Some say that kayaking at night on the coldest day of the year is madness. We say, where's the lake?
The lake, my friends, is Lake Monroe in southern Indiana. Randy and I decided to drive down and launch on Friday night, paddle around and hike on Saturday, meet another POC backpacking group on Saturday night, and paddle out on Sunday morning. [Editor's note: Randy has just reminded me that on the drive down a giant bat hit our windshield. We think it was a bat. It had a wing, for sure, and it left bat-juice on the windshield.] We got on the water no earlier than 10:30, and spent the first hour orienteering toward mysterious lights and black humps that we knew were the shoreline. We stopped for the night on a flat peninsula that we thought was about halfway to our destination. In true POC style, we didn't bring a tent, and used the boats to shield our tarp from the wind.
Saturday morning, we woke up and realized that this was in fact November, and the weather had gotten quite cold. We put on our warm clothes, I built a fire, and had forgotten all about the cold. Until. Half-jokingly, I said "Hey Randy, I'll give you twenty bucks if you jump in the lake right now." Before I knew it, Randy was running for the water, shedding precious layers of fleece as he went. I could not believe it, so I grabbed the camera and ran after him. Well, he certainly proved himself and submerged up to the neck, before shooting out of the water and dressing himself in record time.
Apparently, we camped on the wrong shore and were not at all where we were supposed to be. However, we weren't too far off, and quickly reorienteered. We had the whole day to cover a pretty short distance, so we took our time paddling around, occasionally flinching in response to incessant shotgun fire. We saw two deer, a great abundance of ducks, and - the apex of wildlife sighting - a bald eagle. I spotted a black and white shape in the trees from quite a distance - it contrasted sharply with the grey of the leafless shore. As a joke I said, "dude look, that's a bald eagle," but as we got closer, truth became stranger than fiction. Here? In Indiana? Yes folks, the American national bird, relaxing in Hoosier National Forest. I was still pretty skeptical - maybe it was a hawk or a vulture - but then it took flight and the mighty wingspan banished all doubt.
After a few hours of paddling, we landed at our destination. Jamie (the leader of the other group and caver extraordinaire) was nowhere to be found, so we unpacked and went hiking to look for him. We like to think that we orienteered fairly well, but we found no trace of the other hikers. We returned to our boats, set up camp, and started a fire. I must admit that I've never had this much trouble starting a fire - we had nothing that was truly flammable to use for kindling. We tried to burn one our maps, but it was quite damp. Finally, we scavenged the first-aid kit, and discovered that gauze burns surprisingly well. Tea, coal-baked potatoes, and finally - a warm sleeping bag.
As we were packing to leave in the morning, I grew wistul over my lost $20, so I decided to repay my debt in the same way that I had aquired it. The layers came off, and I ran into the water. Cold. But now my debt was cleared.
We paddled hard despite the strong winds, and were back at the car in only two hours. Slightly sore, we headed back to Lafayette, stopping in Golden Corall for late lunch.
Overall, a great trip full of adventure, excitement, and ducks.
Bald eagle, folks.
See pictures from this trip