Floating on By

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Floating On By
Leaves Float in a Small Stream
Naperville, Illinois

The colorful fall leaves have been inspiring this year. Warm weather and just the right amount of rain and wind have prolonged the "leaf" season for more people to enjoy. Peak color seems to be right about now, but I'm certain that it won't last much longer.

These leaves fell onto the surface of a small creek in Naperville, Illinois. They'll be transported somewhere else by the running water. Perhaps eventually they will travel down the Des Plaines River, into the Illinois River, to the Mississippi River and turn up in the Gulf of Mexico.

Fall Reflection

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fall colors on fish lake
Autumn Colors
LaPorte County, Indiana

What a great day to walk around in the cold water! The water may have been freezing, but when you glanced up you saw this beautiful color -made me warm instantly.

Approaching Storm

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surviving another storm
Storm Approaching an Abandoned Farm
Orland Park, Illinois

A late October thunderstorm is slowly approaching this abandoned farm in northern Illinois. I counted three supercell thunderstorms from this vantage point and was able to take cover before the drenching rains, wind and hail began.

The setting sun was shining brightly, creating almost impossibly saturated fall colors on the trees and grasses. It also created a perfect double rainbow.

Begging for Food

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pretty please
Chipmunk waiting for a handout
Brookfield Zoo

These little guys are running all over the place - outside and inside some of the animal exhibits! The usually shy and elusive chipmunk has realized people at the zoo don't want to harm them, they want to feed them.

This little guy is waiting for a little piece of a cracker.

Fall Splendor

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fall stream
Stream Leading to Giant's Bathtub
Matthiessen State Park
Near Utica, Illinois

With temperatures around 80 degrees, it was a great day to head out to Matthiessen State Park and explore the canyons. We've only been to Starved Rock but heard about the beauty at nearby Matthiessen so we decided to give it a try. Good thing we did! Not only was it less crowded than the popular Starved Rock, it's canyons and waterfalls are really beautiful.

The main canyon runs for a little over a mile and you can walk a great deal of it above as well as below along the streams. Steep cliffs carved over centuries by running water are dotted with waterfalls, formations and caves. The kids loved the little caves.

It was the perfect day to see the park - warm weather, turning leaves, running streams (in summer the streams and waterfalls sometimes dry up) but a little crowded to get photos of the waterfalls without people in them.

We will definitely head back here in the winter to see the frozen falls and snow covered canyons.

Couldn't Find the Pot of Gold

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Large Rainbow
Rainbow During Severe Storm
Orland Park, Illinois
October 18, 2007

A very warm, windy October day ended with severe storms in parts of the Chicagoland area. Temperatures reached 79 degrees (that's warm for October!) and an approaching cold front produced heavy winds, storms, hail and a terrific double rainbow.

Light passes into a raindrop and is refracted back to the opposite side and then again until it leaves the raindrop. The "bending" of the lightwave causes different wavelengths of light (or different colors) to exit at a slightly different angle thus producing the colors of the rainbow.

The inside of a rainbow is brighter than the outside because rainbows are actually discs of light, not narrow bands, so the interior of a rainbow is quite bright. Occasionally, a double rainbow can be seen. The outer band is called Alexander's Bow and displays the colors in the opposite direction as the primary bow. You can see a little bit of a second band in the photo here. Note the the space between the two rainbows is much darker than the inside, this is called Alexander's Dark Band.

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double Rainbow

Rainbows are best spotted just after sunrise or just before sunset. The low angle of the sun produces a rainbow that "touches" the ground on both sides. Actually, a full circular rainbow can be seen from an airplane.

Every rainbow is unique to the viewer. In other words, the rainbow you see is actually completely different from the rainbow observed by the person next to you.

This is probably the last rainbow of 2007 for us in Chicago, but the way the warm weather has been sticking around, maybe we'll have one for Christmas.


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Mike with Acorns
Mike with Acorns

Mike, Chris and Danny collected this bucket full of acorns at the lake last weekend. There were so many oak trees and acorns that it didn't take them long at all.

Next week comes the fun part, throwing them at targets in and near the lake!

Fall Still Life

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Acorns and Leaves
Acorns and Oak Leaves
October 2007

Fossil Hunt

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Endocerid Fossil
Sag Quarry
Lemont, Illinois

An afternoon walk through the Sag Quarries yielded a few cool fossils. The Sag Quarries are in Lemont near the intersection of Archer Road and Rt. 83. They have been abandoned and flooded for decades and are now part of the Cook County Forest Preserve District.

When walking along the shore you're walking along the edge of the old limestone quarry, so one must be careful not to fall into the deep water. Limestone is everywhere and with a little luck, you can spot fossils that are 450 million years old! The limestone in this area began to form beneath the warm, shallow sea that covered this area over 400 million years ago. Some of the creatures that lived in the sea at this time were shellfish including the Endocerid, a long conical shellfish that could reach lengths of 10 meters or more. The one preserved above was about 18 to 24 inches in length.

It died and sank to the bottom where it was covered up by sediment including sand and tiny particles of calcium from other shells. Over millions of years the sediment compacted and formed the limestone we see today.

The Sag Quarries were in operation in the early 1800's, and during the time of the construction of the I&M Canal. The limestone from these quarries was used to build the Chicago Watertower, Holy Name Cathedral, St. James of the Sag Church (monk's castle) and numerous local buildings.


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Reflecting upon Summer
Geese Wading
Sag Quarries
Lemont, Illinois

The long abandoned limestone quarries in Lemont, Illinois are now filled with water and an abundance of wildlife. An easy, rather interesting walk around the quarries will reveal some things from the past. You'll see a lot of limestone blocks cut by the former workers at the quarry - just left where they were cut on the last day of operation - way too big to move. You'll also see the occasional fossil. This layer of limestone was formed over 400 million years ago when this part of the earth was covered in a warm, shallow sea. Evidence of fish and other sea creatures is rather easy to find while walking along the quarries.

Stocked with fish, these lakes are also popular haunts for local fishermen.

Terror Hill!

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swallow cliffs from top
Swallow Cliffs Toboggan Run
Palos Hills, Illinois

One of the two remaining toboggan runs in the Chicago area, Swallow Cliffs is over 90 feet high and toboggans can reach speeds of 50 miles per hour as they slide 900 feet. Last used in 2003, Swallow Cliffs was also known as Terror Hill by local residents.

The last ice age created the "cliff" that the toboggan run is built upon. Glaciers formed moraines at this point in the country and glacial meltwater created the predecessor to Lake Michigan called Lake Chicago. Over time, the waters began to erode the moraines that were keeping the water in place. Over a period of about 3000 years, this meltwater drained Lake Chicago into the Mississippi River with a flow greater than today's Amazon River. The meltwater carved out the depressions known as the Sag that runs through this area. This cliff was actually the shore of Lake Chicago - you'll note in the photo that the land is flat once you get down from the top of Swallow Cliff. If there was a rise in the distance, that evidence would have proven this had been an ancient riverbed, but the land remains flat showing it was once a large body of water.

A private company wishes to create a winter park out of the old Swallow Cliffs Toboggan site. So perhaps once again in the winter, children and adults will experience "Terror Hill."


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View from the Top
View from cherry picker on a firetruck
Orland Park, Illinois

Sunday we visited the firehouse for an open house and got to take a trip up the 55 foot high cherry picker on the fire truck.

The view would have been nice if we were somewhere interesting, pretty much all we saw were the roofs of shops and stores.

We still had fun.

October Rainbow

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Faint October Rainbow
Rainbow over Naperville, Illinois
October 5, 2007

A brief rain shower this morning caused a large, but faint rainbow in the northwestern sky. I happened to have the camera in hand (as usual) and snapped a picture before it disappeared a few moments later.

Temperatures are in the mid to upper 80's today - that's hot for October in Chicago!
Hope it lasts all winter!
Hurray for global warming!

Soft Sand

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grass and sand
Sand and Sea Grass
Mount Baldy
Michigan City Indiana

Lake Michigan

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lake michigan
View of Lake Michigan from Mt. Baldy
Michigan City, Indiana

With fall here, I'm still thinking about hot weather and sand. Here's a photo from a visit to Mount Baldy. This 125 foot tall sand dune is right on the edge of Michigan City, Indiana and part of the National Lakeshore.

It's hard to imagine this place will be frozen in about two months....
I've got to get there one more time before it gets too cold.