Monday, October 8, 2012

Monroe Reservoir, Bloomington Indiana

September 12-14, 2012:  As the season is winding down we are finding fewer and fewer days to enjoy our home waters of Lake Michigan. This time of year the north winds are more prevalent making for cool weather and choppy water...what a great time to head south! We have often talked about visiting Monroe Reservoir in Bloomington, Indiana and it looks like this weekend will be a perfect opportunity to check out one of the largest inland lakes in our area.

Racing the sunset to Monroe Reservoir
Loading Seapickle II for a late launch
We got a much later start to our 3 1/2 hour drive than we originally planned, and wouldn't be arriving at the Paynetown Recreation Area launch ramp until dark. Normally, we wouldn't even consider boating on a lake for the first time in the dark. But since we knew what cove we wanted to anchor in, and since it was only a few miles from the launch, we figured we could take it slow and be fine.

Dana excited to try a new lake
The launch ramp at Paynetown was a really nice, wide concrete ramp that was well lit. Also, a nice feature was the courtesy docks just south of the ramp. Once in the water we took a 3 mile cruise at idle speed to a secluded cove our friends Joe and Miranda recommended to us based on their many years of experience boating on Monroe. We found the cove with no problems and slowly backed in and dropped our anchor in the middle of the small cove!

We sat in the back of the boat for a while just listening to the sounds of nature coming from the thick woods that surrounded us. There were two owls communicating with each other, and it sounded like one of them was at the back of our cove!  Tired from our drive, we decided to get to bed and planned on an early start to our exploration of the lake.

Just as we were shutting of the last light, we heard the hair raising sounds of something very large trying to claw it's way into the back of the boat!! WHAT THE HELL WAS THAT?? I grabbed a flashlight, flung the cockpit door open only to hear a giant splash, and I mean giant splash, behind the boat. I nervously shined my flashlight all around just trying to catch a glimpse of whatever was messing with us. Was it a Sasquach? An irritated local? I never saw a thing. After a while I gave up my search and hoped whatever it was wasn't going to bother us again.

Steam rising at dawn
A beaver swimming across the front of our boat
In the morning once it was light out, I quickly checked the swim platform for any giant foot prints or claw marks...none were found at that time.  Ready to get a start to the day we fired up the propane Coleman coffee maker and started to make our breakfast. We really liked this cove with the exception of the weird noises last night, but still planned to move on to see other parts of the lake.

Making coffee
The Back of the Cove
A Beaver Den
We pulled up anchor and headed out to see how different this 11,000 acre reservoir looked in the daylight. With the help of our map and gps, we found it very easy to navigate with very few hazards to avoid. Cruising around we kept a sharp lookout for a good cove to stay in for the night. The lake was now filling up with boats so we figured we would pick a cove facing the west for a sunset, and come back to it later once the day boaters started clearing out.

Party Cove
The Dam
Feeling too lazy to prepare lunch, we decided to try out the resturaunt at Four Winds Resort and Marina. We pulled into a courtesy dock and walked up to the hill to the Windjammer restaurant. We really enjoyed the food and atmosphere. They even had a good selection of micro brew beers!

Courtesy and Fuel dock
The Windjammer
Ben doing the Robot?? Nope, just an awkward photo
After we ate, we decided to see if any of the coves we picked had cleared out. We cruised back towards the dam since we saw a few in the Sugar Creek area. Our first choice still had a big houseboat in it, but the nice cove next to it had almost completely cleared out except for one ski boat. The cove was large enough though, so we pulled in towards the back and set our anchor.

Our cove for night 2
As we settled into the cove, we were disappointed to see that the sky had become mostly cloudy, since we were hoping for a good sunset tonight. As we relaxed with cocktails and played a few games of Phase 10, the clouds suddenly broke and gave us an incredible sunset!

Too cloudy for a Sunset?
We looked up from our game of Phase 10 and the sky was on fire!

The next morning brought clear blue skies and warmer weather. We made coffee and breakfast on the back of the boat, and then spent the the majority of the day swimming, floating on our rafts and walking the shore looking for fossils.

Looking out from our cove in the morning (we slept in past sunrise)
Seapickle hanging out in crinoid cove
Ben hanging out on his raft
Alligator? Dana?

Dana hunting for fossils

When we got to shore for the first time, we were AMAZED at the amount and size of the crinoids, geodes and other fossils embedded in rocks. While we have found many crinoid stem pieces on the shore of Lake Michigan, we had never seen any quite like these! We can't wait to go back and check them out again.

Giant Crinoids and other fossils
While swimming back to the boat, Ben decided to take a look under the swim platform to see if there were any traces of the (animal?) that was on our boat Friday night. Once he saw the pattern of the teeth marks and the peeled-up plastic on the outdrive, he knew that cute little beaver we saw in the first cove must have been the culprit!

Damage done by beaver
It was getting late in the day Sunday, and we had a 3 1/2 drive home ahead of us, so we finally gave in and left our cozy "crinoid cove" to begin the journey home. Unfortunately, many other boats had the same idea at the same time, so the docks and ramp were pretty busy with boats being put on trailers. We waited our turn and actually did a really good job of getting the boat on the trailer quickly and right the first time! (we're getting better at this)

One last look
We had a scenic and relaxing drive home, filled with conversation about the next trips we would take!

Driving Home