Monday, January 16, 2017

Hardin Ridge/Lake Monroe, Indiana

July 2016

We had been resting, recuperating and reorganizing for a few months after the second year on the full-time traveling trails. What was once a planned break, turned into a more serious time-out. I needed to replace the worn-out awning and make a few minor repairs. Let’s face it. Things break over time and need replaced. These were relatively minor in nature, but I also wanted to touch-up a couple of rust spots with new paint. My camper also was in bad need of a bath. The purchase of a pressure washer was in the works, but that is another minor story.

Kirk Korner Campground, as we refer to the summer of 2016.
My friend, Steve, offered me the use of his newly widened driveway of his Indy home - parked along side of his. We laughingly called it, Kirk Korner Campground. We could plug-in to house power and top-up our onboard water tanks. The gray and black water tanks would have to be dumped on a fairly regular basis with usage. He decided that, since it was his house, neither of us would have to pay the rent and the money we saved could be used for repair and improvements of our individual rigs. Having been on the road, traveling to the same camps for a season as a mutual support and experience sharing experience. Steve and his fiancé, Linda, would travel in their Class-A Motorhome, while I towed my camping trailer with my GMC Envoy.

It turned out that we both altered our plans for the summer. Steve decided that he wanted to prepare his for eventual sale and began making repairs there as well. Of course, as his friend, I was there to help. A few months planned, turned to a few more months. We didn’t get in any hurry. We’re both retired. Some days we planned, some days we sat out rains and some days we painted, cut down tree limbs, painted and reorganized everything. It wasn’t as difficult as it was time consuming. We didn’t care. Our time was our own and we have been friends our entire lives - since 4th Grade - and enjoyed each other’s company.

This is the replacement campsite offered by the management here. They did us a solid favor.
We decided that after a few months of “work” (a loosely defined term), we wanted to get back out there on the road again. As we were in the middle of our projects, we chose a more local destination - that of Hardin Ridge Recreation Area on Lake Monroe, the largest lake in Indiana. We don’t count Lake Michigan. We made online reservations and paid in advance through the website. As the time for our departure drew nearer, one day I received a phone call from someone at the park about our reservation. Apparently, it was their opinion that we would not be happy with the sites we selected. Since we had no idea about the site, so we deferred to their change in our site reservations. When we arrived, we were well satisfied with the changes and upon investigation of the original sites, we immediately understood. In short, the private contractors operating the camp did us a solid favor. We liked it so much, we renewed for a second period of 14-days, since the sites remained available.

The flagpole/camera mount that I added to modify my kayak.
Earlier, one of my projects was to make a combination flagpole and video camera mounting for my boat. This would serve purposes of being seen out on the water and recording my trip with my video camera. After all, having all that fun is no fun at all unless it can be shared on social media. I’ll eventually have lots of DVDs of my trips. I’m sure I’ll have to add a musical soundtrack as the “music” of paddling and waves would not make for interesting viewing by anyone other than me. I talk very little to myself out on the water.

Hardin Ridge if a very popular camp for recreational boating and fishing. So much so that weekend recreational campers often tow their boats and sleep in a tent so they don’t violate the rules of occupancy - one unit per site. There were a few who brought a camping trailer while a partner brought the boat. The sites were large enough, but they paid extra for the privilege. It was my goal to get some use out of my kayak. I tow it around all the time, but never seen to get it in the water enough. Lake Monroe on the weekend with all the high speed boaters on the lake turned out to be a different kind paddling than cruising through the bayou in Mississippi last winter. Just remember to turn into the wakes at 90 degrees rather than be swamped. Of course, I always wear my PFD (life jacket).

Vista overlook of Lake Monroe from the road down to the boat ramp and swimming beach.
After setting up camp, I thought I’d take a little drive to look around, find the boat ramp, the beach and anything else I might like to enjoy during my originally planned 14-day stay. There was just one main road with off-shoots to toward the forest where other camping sites could be located. One the way around, I found this vista toward the lake. It was all set-up for an extended stay for contemplation. Each time I passed the spot, I was compelled to look - even when I tried not to.

Only a little farther down was a road off to the left. Although there was a signpost, I passed right by it twice before I spotted it. It was the sign directing visitors to the beach. I drove slowly down the long, winding road hoping that the beach was somewhere near. Since this was the only road, I didn’t get lost. At the end of the trail, I found it. For a lakefront beach, it was well laid out and convenient for beach-goers, although the sand was hot and coarse. The water was almost warm, but cool enough to be refreshing. After all, it was summertime.

The beach area - wave breakers for a peaceful swim.
I didn’t stay long as I had more exploring to do before I got out the grill and burnt some meat for supper. I had to find the boat ramp and see what challenges awaited me and my kayak adventure plans. The steps lead down to the beach area and out in the water are the breakers that squelch the waves from passing pleasure boats. Behind this view and to the left is the bath house/restroom building and showers. This is a state park and well thought out for maximum enjoyment.

Boat ramp and docking area at Hardin Ridge on Lake Monroe.
My next stop was to find the boat ramp and get the lay of the land. Like everything else, the ramp could accommodate two boats on the ramp, lots of parking in the lots and docks for loading equipment and people. It was pretty nice, but the parking lot was pretty far from the ramp.

I learned some things about using these wheels that weren't in the directions.
Fortunately, I had researched, read the literature and prepared for such a situation by buying this set of wheels that attached by straps so that they could make pulling the boat easier toward the ramp. I learned a thing or two about these, too.

The parking lot was a pretty far piece to carry the kayak, so the rollers worked out well.
First, they have to be attached nearer the center of the boat for balance and so that the straps don’t just slide right off the back rendering the device useless. Once I got it to the ramp, they had to be taken off and stowed somewhere. Fortunately, there was the well in the back of the kayak for that purpose. In retrospect, I might have been better off to off-load the boat at the ramp, park the car and come back to put the boat in the water. Live and learn. Each situation is different. Some boat docks and beaches are better to just put the nose of the boat in the water, sit down and do the butt-scooch boogie and slide into the water. I tried that method on my second and subsequent trips out into the lake, thereby saving the hassle of dealing with the wheelie thing.

This little unit is fun to have which collects data of your hike or kayak trip.
Finally, on my third trip out onto the lake at this camp, I remembered my BackTracker GPS unit, which tracks and gathers a lot of information about the trip - the route, altitude, temperature, mileage, average speed and barometric information. It’s an incredible device. So, the deal is that you connect this little thing to your computer and the provided software, which takes you to a website, create an account and upload the data. It retains the information and puts it altogether for you on a map that you can then, take a screenshot of and remember the day. Unfortunately, there was a glitch and I lost the data due to a very slow upload speed from a limited service campground router.

So anyway, I got back from my little two hour+ kayak tour of of Lake Monroe and tried to get my sea legs back. It truly IS a “thing” as it took about ten steps to walk normally. Time for a  “selfie”. Pretty sweaty, huh?

The sweaty selfie after my kayak paddling. Waterproof case for GPS.
I drove my car down to the dock to load my kayak onto the car rather than deal with the roller-thingy again. Back at camp, I decided to hit the showers provided by the furnished bath house. Plenty of hot water and a much needed luxury. It still didn’t stop the skeeters from finding me on the way back to my camper. Little boogers kept me from cooking out on the grill tonight. Leftovers in the microwave would work well enough. I was tired and a sink load of dishes wasn’t my idea of spending the evening when the crickets were singing so well outside.

With a little planning, camping can be almost as nice of a way to travel and enjoy life as anything else. The next night it rained - a huge thunderstorm. The thunder echoed off the lake and through the forest. Eventually, the power went out and stayed out for about six hours. I only have about six flashlights stationed around the camper, so I’m never far from at least one. The emergency light & rechargeable flashlight which is always plugged-in was already lit. I turned it off. It was after 1 am and I was tired. By morning, the forest fog was heavy, but the lights were on again. The young male cardinal was back on the branch outside my dinette window, challenging his reflection in the dark glass for dominance in his territory. Today, was the next day. You know, the day before tomorrow?


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