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.