South Haven

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South Haven Splash!
High Winds at South Haven

High winds, water and a lighthouse -- a perfect combination. 45 mph winds churned up Lake Michigan last Sunday making for some dramatic splashes along the lighthouse and pier in South Haven, Michigan. The 35 foot tall tower was dwarfed by splashes reaching 50 feet in height.

In a few more days, this lighthouse should be covered in ice.

I'll head back.

Icing Up

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St. Joseph Outer Light
Outer Light
St. Joseph, Michigan

The waves and spray are beginning the process of icing up the lighthouse and pier marking the entrance to the St. Joseph River at Lake Michigan. The 45 MPH winds created waves at least 10 feet high, and splashes up to 50 feet high.

Even though the ice thawed from the lighthouse over the weekend, there was still plenty of shelf ice along the shore. This photographer wandered right out onto the ice to get some photos:
Dangerous 1

Here's why this is dangerous:
Dangerous 2

He's standing on about 25 feet of ice (who knows how much is below the surface), but it's full of air pockets and could be paper thin anywhere. He was very lucky - I'll bet he thought he was on the shore. Shelf ice is deadly, and should be avoided at all cost.

Winter Along Lake Michigan

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Lake Michigan Fury
St. Joseph, Michigan Lighthouse

Waves crash over the rail of the St. Joseph, Michigan Lighthouse pier. Driven by winds in excess of 45 MPH, and 30 degree air temperatures, the water quickly froze on every surface it touched. I've seen this lighthouse covered with much, much more ice, but since the thaw a couple of days ago, the process needs to start over again.

I got drenched by another wave just after this photo was taken. I managed to keep the camera pretty dry, but I can't say the same for me. I was as wet as if I jumped into the lake up to my waist - and let me tell you Lake Michigan is cold this time of year. Needless to say, it was a long, wet drive home.


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Freezing River
A Cold December Morning on the River

A hike on a minus 2 degree morning along the Kankakee River yielded a bit more than cold hands. The mist from the warmer river created hoarfrost along the banks, turning the landscape into a winter wonderland. Couple that with the ice storm two days earlier, and the hike got much more interesting.

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Cold River

The Ice Storm

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Iced Branches
Iced Branches

The storm just before Christmas this year layered everything with about 3/4 inch of ice - more in some places. While dangerous and difficult to navigate, it made some beautiful scenery once the sun returned.

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Dripping Crabapples
Dripping Crabapples

I love how the color from the tiny crabapples has gone into the icicles hanging below.

Ice Along Rock Creek

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Steamy Winter Morning
Ice on Rock Creek

Minus 2 degree temperatures and sunlight made for some interesting hiking along Rock Creek inside the Kankakee State Park near bourbonnais, IL. The roads were closed inside the park, so I was asked to leave by the park employees, but they allowed me to walk back after I parked the car elsewhere.


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Finished Red Nutcracker
Bell Ringer Nutcracker

green nutcracker
Green Nutcracker

After years of talking about it, I finally decided to make some nutcrackers.

They started out as oak 4x4s , so I turned them on my lathe. Each is different, but the bodies and heads are a very similar shape.
Turning the Nutcracker

After turning them, I needed to make the notch for the lever and mouth, so I had to cut the head portion off to access the top of the body.
Separating the Head

No easy task to get that even, and it was really difficult to get the notch straight.
Drilling to notch nutcracker

Panoramic View

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View from Indiana Dunes
Panoramic View of Indiana Dunes

The weather was so warm on Sunday, that we decided to stop at the dunes along Lake Michigan on our way to a Christmas party in Indiana. It's a rare treat to walk comfortably along the lake in December, so we enjoyed every minute of it!

This image is stitched together from 5 separate images. Next time, I'll do a full 360!

Washington Park Festival of Lights

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Michigan City Festival of Lights

Each year, over 100,000 Christmas lights adorn Michigan City's Washington Park. A slow drive through the park on a windy, winter evening is just the thing to get you into the holiday spirit- even if it took 1 1/2 hours to get to the park.

Elf with Gift Cannon

Even the old, historic lighthouse was decorated for Christmas.

Old Michigan City Lighthouse

And the current lighthouse is depicted in the show as well:

Marshall Field Christmas

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Walnut Root Christmas Tree Panoramic
Walnut Room Christmas Tree

Christmas wouldn't be the same without a trip to Marshall Field's on State Street. I know, it's Macy's now, but I figure that's only the merchandise, the building is still Field's.

I love sharing with my kids, the anticipation of walking into the Walnut Room to see the tree each year. It's always a surprise to see how it's decorated from year to year. The view from the 8th floor is great too (see the panoramic photo above- it's 3 shots stitched together).

Even the lower levels of the building are decorated in grand fashion. It's nice to see Macy's kept these traditions going.

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Tiffany Ceiling
The Tiffany Ceiling

The famous Tiffany Ceiling seen above in this three shot panoramic photo, serves as a great back drop to the long, decorated garland that greets customers.

I hope these things are still around when my children visit with their own kids.

Chicago Christmas

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Daley Plaza Christmas Tree
Daley Plaza Christmas Tree

No trip to downtown Chicago in December would be complete without a visit to Daley Plaza and the official Chicago Christmas Tree.

Thanksgiving Struggle

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Breaking the Wishbone

Mike and Chris pull on the wishbone to break it in two, so they can determine who's wish will come true. This was a stubborn bone, it bent mostly, but after a couple of minutes of struggling, the bone broke and Mike was holding the larger piece!

Christmas Season Kick-Off

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Tinley Park Christmas Tree
Tinley Park Christmas Tree

Each year, Tinley Park, IL kicks off the Christmas season with a free festival for children. A couple of small carnival rides, photos with Santa (really nice ones too), hot chocolate, cookies and carriage rides are part of the festivities. The weather didn't exactly cooperate this year, but the hot chocolate tent was dry and warm. After the festival, the official Christmas tree lighting takes place with local carolers leading the crowd in song.

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Carriage Ride
Carriage Approaching the Old Zion Church
Tinley Park, IL

Overcast and Cold

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Lighthouse and Gulls
Lighthouse and Gulls

Only the gulls were around last Saturday in Michigan City's Washington Park Beach; though it still seems odd to have to wear a winter coat. 30 degrees and gusty winds kept most people far away from the shore. It won't be long before the shelf ice begins to form, and walking along the beach will become dangerous.

No snow in sight in the photo above, even though 16 inches of lake-effect snow fell over parts of Indiana and Michigan last week. Along the lake there was only a trace, a mile into Michigan City a measurable amount was seen, and in LaPorte, about 8 inches was still on the ground.


Here's a bit of fun with words. This includes every word on this page of my blog.....

Looks Like Winter

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lake freeze
Ready for Winter

At least this year I managed to get the pier out of the water before the first snowfall, and before the lake iced over! It seems just three weeks ago it was in the 70's................oh yeah, it was! The lake-effect snow was less than I expected, only about 6 to 8 inches rather than the 16 or 18 inches that fell just a couple of miles to the north.

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Frozen Piers
Frozen Piers

The fresh snow and the new formed ice on the lake are good signs leading up to next February's ice fishing derby - if things keep up the ice will be nice and thick.

Soon to Freeze Over

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Lake and Stream
Soon to Freeze Over

The snow in the air today reminds me that Lake Michigan and Kintzel Ditch will soon be frozen over. They are already covered in a foot of lake effect snow, but in a few weeks, they will begin to freeze.


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Concentrated Sunlight
Water Droplets Concentrating Sunlight

Why doesn't the leaf burn? The water droplet is focusing the sunlight to a tiny point on a dry leaf. I'm not sure why it doesn't begin to burn. I can certainly understand why it doesn't cause a fire - the leaf should burn a tiny hole, then the water drop falls toward the hole and extinguishes the fire.

Not sure.......

No One To Watch

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No One to Watch
Lifeguard Station
Washington Park Beach
Michigan City, Indiana

November in the north is not normally a month for beach going, but this particular day was great. It's way after the swimming season, so Washington Park parking is free, and you can have the entire beach to yourself!

If you're a lifeguard there's no one to watch in the water, and if you're a swimmer, there's no one to watch you swim.

Turning Trail

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Autumn Hike
Twist in the Trail

The trail from the lower dells at Matthiessen State Park curves and heads downhill under a colorful, canopy of fall leaves.

Fall Color

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Autumn Pond
Fall Color
Salt Creek
Brookfield, IL

Panoramic View

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Kintzel Ditch Panoramic View
Mouth of Kintzel Ditch
LaPorte County, Indiana

Kintzel Ditch is a small stream running through the wooded dunes of the Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore. It's ever-shifting mouth manages to empty into Lake Michigan no matter what the conditions. This stream is our target each weekend as we visit either Mt. Baldy or Central Beach looking for relaxation, photos and fossils. Lots of Crinoid stem fossils can be found along this stretch of beach. There hasn't been a single time I haven't found a few, and often we find 20 or 30 in an hour or two.

I've always wanted to explore Kintzel Ditch, and finally had the opportunity. After following the shore for a block or two, I could go no further without swimming - and it was way to cold for that. The sides of the dunes were collapsing into the ditch by both erosion from wind, rain and the stream, and also by the ground water that was seeping out into the ditch. These things made it impossible to go any further, and the dunes were much too steep to climb without ropes, so I headed back to a point where I could climb up and follow the stream at the top of the dune.

The morning sun was warm and the view from this vantage point was perfect for an attempt at a panoramic photo (three or more photos stitched together to make one large photo). I don't think you can quite get the full feeling of what lies below unless you climb up yourself; it's much further down than it looks- about 90 feet.

I'll have to trek up here during the winter to see how things look frozen.

The Last Nice Day of 2008

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November Sunrise
Sunrise at Mt. Baldy
Michigan City, Indiana

Okay, so I'll go out on a limb and claim that November 5th was the last "nice" day of 2008. Things have to get colder now, and I doubt if temperatures are going to exceed 70 degrees until next spring (although I hope I'm wrong). Before starting on the things I had to do on Wednesday, I stopped at the National Lakeshore for sunrise and a long hike. I was greeted by nature at it's finest.

After completing everything, I returned to the lake front, but this time to Washington Park, about three miles north of Mt. Baldy. There were actually people in sight this time!

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Michigan City Catwalk
Lighthouse and Catwalk
Michigan City, Indiana

The East Pierhead light and fog house is always a favorite stop, I never tire of walking out to the lighthouse - in any weather. It seems to be a favorite spot of the locals for fishing and for couples who just want a nice long walk.

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Path to the Lighthouse

A perfect afternoon for a walk to the lighthouse then down to the end of the public beach. The air temperature was in the low 70's, but the water had to be in the low 50's. I was surprised to see kids in the water, I think they were visiting from another continent - probably Antarctica!

November Morning

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Leaves on Mt. Baldy
Leaf Litter on Mt. Baldy

November in Northern Indiana can be quite miserable. Wind, cold temperatures, horizontal rain, and gray skies make me long for summer. Occasionally, we get a few warm days this time of year, and yesterday was one of them - 74 degrees and sunny!

Just as the sun rose, I began a hike through the woods to the top of Mt. Baldy, a 125 foot tall "living " sand dune. This huge dune moves at the rate of about 5 feet a year, burying the nearby woods in the process. In fact, it moves so quickly that the Marram Grass and Cottonwood trees cannot take root, making it the largest living dune that these plants cannot hold in place.

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Fall on Mt. Baldy
The Sun Illuminating the Fall Colors
Mt. Baldy
Michigan City, Indiana

As the sun climbed higher in the sky, the fall colors began to illuminate the landscape. Rich browns, golds and reds provided a contrast against the dunes and Lake Michigan. Standing atop the dunes gave a panoramic view of Lake Michigan and the Michigan City lighthouse far below.

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Lighthouse in the Distance
View From Mt. Baldy
Michigan City, Indiana

Walking southwest along the shore without another human in sight, I headed to a familiar spot, the mouth of Kintzel Ditch. This stream cuts between the tall, forested sand dunes of the 15,000 acre national lakeshore. I decided to follow it upstream to see if I could find the source. There is no trail, so walking along the shore became very difficult due to the large chunks of clay and sand that have fallen off into the stream. The walls of these parts of the dune seep water and feed the stream, making for some soft, muddy hiking.

Rather than return the way I came, I figured I could follow an animal trail toward the lake. After a half a mile or so, the trail ended, leaving me two possibilities: turn around or go through the brush. I chose to hike through the brush and head southwest. I was about a half a mile from the shore, so it should have taken a few minutes of walking, but then I encountered impasse after impasse. These woods grow on steep sand dunes covered in trees and short vegetation including poison ivy, thorny shrubs and vines. The strong vines were everywhere, and they grew horizontally between the ground and my waist. It was impossible to walk more than two steps without either turning, tripping or climbing. I think it would be easier to walk through a jungle. The thorny shrubs snagged everything I was wearing and carrying and tore my clothing and scratched my skin. My left arm has over 20 scratches on it alone.

Well over an hour later, I reached the top of a dune that overlooked Lake Michigan. Finally, I could make my way down to the familiar shoreline where again, not a soul could be seen.

Winter Approaches

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High Surf
Cold, Gray and Wind
Michigan City, Indiana

The winds have changed and now seem to primarily blow from the north, across the length of Lake Michigan, cooling down the Indiana shoreline, and picking up the surf.

It's no longer a comfortable walk along the beach, yet it's still attractive. The high surf has washed away much of the beach in spots, in fact, at one point of the beach, the surf has taken away over 7 feet of the dune, creating a 7 foot wall of sand at the shore.

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Missing Beach
Missing Beach

It was at this point I found the large shell in the lake. It's got to be a shell from warmer, salt water just dropped along the beach or washed away from someone's property.

EBSCO Alerts -21 Things at Oesterle

For my EBSCO portion of 21 Things at Oesterle, I chose to search for articles on G. Gordon Liddy of Watergate fame. Not only was he involved in Watergate (he chose to take the 5th), he has an earned doctorate degree in law, he was a prosecutor, defense attorney, special agent in the FBI, White House aide to President Nixon, soldier, pilot, defendant, felon, non fiction author, fiction author, and now a radio show host. The list goes on. There's not much this man hasn't done, and he's still interviewed often about his political views.

I chose email as my method of receiving EBSCO alerts on new articles about G. Gordon Liddy. I have enough RSS feeds on my homepage :-)

Mysterious Shell

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Large Shell
Shell Found in Lake Michigan

Here's something that has me puzzled. While walking along the cold, gray beach on the first day of November, I noticed something partially burried in the sand and under about a foot of water. It appeared to be a shell, but I wasn't sure. I decided to try and dig it out, but had to remove my boots and camera gear and get into the cold water. Just then, my wife simply walked into the water (shoes and all) and dug it out - she doesn't mind sitting in wet shoes and clothes all day. It was a very large shell that I figured couldn't possibly have come from Lake Michigan. I don't think there are any such creatures in the Great Lakes, but I'll have to do a little research to find out.

I wonder if it's a shell someone bought in the tropics and either dropped on the beach or perhaps it was a decoration that got washed away from someone's beach property. Maybe it's an ancient shell from a time long ago that was buried in the sand dunes for thousands of years. Either way, it's a pretty cool find.

Happy Halloween

Kim o Lantern
A Kim-O-Lantern

Heidi o Lantern

It's Halloween! Time to carve pumpkins and trick or treat.

I've got a lot of great co-workers, so I started to carve pumpkins with their portraits. I wish I had the time and pumpkins to carve all of my co-workers - maybe I'll get started earlier next year - so they better watch out!

Pumpkin Contest Entries

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Turkey Pumpkin
Christopher's Turkey Pumpkin

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Shrunken Head
Mike's Shrunken Head Pumpkin

The boys entered the annual pumpkin decorating contest at school today. The pumpkins had to be under 5 pounds and could not be carved (what fun is that??).

Chris decided to make a turkey, and Mike made a shrunken head. Winners will be announced on Friday.

Early Morning at the Cemetery

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Bachelor's Grove Stream
Stream Bordering Bachelor's Grove

A cool, overcast morning seemed perfect for a trek to Bachelor's Grove Cemetery and Settlement. Arriving just before sunrise, there was very little light - especially hiking through the dense, wooded trail that leads to the cemetery. A small stream brushes the border of the cemetery, and feeds a still pond on the north end, between 143rd street and the cemetery.

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Bachelor's Grove Pond
Pond Adjacent to Bachelor's Grove

Legend has it that Chicago mobsters dumped bodies in this pond in the 20's. It's certainly secluded and dark enough, and the old Midlothian Turnpike used to pass a few hundred feet to the south providing the necessary transportation to get the bodies close enough to dump.

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Swirls and Fall Color
Fall Color

Unfortunately, most visitors to the oldest cemetery in Cook County are thrill seekers or vandals who tend to damage what's left of the cemetery. Most of the gravestones are missing, dumped into the pond or at local police impound rooms.

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Vandalized Gravestones
Bachelor's Grove

A small group of people are attempting to restore Bachelor's Grove Cemetery and settlement to a respectful, historic place in the south suburbs. It seems however, that Cook County would rather forget it ever existed.

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Sterling Grave
Path Toward Pond and Stream

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Infant Daughter
Infant Daughter Gravestone
with Offerings

Bachelor's Grove Cemetery is considered by some to be a very haunted place. From Ghost farm houses to balls of light, to ghostly figures sitting on gravestones. There are over 100 documented sightings in this small cemetery.

Read on: