Considerable rain leading up to the Pigeon River outing left us wondering if we were going to be able to safely paddle the sections of the river that we intended. Eric had planned to camp Thursday night but rain was scheduled and he was going to be the loan camper that night so he postponed until Friday. Friday morning brought billowy clouds, surely it was raining somewhere in northern Indiana. Lance arrived at the Crooked Creek Campground to find Eric just about all set up. Wil and Sebastian arrived just a minute later. We looked over the campsites and picked a couple of places to set up the tents. It looked like Eric found the 1 site that did not require going back and forth across a couple of inches of water to get set up. One of the benefits of arriving early! Laura soon arrived followed by Ruth and Coby, and Ron and Jalinda. Everybody got camp set up.
Lance had gotten the scoop that the logs had been cleared out of the most interesting part of the river, but wanted to scout a few miles for obstacles, speed and depth of water before the whole group paddled it the next day. Wil and Eric joined Lance in the scouting. A quick shuttle was run and they got on the water. Clouds were billowing up again but no rain. Within about 100 feet of the put in was the first obstacle. An interesting little puzzle that required going around a first log, pivoting hard and working the canoe over the second log while fighting off some branches. There were a couple of other interesting obstacles, but it was determined that all should be able to handle the fun trip the next day. The water was flowing steady, but not overwhelming. The water depth was noted in case there was a long rain overnight. The 3 paddlers had a very enjoyable trip to the take out and retrieved the shuttle vehicles. As the boats were getting tied on, they were chatting with a hunter that eventually volunteered that the radio station was calling for a strong rain storm with up to 40 mile an hour winds within two hours. As Lance was getting the last strap tied, big rain drops were starting to fall. By the time they drove the 3 miles back to camp it was fully raining. The rain subsided after a while and Laura wanted to get charcoal going so that we could make pie iron pizzas and sandwiches and deserts. That was an excellent idea for Friday dinner. As the charcoal was heating up, a significant storm came thru with probably 40 mph winds. Thankfully, Ron and Jalinda had set up a tarp over the picnic table we were using as a communal kitchen. It was amazing to watch the poles Ron had used bend like pretzels but not snap. 5 of us stayed under the tarp and stayed fairly dry, pouring off the puddled water and holding on to the tarp whenever it seemed like maybe it wanted to fly away. Really, it was quite entertaining and exciting. Amazingly by the time it was all over, the charcoal was still lit and ready to cook. Everybody got their fill, using different filling and crusts. It was fun! Liz arrived around this time. We sat around the fire telling tall tales. Steve and Coleen and Murphy arrived a little after dark. Around 12:00 we started hearing long rolling thunder to the north. It lasted at least an hour. It finally subsided and whoever was awake to hear it was relieved that it was north of us and had finally stopped. We started getting rained on a short while later. The rain and wind were not too bad, but it did go on for a couple of hours.
Several people woke up groggy from not getting enough sleep with the thunder and rain. Andy and AJ arrived early to join us. No rain in the morning and even though there were some clouds, it did not look like rain anytime soon and it was cool but warming. Breakfasts were eating, boats and gear was moved to shuttle vehicles. The campground was to be the midpoint of the trip and we would break for lunch there. At 9:30 the group headed first to the put in, then the downstream shuttlers headed to the Mongo Dam. We saw some hunters, a couple deer, and couple wild turkeys and a flock of Sandhill Cranes.
After a quick safety briefing the boats got on the water. It was noted that the water was up about 2 inches, still clear and running the same speed as the previous day. Wil was lead, Lance was sweep. Lance has a particular method of boarding his canoe that is very effective 95% of the time, and extraordinarily ineffective the rest of the time. In this case, rather than sitting on the canoe seat he sat on the gunnel and the water. Steve helped him get resituated and he got his ass safely in the middle of the seat the second time. Wil had brought along his limb saw and was helping clear a path on the river. The water was definitely elevated, bringing our heads in contact with many branches. It was easy to get caught up in them, or at the least get spiders and spider webs in hair, paddles, clothes, dogs, etc. We moved many pounds of spider webs down the Pigeon that day! That section of river is intimate, quiet, interesting. The extra couple of inches of water helped us just float over some logs that we had scraped over the day prior so that little bit of water was to our advantage. There were enough obstacles to keep everyone on their toes, quite a few bobbles, several "What the heck was that's?", and " Why am I stuck?" and "I don't know if I can squeeze under that log!" Andy and AJ got baptized into the cool, clear waters of the Pigeon but they made the best of it by practicing their deep water reboarding. The weather was definitely warming and the sun finally started to make its way thru the clouds. By the time we got to the campground the sun was fully out and the sun felt great. Lance was impressed as he pulled up to the campground for lunch. It seemed like every single person was doing something to help out the group.....steadying someones boat, helping someone out of their canoe or kayak, moving the boat well back from the water, helping move gear. Very cool. We all went up for a nice sunny lunch and cold drinks and restroom break at the campground. Laura decided to end her paddling day there at the campground and enjoy some sunny alone time.
Making our way back to the boats, some people boarded their boat via the shore, but Sebastian and AJ had found a metal rack at the end of a short dock that was used to assist people getting in their boats. Sebastian and AJ took charge of that operation and assisted several of us getting the boat lined up and on board. They had that operation all figured out and it was definitely a help. The first people we saw on the river passed by just as we were getting underway. The river was widening somewhat now. Lance saw some sulphur shelf mushrooms on a tree. Quite edible and tasty. A log jumped up and knocked Andy and AJ out of the boat, but I think they just wanted a swim. The sun felt great! We passed a couple more small groups hanging out on the shore enjoying the day. The last obstacle before the mill pond was a very low bridge. A couple people had to practically lay in their canoe to get under it cleanly. From there, the backwater of the millpond widened the river. There were bird houses out in the water and a wide variety of vegetation making islands. A long slow final paddle took us to the Mongo Dam and the take out.
I must mention the children we encountered at the take out. They were surely decendants of the great Viking king Mongo himself. They were like half wild animals. Running around on the gravel roads barefooted, long platinum blonde hair blowing in the wind, calling excitedly to one another, throwing walnuts like bombs into the water. Were they about to chase down a deer or skin a possum? I don't know, they vanished as quickly as they had appeared. The boats were loaded and all were shuttled back to Crooked Creek campground where we met up with Mary (new club Prez).
After just a little relaxing, Lance started up some charcoal to begin dinner. He had planned a meal of Stone Soup, cheese fondue and chocolate fondue for desert. Laura realized that Lance needed some help so she volunteered to be sous chef. Something Lance greatly, greatly appreciated. The charcoal was spread out and a dutch oven used for the Stone Soup. Each person at the outing had been assigned one or more ingredients for the soup and one or more ingredients for the fondue. Ingredients were added to the soup and it simmered for an hour while the fondue was made from scratch. Mary and Eric's half and half and white wine were a life saver. Lance and Laura's culinary backgrounds were tested, and they came thru. The cheese fondue was awsome. Everybody got their own long fondue fork. After we were scraping bottom of the cheese pot, the soup was opened up. It was finished too except for 1 spoonful. After digesting a while, Eric volunteered to help Lance with the chocolate fondue desert. It was delicious too, but I think the things that were dipped into the chocolate were even better. Really an excellent meal. It was getting dark. A campfire was soon roaring. Folks sat around the fire until they were ready for bed. Sebastian and AJ shared some of the things they had learned and some of their philosophies. It was an interesting fireside discussion with them.
Sunday morning was pleasant for October in northern Indiana. Several indicated an interest in a shorter paddle. It was suggested a trip of about 4 miles from the Mongo Dam to the Nasby Dam should be good. Several people were up for it. Laura, Ruth, Ron, and Jalinda decided to get packed up and get headed back to Ohio. The rest just left the tents up and headed down for the shuttle. The lower part of the Mongo Dam is really quite impressive. The pond above the dam is as calm and smooth as a piece of glass, and 50 feet down stream of the dam is not a hazard whatsoever, but that water coming down the dam is like the whitewater sections of the grand canyon. Loud, white, frothy, wild. Amazing.
The great grandson of Viking king Mongo was out and about that morning wanting to eat some fish. I fully expected him to spot a bluegill, jump in, and snag it with his teeth, but he had a fishing pole and Sebastian helped him with a few casts. That young man actually carries worms around in his jeans pocket ready to fish at a moments notice. Everybody got on the water cleanly and we started down stream. We barely had to paddle. The sun was out. Such a nice paddle. We did see the largest bald faced hornet nest any of us had ever seen. It looked to be 4 or 5 feet tall hanging over the water. A hornet condominium. We wound our way towards the mill pond of Nasby Dam. There was a very low squeeze under a log just as we entered the slow water. A nice slow paddle to the take out. A quick look at the unique V shape of the Nasby Dam and the boats were loaded. Lance gave Sebastian and AJ tree identification lessons as the boats were being secured.
Back to camp, break camp, drive home. A great time was had by all!