Thursday, December 29, 2011

#9. Brave the Toboggan at Pokagon State Park

Winter 2011 has been unseasonably mild. While at Indiana University, I rejoiced at the ability to walk to class in December in a thin jacket, but once Christmas rolled around without a flake of snow to be seen, the warm winter had me in low spirits. Happily, snow fell two days after Christmas and exponentially boosted my holiday spirit. Finally in the winter mindset, I decided to tackle #9 on the list of "50 Things Every Hoosier Must Do:" the toboggan run at Pokagon State Park in Angola, IN.

Situated in the northeast corner of Indiana and just 15 minutes south of the Michigan border, Pokagon State Park is home to Indiana's only refrigerated toboggan run. Originally built in 1935 by the Civilian Conservation Corps, the toboggan run consists of two tracks with 90 foot vertical drops. The tracks are refrigerated, so even without snow, riders can enjoy the old-fashioned thrill of tobogganing.

Although I have been sledding countless times, tobogganing was a new experience for me. I am accustomed to cheap plastic saucers; in comparison, the four-person toboggan that we rented seemed to be the Rolls Royce of sleds. The sturdy plastic toboggan was covered in a thin cushion, had straps to hold on to, and its front curled in a fashion reminiscent of elf shoes.

After climbing the 30-foot tower with our toboggan and waiting in line, my three best friends and I crammed on to the toboggan, interlocking legs and arms and losing any sense of personal space. All but one of us was nervous for the drop, but we all agreed that driving three hours only to chicken out was unacceptable. With this communal agreement in mind, we held on to each other with death grips and braced ourselves for what lay ahead of us.

Line for the toboggan run

I was seated in the middle on the first run. Despite this neutral position, I screamed in a mixture of fear and rapture. The four of us catapulted down the track at a surprisingly quick speed. My stomach flipped a few times as the cold air rushed into our faces. A speed radar clocked our toboggan at 32 mph. Although this may not sound like an adrenaline-pumping speed, it feels very fast.

We went on to complete three more runs, alternating seating positions each run. My favorite spot was the front, as the view was unhindered and the blast of the chilly air added to the exhilaration.

The toboggan run was not only incredibly fun, but also very inexpensive. A toboggan rents for $10/hour and entrance to Pokagon is $5/car. Because my friends and I split the cost, I ended up spending only $3.75 at the park. As a college student with a small budget, I really appreciated this low cost.

Because tobogganing was so cheap, we decided to stop for a snack in downtown Angola before embarking on the long drive home. Angola is a small town, but its downtown is adorable, complete with a mini version of Indianapolis' Tree of Lights.

Downtown Angola

Amid a  row of cute shops was Cahoots Coffee Cafe, a spacious cafe with a pool table and an assemblage of vintage seating one would expect to find in a grandparent's living room. We snacked on brownie cookies, a sweet end to our winter excursion.

Cahoots Coffee Cafe