Experimental music, photography, and adventures

Archive for the 'Canoeing' Category

Canoeing is bliss

Wednesday, September 7th, 2011

Sarah and I had so much fun canoeing on Lake Monroe the previous weekend that we decided to go again over Labor Day weekend. This time, we rented a canoe (etc) from IU Outdoor Adventures.¬† We got a great deal — they were closed for the holiday, so we picked up the canoe on Sunday and returned it Tuesday, but only had to pay for one day. It cost less for ~2 days than the rental at Paynetown SRA cost for two hours. This is a great way to go, and it allowed us to take the canoe and put in wherever we wanted.

Of course, this meant strapping the canoe to the roof of our car. The folks at IUOA helped us the first time, but it took a couple tries to get it right. It was rather precarious, and the nylon straps made crazy noises as we drove down the road. I wouldn’t want to do a long drive in this configuration.

Originally, we wanted to put in at the Crooked Creek boat ramp, so we drove there. We arrived and were about to take the canoe off the roof of our car when a couple came in on their motor boat and said they didn’t recommend putting in there. They had, and they ended up pushing through 12″ deep mud.


That didn’t sound like a lot of fun, so we instead went to Pinegrove, our second choice. We had no problems getting the boat off the roof, everything set up, and heading out. We headed north, toward North Fork State Wildlife Refuge. This is a beautiful area and one that I’ve explored by bicycle before; it would be interesting to see it from the water.

The weather was wonderful. It had been close to 100 degrees two days before, but now it was in the 60s and overcast. We were actually chilly at times, and it was wonderful. Fall is definitely in the air. Also, the wind was pretty strong at times, which certainly made our trip more challenging.

That said, when we got in the water and started paddling, it was just wonderful. In sharp contrast to our last trip, the lake was very quiet, with very few other boats, and we were in the idle zone, so even those boats that had motors were slow and quiet.


Almost immediately, we started seeing many wonderful birds. Mostly herons and egrets, but there were others as well. I’m not a bird expert, so I couldn’t identify a lot of them but I still enjoyed seeing them.


I quickly realized that it was going to be very difficult to capture this experience in photos. Much of the wildlife was distant and hard to get photos of, but looked much more detailed in real life. And many of the scenes which looked dynamic and evolving and changing in person look similar in photos.

But, more than that, so much of the experience was aural: bird calls and squawking, the wind blowing through the trees, the swish-swish of our paddles as we glided gently through the water. Our movements felt incredibly smooth, thousands of gallons of lake water acting like a buttery smooth suspension.



Paddling was fun, but the best parts were when we stopped and looked, and listened, all around us. There was so much to see, and hear. Sometimes we were hearing the same animals we were looking at, and other times we’d hear distant sounds and wonder what kind of creature was making them. And the enveloping sounds far exceed any kind of artificial surround system I’ve ever heard. The depth of the sounds was incredible.







One thing that amazed us was that many of these vast expanses of water were very shallow, under a foot deep much of the time. We did get stuck in mud a couple of times, but were able to work our way out.


I tried to capture the pink/purple flowers in low-lying plants at the bottom of this next photo, and you can see them, but you have to look for them.




We also saw a few deer, and a turtle, though I didn’t get any decent photos of any of them.



The wind was more of a factor on our way back, and we had some trouble with it. I wouldn’t mind taking a class or reading about canoeing techniques, because I’m sure I’m doing everything wrong. Except the enjoying it part. That, I’ve got down.






I guess we paddled for around three hours. We only covered a little over three miles, but it was a gorgeous day to be out on the water, and it was a very relaxing experience, that also happened to have some exercise attached. We discussed how amazing some of this scenery would be in the fall, once the leaves change. It would definitely be worth a return trip.

One thing that was interesting to me about this trip is, I’ve gotten pretty good at capturing bicycle rides and telling those stories through words and photos. But the canoe trip is a very different experience, and it may take a while for me to figure out how to convey it effectively. Video might be a necessity here, and/or audio. Definitely something to ponder.

I have a map, but I’m at a campus computer lab right now, so I can’t post it at the moment. I’ll add it later, when I get a chance.

Canoeing on Lake Monroe

Monday, August 29th, 2011

Sarah and I have been canoeing a few times in the past. This summer I’ve been bugging her to go, but of course it was extremely hot for a while, and it’s not terribly pleasant to be out, exposed to the sun, when it’s super hot.

But, the weather has been incredible lately — lows in the 50s and 60s, highs in the 80s. Saturday the high was in the upper 80s, and Sarah suggested a canoe trip. A great idea!

We figured Lake Griffy would be our best bet — Griffy is a small lake on the north side of town — within city limits, if I’m not mistaken. It’s a beautiful lake, and canoe rentals are cheap there, so we headed up to go paddling.

Unfortunately, we found that the water level was quite low and the shallow, stagnant water was disgusting, covered in algae and who knows what else. Suffice it to say, it looked unappealing.


So, we headed out toward Lake Monroe instead. First we tried to rent a canoe at Cutwright SRA, which lies east of the causeway. This is significant, as the east side only allows idle speeds, whereas the west side has speedboats and the like. But, we came up empty-handed. They only rented pontoon boats at that location. They suggested we try Paynetown SRA, which is not far away but is on the other side of the causeway.

We headed to Paynetown instead, and indeed, they did have canoe rentals. We rented one for two hours. It was overpriced, at $35, but we really wanted to get out on the water, and the water looked great, so we went for it.



We’re not terribly experienced at canoeing, and it had been a while since our last trip, so it took a little while for us to figure out how to work together to move forward and, more difficult, steer. We were having a good time. We weren’t sure which direction we should go in, so we checked out a little inlet.



After some hemming and hawing, we decided we would make our way over to the quiet side of the lake. This meant we had to cross the lake, and then go under the causeway. It didn’t look too far … we were mostly worried about speedboats.

We were a little surprised how much the wake of the boats affected us on the water. The waves didn’t look big but they were rocking our canoe. Or if we were headed straight into the waves, the front of the boat would tip up and then smack back down, which Sarah found a bit frightening.

I think it’s a lot like riding a bicycle on a gravel road. It’s disconcerting the first few times your tires start to slip, but once you get used to a little float and realize it’s not the end of the world, you start to feel more comfortable. Sarah was a good sport about it, even though I know she was a little stressed during this part.






Pretty soon, we realized that it was a lot further across the lake than it looked. Also, we had to contend with some wind. We kept paddling and eventually we were going under the causeway. It’s a little weird paddling under it, as I have crossed it many times by car and bicycle, but I had never seen it from this perspective.



Once we were on the other side of the causeway, things did calm down considerably. It was much quieter and I would have loved to explore further east, toward Hoosier National Forest and some other areas that are familiar from land, but by this time we were getting tired. We made a small loop on the “quiet side” and headed back.



Our return trip was a lot more pleasant than the trip out. Instead of cutting directly across the lake, we more or less followed the causeway and the land. We did cut across a bit but it seemed like once 5:00 rolled around, about half the boats left the lake and it was much quieter, even on the side that had been hectic before. We enjoyed a peaceful paddle back.






We saw this crazy house, which I guessed (and later confirmed) is owned by John Mellencamp.



We returned back at the rental place in almost exactly two hours, having traveled 4.3 miles. ¬†Here’s a map of our trip.

After that, we decided to head out to the Scenic View Restaurant, which was right on our way home. We had heard good things about the place, but had never actually been there ourselves.

It was Saturday night, and there was a long wait for a table. At least the View was excellent, as promised.



I did think this statue was a little over the top …


However, once we got our table we really enjoyed ourselves. There was a live jazz band playing and the lake looked beautiful as the sun set.



We enjoyed some beer samplers (the beers are not all the same, I swear, even though it looks that way), some great food (including a corn fritter appetizer that was amazing) … and great conversation, of course.



Once the sun set, the torches were lit and the environment continued to be just wonderful. We’ll definitely be making a return trip, both to Lake Monroe and to the restaurant.

In the future, I’m considering renting a canoe from IU, which we could then take to any location we want. There are quite a few areas I’d like to explore by boat, and I’d rather not have to put in at such a busy location again, if we can avoid it. Plus, IU’s rates are cheaper for a whole day than what we paid for two hours …

Memorial Day weekend camping, canoing, hiking

Friday, June 6th, 2008

On Saturday of Memorial Day weekend, we went camping at Jackson-Washington State Forest. We’ve been camping there before and in fact, is where we got engaged.

After we arrived, we set up camp. It was late afternoon, and this place was a lot busier than we had ever seen it. Not surprising, since it was a holiday weekend, but there were tons of campers (unusual) and a lot of loud dogs and kids. A lot of the kids were riding bikes around the parking lot, which was good to see, but they weren’t being very safe about it.

Our tent (the camper is our neighbors)

My hiking boots (photo inspired in part by Mr Macrum’s “Leather Friends” post)

After we pitched the tent, we decided to go for a hike on one of the shorter/easier trails. I think the trail we did was trail 6, about two miles long. We walked to the trailhead.

They drained the lake for … well, some reason


There was something in the air, a mystical atmosphere from being back in the lush forest with the sun low in the sky, light filtering through the trees.

Glowing leaves

The fog is really lens flare from a cheap filter, but it turned out to be a nice atmospheric shot


The trail was fairly flat and wound through the woods gently. It wasn’t a difficult hike, but it was great to be outdoors together and enjoying the scenery.


Soon, we came to a clearing. This was an interpretive trail and we had a pamphlet describing some of the features, but after reading a couple of things we simply ignored it. Most of what we read wasn’t too interesting. We did look up the explanation of the clearing, and apparently they do some testing with cross-pollinating various species of certain trees here.


Rays of light

Rob, looking very dramatic

Tree, moss, groundcover

After a while, we came to a lake, the name of which I can’t remember. The sun was reflecting off the water, at times it was a bit blinding but overall we had a stunning view of the lake. As soon as Rob saw the lake, he ran down the steep hill and jumped in the water. He ran back up immediately, and of course got us wet.


I spent more time looking at Sarah though … she was flattering the light.


Us … the focus isn’t how I intended but it ended up being an interesting shot.

The trail took us across a boardwalk for a while, which I tend to have mixed feelings about. I prefer more natural trails, but on the other hand the boardwalk lets you walk across a wetland. In this case, it was very cool.


Hills, lake, marsh

Rob and me

Before long, we came across the remains of a house or some other building. The trail went right through it. The walls had partially crumbled, and parts of what remained were covered in thick moss and vines. This added to the mystical atmosphere that the whole hike had, and we spent a few minutes here taking photographs. None of them really seem to do it justice.

Mossy wall


There was a staircase leading us out through the other side of the house.


As we continued hiking, we saw remains of other houses, none as cool as what we had just seen, but interesting nonetheless. An entire chimney still stands where the rest of one house is mostly gone.


The trail ended shortly after this, and it was getting fairly dark. We should really do more hikes late in the day like this one, it was truly fantastic. We really enjoyed this trail, as it had a variety of scenery, especially for such a short trail.

Returning to the campground

We got back to the campground and found it was still pretty noisy, maybe moreso. The campground at Jackson-Washington State Forest has “primitive” campsites (no electricity). Normally, this keeps things quiet, but in this case a number of people had turned on generators attached to their campers! I was pretty stunned at this, and it was pretty annoying to have what is normally such a quiet, peaceful event punctuated by generators, but we were able to tune them out pretty well after a while.

I built a fire, which always seems to take longer than I think it’s going to take, and we cooked burgers over the fire. They turned out pretty well, and we had a great evening being together, eating burgers and s’mores, and generally goofing around.

Some goodies

Cooking burgers


Tending the fire
The next morning, I went for a bicycle ride, which I’ve already written about here. After that, we went canoing at Starve Hollow Lake. We took Rob, as we’ve done in the past, and we all enjoyed ourselves. Rob kept shifting his weight, making it difficult for us to keep the boat steady. Eventually he laid down. He is so lazy! We got a good, close look at a Great Blue Heron and saw some other wildlife as well. A great end to a wonderful trip. Here are a few photos from our canoing outing.


Great Blue Heron

Lilly pads


Rob, lounging

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