to recharge. A hurricane chased me out of there.” He shared Ramen noodles with a guy he met on a trail, who suggested he kayak at Ash Creek near Voyageur Park (the largest national park you can get to only by boat) in north Minnesota. He did, and stayed at an island there three weeks “until I became feral!” as he says.

A brief recoup at home, then Walker went west to North Dakota and upon the suggestion of an Air Force friend, called his friend, and stayed in his tiny trailer or “metal box” as he described it. He lived on Audubon Lake, where “It was some of the best Walleye fishing ever” he added. “There were more dirt roads than paved ones, which is speaking my kind of language! I’d find bitty ponds and catch perch and bluegill.”

In late August of that year, he hopped on his motorcycle and stayed with his adopted son in Kansas City, and from then on, “couch surfed”. This is finding a place to sleep through a website at no cost. He rode the Santa Fe Trail and stayed in a teepee there. “It was a group of four; river guides in the summer and ski guides in the winter. They were living the life! Their couch was a teepee!”

Brad Walker of Versailles State Park
Brad Walker, left, in the lovely woods of Maine. He said it rains so much in Maine it is much like a rainforest!

He never experienced trouble while hitchhiking. “The East Coast is so used to seeing people hike and walk. You get picked up even when you’re not trying to get picked up. I never met anyone who gave me pause. There is like a culture, an understanding, that you probably have to witness to understand.” His backpack was loaded for three to five days of food and clothing. He battled the elements, and recalled Maine’s rain. “Maine is like a weekend away from a rain forest. They have sun showers all the time.” He piled up in a truck with a guy and four or five others he met, and climbed Mt. Katahdin, 5270 feet up, the very north end of the Trail.

Favorite memories
His standout memory? He has three; one was in Voyageurs National Park, sitting on a bluff. “I’m the only person out there with a large body of water in front of me, and I had the place to myself, watching the sunrise, seeing eagles and fish. It wasn’t a bad place to live I have to admit.” Second “was riding the Santa Fe Trail out of Kansas City on six miles with herds of antelope pacing me on the left. The sun was setting, and the road looked like it rode into the sun. That was a moment.” Finally, he recalls a rather scary time, on the Million Dollar Highway, a two lane scenic road in western Colorado with an elevation of 12,000 feet. There is a narrow hairpin pass where he met up with a big RV and trailer, and just missed going over the side.

The people he met along the way were the fun part. “I have met good sincere people. Not one bad experience.” He recalls how he rode and camped for two days with a guy to Flagstaff, Arizona to see the Grand Canyon, and never got his name. “You don’t meet strangers on a motorcycle. That has been my experience.”

While on the road, Walker didn’t miss technology or modern day convenience, but that’s not hard to fathom since he hasn’t owned a TV since the 1990s. He did miss his wife and family (two adopted grown sons) and a chair, and eventually brought one along on his journey. “You start to miss a chair! I got tired of sitting on the ground.” He would travel for weeks at a time, and had a tracking device so his wife knew where he was, and then return home before heading back out.

Walker carries a black book of his running list of places he wants to visit. If he sees something, talks to someone or reads an article, he writes it down. He has a list of 22 places so far but figures he’ll add to it as he meets more interesting people along the way. “Don’t ever feel you are too old, too young, or too not something,” he advises to wanna-be explorers.

Dream trek?
His dream is to ride his motorcycle to Alaska. “That would be to die for! To ride the highway to Pan America.” In the meantime, he’s happy knowing every nook and cranny of his “job” surroundings, biking on the fabulous mountain trails in the park, kayaking after hours or spotting Eagles near his house. When described like that, no wonder the park manager job is a dream job.

EDITOR’S NOTE: Do you have an interesting vacation story or picture to share? Ripley Publishing is interested in your vacation travels. Send us a photo by email of an interesting spot this summer you visited to

Pick up this week's edition of The Versailles Republican for the stories below and more local news. Subscribe by clicking the subscribe link or call 812-689-6364.

• Versailles State Park (tabloid insert)
• Memorable lesson: Milan students get timely lesson in community service (front page)
• Popp sentenced for another child molesting case (front page)
• Versailles Town Council: Thinking outside the box for complex (front page)
• Legion scholarship winners (page 2)
• Happenings at Tyson Library: Summer Reading Program kickoff (page 3)
• The American Legion: Remembering our heroes; real people, real stories (page 4)
• Memorial Day services for the area (section B, front page)
• On the Record from the Ripley County Courthouse (section B, page 2)
• The Good News Report: Christian camps for kids up to adults (section B, page 4)
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