On Tuesday afternoon, Chris and I decided to explore the outer range light in St. Joseph, Michigan. After a slow, slippery walk from shore to the end of the railings on the pier, we noticed it may be possible to venture further. If it weren't for the ice covered railings, I would not have even set foot onto the pier.
Once past the railings, the pier heads out a few hundred more feet, and this area was mostly clear of ice, and seemed safe enough to walk on. We were able to walk out to the inner light with no problems, but had to cautiously walk around the inner light to get to the last couple of hundred feet of pier to see the iced outer light.
Lake Michigan never fails to impress, as the outer side of the outer range light was covered in thick ice. The wind shapes the ice into intricate patterns, and these seemed to be like curls of hair on a giant monster. Click on the image and go to flickr to view the largest available image to see what I mean.
Winter has only just begun - I'm optimistic we'll have some more icing yet to come!
Aside from making travel difficult, the ice storm on Christmas Eve created some beautiful sights outdoors.
Our Knockout roses bloomed until mid December. The remaining blossoms withered and then were covered in ice.
Our crabapple trees were also made into ice covered sculptures.
Helping the Bell Ringer at Daley Plaza
My old friend Jim called up and invited the family along for an interesting tour of Chicago. His friend owns and operates O'Leary's Firetruck tours, a company offering tours of Chicago aboard vintage firetrucks. They wanted to get a group together to travel around the loop and sing Christmas Carols at some Salvation Army kettle locations.
We pulled out around 11:00 am on a cold, snowy December 23rd, and headed first toward Engine 13's firehouse. Driving a vintage firetruck really attracts a lot of attention, but singing carols while driving really turns people's heads. There we sang carols to the firemen - most of whom knew and/or at one time worked with the owner of the tour company.
Our next stop was Daley Plaza, the location of the official Chicago Christmas tree. We sang at two locations there, on the southwest and southeast corners of the plaza. We attracted lots of attention and photographers as a large number of donations were dropped into the Salvation Army's kettle. Even the bell ringer joined in and sang.
After about an hour of caroling, we boarded the 1949 Mack Firetruck and headed off to sing by the Marshall Field building on State Street. The Salvation Army had two musicians there, and they were happy to accompany us as we sang about six carols.
Despite the cold, It was really a great time. I certainly hope we helped bring a little cheer to some people this year, either by helping to raise a few extra donations, or just by seeing us driving around in the old truck.
First Day of Winter and Ice Covered Already
Recent high winds churned up Lake Michigan and splashed up onto the 35 foot tall outer range light in St. Joseph, Michigan. It's pretty early for this much ice (there was more, but it has melted some).
The pier was pretty icy in places, but not bad enough to cause me to slide into the lake. The worst part was the end of the pier (seen here in the foreground); I didn't want to venture too much further - another three feet and I'd be in Lake Michigan.
Repairs have begun on this lighthouse. It was leaning due to a crumbling foundation and the interior structure was pretty rotten. It's a good thing they're saving it. The way it was leaning last year, this much ice may have caused it to topple over like the small beacon on the other side of the harbor.
Here's what the lighthouse looks like without ice:
Illuminating the Night
While visiting the Washington Park Festival of Lights in Michigan City, we walked over to the lake shore and headed out to the lighthouse. There was a bit of ice around the pier, so we decided to stay on shore.
6 second exposure.
Ice Along Kintzele Ditch
I think I enjoy the beach and the Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore even more in the winter. While I don't like cold weather, I tend not to think about it when I'm immersed in it taking photographs.
Kintzele Ditch runs between two dunes, and it's mouth often changes course due to the high waves and currents of Lake Michigan. It's interesting to see it change from week to week.
Changes along the rest of the creek are most dramatic in the winter. Here, ice has formed along the edges of the creek, but as the water levels dropped, the ice lost support and came to a rest with a crash.
Soon, this stream will be frozen across - accept for a small portion where it drains into frozen Lake Michigan.
On my way home from work on Monday, I stopped by the Illinois and Michigan Canal for a few minutes. Just east of Lemont is a feeder stream that cascades into the canal. It's a great little place to stop and rest and take in the scenery. Not much to see at ground level, but if you climb down into the canal (you can do it if you're careful) it's a different world, and you quickly forget about the industry surrounding you - and you can't see or hear it!
Once at water level, you can get a view of the canal from a boatman's vantage point. The waterfall above is located just to the left and off the picture in the second image.
Of course, I forgot my tripod, but I was still able to blur the water hand-held without blurring the static objects. This is one of my favorite places along the entire canal.
Ground water can often be seen seeping out of the lower parts of sand dunes eroded by Lake Michigan or small streams. Here, along the shore of Lake Michigan, the waves have caused the dunes to collapse somewhat, and exposed layers of sand and mud. Water cannot percolate through the mud and clay, so it seeps out toward the lake.
During cold periods, the seepage freezes into beautiful ice walls such as these.
I think beaches are more fun in winter months: No crowds, no dogs, no bugs!
And yes, we found fossil crinoids! These hasn't been a day when we visited the beach and not found a crinoid fossil.
CBS in Chicago developed a project where photographers submitted photos of the Chicagoland area for voting and possible publication in a book. Users uploaded photos to the Capture my Chicago website, and the public had a few months to vote on the photos. The best photos were to be published in a coffee table photo book.
Over 2,800 photographers submitted over 28,000 images. The public voted and the top 200 or so photos were published in a book entitled "Capture My Chicago."
One of my photos was included in the book - Limestone Waterfall. This photo was taken just east of Lemont, IL, a suburb of Chicago. A small stream cascades into the man-made Illinois and Michigan Canal, a waterway cut by hand in the mid 1800's linking the Illinois River with Lake Michigan.
This canal ultimately linked the Atlantic Ocean to the Mississippi River, making Chicago what it is today. Without the Illinois and Michigan Canal, there would have been no easy way to transport goods and supplies to the area. After the completion of the canal, the railroads (which paralleled the canal) took over and eventually made Chicago the hub for the railroad industry.
The book is available in Chicago Barnes and Noble and Borders bookstores.
Just days before the cold weather hit us, trees and limestone reflect in Rock Creek on a cool December afternoon.
This was as far as we could walk without having to climb back up to the top of the limestone wall. To proceed further, you either get your feet wet and walk in the water, or climb up and down the rock walls at various points in the canyon.
I really need to explore this a bit further than the 1/2 mile or so I've seen - maybe next spring.
Decorated Old Lighthouse
With the Washington Park Festival of Lights taking place right next to the Old Michigan City, Indiana lighthouse, they seem to have gotten in the spirit as well. Last year, only the lantern room was decorated with Christmas lights.
It really fits in well with the festival of lights.
Where Am I?
We've been to South Haven lots of times, but never wandered around the neighborhoods too much. After a walk on the pier, then along the beach, we decided to head up toward the homes along the lake, then into the surrounding neighborhood.
Along the way, we found ourselves at the intersection of Monroe and Monroe.
Santa Arrives in LaPorte
A giant Santa greets everyone passing the LaPorte, Indiana County Complex on Lincolnway. It was a warm weekend leading into December, but cold weather is on the way tonight, and perhaps some snow as well. - Santa should feel right at home.
Fall in the Wetlands
Without all the leaves on the trees, the wetlands throughout the Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore seem exposed and vulnerable, yet at times also appear foreboding.
While setting up to capture this image, I stood alone, in ankle deep water and knee-high grass. I heard a loud rustling a few feet to my right, and it was quickly heading towards me. Unlike almost any other environment, swamps evoke eerie mental images of misfortune and evil, and this was no exception. The dim evening light and cloudy skies created an eerie atmosphere as I searched for the source of the rustling.
"Most likely a beaver getting ready for winter" I thought - but I never did find out what it was...........
The November/December 2009 issue of Northern Indiana Lakes Magazine used five of my lighthouse images for a feature article on local lighthouses, and for the cover of the magazine.
These are two-page spread tearsheets from the magazine.
Hidden Falls from Above
Climbing up a bit higher than the waterfall, gives a view of the little canyon that ends with this waterfall. This is a place I'd love to explore, but there's no easy way to get there.
It's a bit off the beaten path, and the falls only run in wet weather. To get there, you need to cross the main steam at the bottom of the upper dells, right at the place called Cedar Point.
Certainly place I'll explore a bit more next spring.
Giant's Bathtub Falls
Recent rains guaranteed lots of water in the dells of Matthiessen State Park near Utica, Illinois. The lower dells were completely flooded and impossible to visit, but the upper dells were in good form.
This four foot tall portion of the 10 or 12 foot total drop was running pretty fast into Giant's Bathtub, a 50 foot diameter natural pool at the bottom of the canyon.
Dune and Gloom
After several days of gloomy, rainy weather, the sun appeared on Sunday afternoon. With temperatures up near 60, I headed right for the beach!
The waves over the past few days really eroded the dunes, and created the little pool of water seen parallel to the shore of Lake Michigan. As the afternoon progressed, the sun disappeared behind rain clouds, and I jumped over the 6 foot wide pool of water to get a photo from the little sand "island" seen here. As soon as I landed, I sank into the loose, wet sand almost up to my knees. Not something I was prepared for! Lake Michigan is cold this time of year, and the wet sand seeped into my shoes instantly. It was not easy to get back to solid ground without crawling, but I managed.
I guess the sand eroded from the dune was simply deposited along the shore, and the wave action kept if from settling. It was almost like quicksand. I did manage to get out, and I also managed a few shots before I sank too far............what the heck, I was already wet.
It was a beautiful Fall weekend at Matthiessen State Park, The temperatures were a bit cool but the sun was out (finally) and the leaves were vibrant. The lack of water in the streams was a bit disappointing, as the waterfalls were only trickles.
The streams hardly moved at all, so I decided to take a long exposure of the leaves along the stream bed. Apparently, the stream was moving!
The late afternoon sun really highlighted the autumn leaves at Matthiessen State Park on Sunday. This footbridge crosses over the top of Lake Falls, a 35 foot tall waterfall flowing from Matthiessen lake through the upper dells and into the lower dells of the state park.
The canyons are a great place to explore in any season, but fall is the most colorful for obvious reasons.
After the Civil War reenactment at Dollinger Farm on Sunday, we headed out to Matthiessen State Park to view the fall colors. With all the gray days we had lately, it was nice to finally see some color.
The late day sun illuminated the fall colors on the opposite shore of Matthiessen Lake. The colors were unreal and brilliant; there wasn't much done to this photo except bring out some of the shadows. The combination of blue sky, colorful leaves and intense sun at just the right angle saturated the place with color. Even the scum on the water took on the blue from the sky.
The Kids Meet Svengoolie
Rich Koz, better known as Svengoolie, the Chicago television host, had a meet and greet at a local costume store. After about an hour wait in line, we all got to meet the great Svengoolie.
He began his show back in 1979, hosting B (and C) horror movies, with comical introductions, songs and parodies.
At least we didn't have to drive to Berwyn.............
An early morning walk through Cowle's Bog yielded some excellent fall color on the wide variety of trees.
It seems that this path is seldom explored, judging by the small number of footprints and lack of trash. Since the trail from the two parking areas to the beach varies from 2 miles to 3 miles, I suppose many people don't bother with the hike when they can drive a few blocks up and enter at the state park.
On the Cowles Bog trail, one can walk for a few miles from wetland, to woodland, to prairie, to beach. During this walk, the plant life varies greatly -trees such as maple, oak, sassafras, cedar and hickory are common. I also believe I saw a few cypress trees in the wetland area! I'm going to make sure of that, but the bark, shape, crown and even the cypress knees were the same as the trees I've seen in the south. I'm sure these are a different variety since they are so far north.
You're Gonna Get Your Feet Wet!
If you decide to walk to the outer light of the St. Joseph, Michigan lighthouses on a cold windy day, you need to realize that you're going to get your feet wet - maybe even your entire body! This day wasn't too windy, so the waves crashed onto the pier and only got me wet up to my ankles. Last summer, the waves were breaking two feet over the pier - getting me wet from head to toe and almost knocking me into the water. That's fine in the summer, but the water temperature now is way too cold to get that wet!
Here, I'm standing next to the outer range light, looking toward shore as the waves crash in front of me. As much as I hate winter, I can't wait until the water begins freezing on the lighthouses - the November gales begin to create alien-like forms out of the great lakes lighthouses.
Fall in the Woods of the National Lakeshore
A sunny morning highlights the colors of the leaves in the woods of Cowel's Bog. The leaves were just beginning to change, so we found islands of color scattered throughout the area.
Our early start enabled us to photograph in the sunlight, soon after we left the park, the cloud cover began.
Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore.
A scaffold erected around the St. Joseph, Michigan outer lighthouse was in need of adjustment after 50 mile per hour winds churned up Lake Michigan, and the waves tossed the scaffold around. Workers here were carefully removing the scaffold that was "floating" in mid air.
It appears some restoration work is being done to the outer lighthouse.
Fractured Sand - We Were Not Alone
The early morning sunlight revealed evidence that we were not the only creatures on the dune. Cracks were also evident in the sand, most likely the sand was falling under it's own weight after two days of 40 to 50 mile per hour winds stacked it a bit too high.
Left over from the days of coal fired steam engines, this concrete coal tipple can still be seen in Michigan City, Indiana. Coal (or grain if this was used after the steam age) would be sent up the conveyor at the left, to the top of the tower. It would then drop into the open topped rail cars below.
Too bad there isn't a water tower in the vicinity as well........
Mt. Baldy From the Shore
The 125 foot tall Mt. Baldy sand dune in Michigan City, Indiana is washed with early morning sunlight on a crisp, October morning. This is a living sand dune, meaning it is constantly changing and moving inland - driven by wind and erosion. It is slowly taking over the woods on the back side of the dune, at the rate of about four feet a year.
The blowout is evident on the left side of this image. Marram Grass and some trees are able to hold the sand in place on the high portion of the pictured dune, but this grass is unable to take hold on the rest of the dune. Since nothing can hold the sand in place, it blows over the top and eventually falls down the dune and covers whatever is in it's path.
Created at the end of the last ice age, Pinhook Bog is a kettle shaped depression lined with clay made by the advancing glacier. The depression filled with water and the clay prevented it from soaking into the soil.
Over time, sphagnum moss took hold and began to make the water acidic, and unsuitable for most plants. Now, only certain plants thrive here, many normally found farther north, are not seen anywhere else in Indiana.
The moss continues to spread today, and is several feet thick in places. It floats on water up to 60 feet deep, and can support shrubs and some trees such as Tamarack. The moss also helps keep the area more humid than the surroundings by holding a remarkable amount of water. It was actually used by the Native Americans for many things including diapers.
Here, a park ranger squeezes the water out of a handful of moss.It took three squeezes to get the majority of the water out.
Among many other interesting species in Pinhook Bog are the carnivorous plants. One in particular is the Pitcher Plant.
This plant attracts insects into it's "pitcher" filled with water. Once the insect drops in, small hairs pointing downward on the plant prevent the insect from escaping. It is then dissolved and ingested by the plant. These plants require nitrogen and minerals, and since a bog is not a good source of nitrogen, it gets it's nutrients from insects.
Looking into the plant, you can see some insects trapped inside.
Pinhook Bog is an interesting place to explore. It's only open on select weekends, and tours are guided by park rangers.