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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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

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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.

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

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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.

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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.

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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 …

Waffle

Monday, February 28th, 2011

Waffle, Belgian

Photo taken this weekend … I’m posting from a computer lab at IU. Looking at this shot is almost too much to bear, without actually having a waffle in front of me.

5. Charlotte; 6. Chestnut Knob (South Mountains State Park)

Wednesday, September 5th, 2007

I’m still trying to wrap my head around all the things we did on our vacation, and find time to write about them. It’s just so overwhelming.

Friday evening, we arrived in Charlotte and went to dinner with my friends from college, Michael and Laurel. He is now an attorney, and she works for the Opera. We went to a Persian/Turkish restaurant and had a delicious meal. After that, we went back to Laurel’s apartment, had some drinks, and caught up on what’s been going on in each other’s lives. Sarah had never met Laurel before, and they seemed to hit it off pretty well. Among other things, we simply had to try some carbonated wine in pink cans with straws that Laurel had found somewhere. This brilliant product was apparently created by Sofia Coppola.

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A toast to the manliest drink of all time.

After being up probably far too late, we went to Michael’s apartment (which is within walking distance) to crash. We got up the next day and got some breakfast. Michael took us by the house he’s having built, and it’s obviously going to be very nice. It was cool to see it as a work in progress.

After we ate some breakfast, we headed toward South Mountains State Park for a hike. Sarah and I were a little underprepared, as we were expecting to do a fairly easy hike. Instead, we ended up hiking the Chestnut Knob trail, which ended up being the second-hardest hike on our entire trip. It’s not a terribly long hike, about two miles each way, but it’s steep most of the way and goes right up the side of the mountain. It didn’t help that it was very hot, in at least the mid-90s.

Also, Michael has always been one to walk fast, and they took off at quite an impressive pace. A little too impressive, as we didn’t feel we could sustain that pace, and prefer taking our time anyway. So, we slowed down and told them they could go ahead if they wanted to. They were cool about it, though, and slowed down to stick with us.

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Me, on the way up / The trail had a lot of wooden steps

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The first overlook on the trail

We reached one overlook and were probably halfway there at this point. Sarah wasn’t sure she could make it, but some encouraging words from me seemed to help a little bit. We got to what seemed to be the end of the trail, where there was supposed to be another overlook, but there wasn’t one. However, there was a hiker icon on a sign, so I figured we ought to continue on that section of trail. It went sharply down a rocky area for a ways, but we followed it to a rocky area you could climb out on for panoramic views. It was fantastic.

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Panoramic view from the overlook (worth viewing large)

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Sarah and me
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Never had I felt cooler than this, standing on a high rock, looking down on some other mountain ranges

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Part of the trail on the way back

It was a fantastic hike — more strenuous than we expected, and we should have brought more water and other supplies. However, it was manageable once we slowed down. I was really glad that we got to go hiking with Michael and Laurel, as it was very different from how I had interacted with them back in college. It was also a good introduction to the hiking we’d do on the rest of the trip.

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