This summer has introduced me to a newfound love of nature. I have been camping more times than I can count, but this summer and during the pandemic is the first time I actively sought out nature.
When I saw an event for kayaking and a cookout for $20 at the Monee Reservoir, I signed right up before it sold out. A workout, nature, and food – yes please! Monee is a city approximately forty five minutes away from Chicago. You can easily get there on Route 57. As I drove through fences of corn, farmland, and empty roads, it was hard to believe that thirty minutes prior I was stuck in traffic.
The area is incredibly well kept. When I turned off Ridgeland Ave, the lane forked into two roads, and I took the road not taken… lol. One road led to a fishing area with the reservoir and the second road led to picnic area. At the time I went kayaking, there were bathrooms (but no sinks – bring hand sanitizer). The fishing area did not smell – if there hadn’t been signs, I would not have known there was fish in the water. There was plenty of parking in the two parking lots.
The event started well. Our group leaders Angie and Suzy made us feel comfortable and welcome. The group of us gathered near the firepit area. We introduced ourselves (name etc) and then we jumped right into getting our equipment. We had the choice of kayaking or canoeing. We lined up to choose our oars or paddles. Then we selected our mandatory lifejackets.
We carried our oars to the grassy area by the kayaks. We had a quick lesson on kayaking and/or canoeing. We learned how to properly hold the paddle, how to steer (forwards and backwards), how to enter the kayak, how to adjust the seat and pedals, and get the kayak in the water without tipping. It was similar to driving a car, but easier.
The fun started as we launched off the beach, scooting our kayaks into the water. Our instructors made us count off. We were a group of under 25 boats. There were no waves in the water, so it was easy to paddle and navigate. There reservoir was also wide enough to accomodate all the boats and even allow us some space to spread out. There were no boat crashes.
We paddled into an area and out of nowhere a train whizzed by. It was too quick for me to get a picture. We then paddled into another area and passed a bridge.
According to the website, ” The 248-acre Monee Reservoir was acquired between 1982 and 2006. The preserve is part of the Rock Creek preservation system, which conserves more than 460 acres. Prior to the District’s acquisition of the land, its 46-acre lake was created and used by a railroad to supply water to steam engines.”
Later we paddled into a circular area. Kayakers could explore and paddle around the perimeter. The trees were lush. We even saw ducks and a blue heron. There were bugs, but I do not receive one mosquito bite (a miracle).
When it was time to return, we paddled under the bridge. It was fun. We were then greeted by the earthy smell of campfire. Maybe it’s just me, but the smell of campfire is so satisfying. If a smell had an umami taste, it would be campfire. Hotdogs and marshmallows were provided. The ticket was for a kayak and a cookout.
This was an experience of nature therapy; the beautiful scenery and calm waters soothed my nerves. For a few hours, I escaped my stress by seeking out a fun adventure. I felt the same relaxation that accompanies a good massage. And any troubles I had previously did not seem so significant. I drove home renewed and ready to face the week.