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Sweet canoe trip down Sugar Creek


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I’M still peeling from my first sunburn of the year.

It’s a bad one and hurts, but canoeing Sugar Creek over the weekend sure was fun.

The crowds were nowhere near as bad as I expected; and of course, the scenery was impeccable. But it was still an adventure of ups and downs.

My brother decided we needed to camp and float, so we formulated a plan with one rule; we’d have no plan. So we loaded the canoe, threw in a tent, a cooler and a few other necessities and headed out for a long weekend in the heart of Indiana’s canoe country. Every once in a while you just need to take a trip with no agenda. The freedom of whenever, wherever, however, is such a relief from the 9-to-5 of everyday life, and I don’t know of a better way to rejuvenate than on a float-trip.

We pulled into Crawfordsville about the time the sun was going down and picked up a few last-minute supplies before heading to Shades State Park. After paying for our campsite, we headed to Rockville for dinner. There’s something about sleepy Rockville that always draws me back. Maybe it’s the memories of Covered Bridge Festivals with my grandparents, or maybe it’s just the slow peaceful way about the town.

As for the campsite, Shades State Park is just beautiful. It has the right amount of people to make it vibrant but not crowded. The campsites are private, and most are in the trees. Access to the creek is another advantage, for quick fishing trips.

We worked out a shuttle with a fellow paddler and hit the river ahead of the crowd. If you want the best chance of catching fish on Sugar Creek, then in my opinion you need to be out there early, while there is still mist rising through shadows on the creek. You can catch fish all day long.

The canoes don’t turn fish off as bad as you might expect. Heck, they see a thousand of them a day during the summer. But once the sun is high, you need to fish deeper runs and holes. I like to catch smallies

on the surface, hence the early-morning appeal.

By 10 a.m. we gave up fishing and focused on floating. The temperature was rising. The water in Sugar Creek is so beautiful you want to jump right in, so we did and found out it’s pretty chilly early in the morning. After a while, though, your body adjusts, and the water temperature becomes just right.

But then it happens. You’re so comfortable in the water that you don’t realize the sun is scorching your back.

Four days later, here you sit, peeling like an onion.

In the end, we had a great trip. Fishing wasn’t too good, but that’s to be expected during midsummer on a crowded canoe weekend. The river was relaxing, and I introduced my brother to one of the most scenic parks in the state. We kept to our promise of no plans and made it through without a hitch.

See you down the trail.

Brandon Butler’s outdoors column appears Sundays in The Republic. Send comments to editorial@therepublic.com.

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