This was a long and cold winter, but I got in only a few good rides this year. My biggest was a 6 hour tour of Lake Monroe that included Moore’s Creek Bay, the causeway, Back Creek and Potter’s Cave, and finally to Axom Branch, where the stone cabin ruins are to be found. On the way back, just rounding the corner opposite Rush Ridge, I went through the ice where a spring had thinned the 6 inches of ice. Fortunately, I was riding my long wheel base recumbent, and only the front wheel went in. I was up to my armpits in the water, but it was easy to roll off onto the ice. I watched a second and realized it was wedged in, but would soon enough sink, so I grabbed the handle bars and pulled back and up but it was stuck. I realized I should not put extra weight near the hole, but there was little I could do about that. I pushed a little to free it, then pulled back and the bike came out. I stood around for about ten minutes, drying my Iphone and waiting to see if you was going to go into shock or get really cold.
But neither of these things happened. So I got back on the bike, and moved closer to shore where I knew the water was not deep, and made my way back about a mile to Pine Grove. Climbing the hill back to 446 warmed me up, and I only noticed the cold in my feet as I rode the 9 miles back home.
Wahoo! Another year of ice riding on Lake Monroe (and Griffy), you know, I sometimes worry the ice will not form (like in 2007). But this year the ice has been over 4 inches thick for over three weeks, and had many different faces. And yes, I wear my sandals (and 2-3 pairs of socks) on the ice. I have shoes that I use only when there is deep snow.
I took 2 vacation days from work to ride on the lakes, and it could not have gone better. I know most folks find it hard to believe, but these days were really fun. I logged about 75 miles of the flattest riding you can do in southern Indiana, and never once came close to any real danger. During my 20 hours on the ice I saw 5 fisherman, 2 campers, 3 coyotes, 3 hawks, 2 bald eagles, and 1 great blue heron. We had no problem sharing the lake.
Griffy Lake Jan. 17-18
Pine Grove to ElkinsvilleJan. 19
Clear Ice and Blue SkiesJan. 24
Dam Ride Jan. 26
Last Frozen Ride Feb 6
Riding north on Lake Monroe
Clear Ice on Lake Monroe
Ice Types on Lake Griffy
Patton’s Cave (along Saddle Creek)
Notes on frozen lake riding:
- The lake seems much smaller when you can ride rather than rowing, I’ve been end to end on my bike.
- Snow can be a help in winter riding. Up to 2 inches will help hold the bike upright, although it does slow you down (a better workout?) More than 2 inches is a challenge.
- Snow can be slippery. The only time I fell was riding on thin snow over rough ice.
- White ice generally has better traction than clear ice, but is often bumpier.
- Black (clear, green or blue) ice is ridable, even though it appears smooth, there it plenty of traction (as long as there in not a thin layer of water or snow on top.)
- Braking is a challenge, it is better to stop pedaling and put your feet down.
- Make wide turns only, or find yourself on the ice.
- Use low torque, ie don’t press hard on the pedals, or you may peel out and meet the ice.
- Cracks that have water one side or the other are scary, even though I know there is ice underneath the water. But who wants wet feet in January? I ride parallel till I find safe place to cross, which may be at the shoreline.
- There are coyotes, eagles, geese, and great blue herons at the lake in the winter.
- The Middle and South Forks of Salt Creek are frozen highways to Elkinsville and Maumee
- A cup of tea is quite refreshing when on the ice.
- The ice grumbling under your feet and pinging across the lake is a good thing, it is the sound of ice being made.
I mapped out a couple of my Lake Monroe routes after the fact, just to see how far I’ve traveled, and to fix in my mind where my photos were taken. It does help to have a map on the lake, on my first ride to Elkensville, I somehow started up Axom Branch, rather than riding north and then east.
On the way out of Pine Grove, I watched a great blue heron take off from shore and cross the lake, I am sure he was hungry as all of Lake Monroe was frozen. I heard a few woodpeckers calling as I rode over the ice towards Elkinsville, and I found some tracks in the snow cover the ice. But it was not till I was returning westward, when I spotted three coyotes running across the ice. They stopped and watched me for a while as I watched them, but when I started moving, they took off, one split off parallel to me along the ice, the other two started running towards the south shore.
Then as I came around the last point before heading for Pine Grove ramp, I saw a full grown bald eagle take off heading east, he/she had been standing on the shoreline, no doubt wondering when the ice would melt.
Though not exactly an easy task, it’s not impossible, and can be fun. I ride more slowly in the winter, the wind chill at 15 mph can be brutal when it’s 20 degrees. So I don’t worry about being aerodynamics, I just bundle up in my winter coat and ride at 10 mph. There is great beauty in the bare winter landscapes, and the birds that winter here are easy to see with no leaves on the trees. With a light dusting of snow the hillsides glow in the early sunsets as the geese fly overhead.
The first week of January was quite warm, in the 50’s though cloudy, making for good riding. I’ve been exploring the east side of the county lately, riding a variety of loops on McGowen, Friendship, Duke, Kerr Creek, and Lampkin’s Ridge Roads. In years past, I’ve worked the loops to the south, riding to the lake via Stipp, Moores Creek, Ramp Creek, and Pine Grove Roads, and it is always fun to be by the water. But heading east, the Wildlife Nesting Area and the forests are the draw. Except during the fall hunting season, the Salt Creek valley north of the lake is empty (with the exception of birdwatchers and the occasional DNR employee) of humans.
Here are some pics from my first ride of the year, click the slideshow option: