Two of my photos were recently published in the September/October issue of Northern Indiana Lakes Magazine. Northern Indiana LAKES Magazine is a regional publication geared to an active, upscale and influential audience - from people who own summer cabins to grand, lakefront estates.
The magazine has also requested some of my lighthouse photos for a feature article next month.
Gale force winds and heavy surf pounded the LaPorte County shore of Lake Michigan Monday. The surge of water was at least 50 feet further up the beach than normal, and at times surged yards past and forced us to grab our gear and run!
Once to the shore, the 50 mile per hour winds weren't too bad, but anywhere downwind of the beach was brutal as the sand acted like tiny missiles. If you look at any painted surface along the beach, you'll notice that it has been stripped on paint on the lake side - naturally sandblasted!
Once we reached the breakwater, the winds seemed to pick up, and it was very difficult to stand still. I managed to place the camera downwind of the steel column holding up the catwalk so at least the camera wouldn't get pounded by the wind, waves and sand. It was also very difficult to keep the camera steady - even on a tripod.
On my usual venture up to the catwalk, I experienced what it must have been like for lighthouse keepers to service the light in these conditions. The steel staircase was swaying in the wind, and I was being pushed to the railing by the wind. The stairs moved back and forth a few inches, maybe more; I probably wasn't helping the situation any since I most likely acted like a sail.
Time to clean the camera.
The setting sun reflects off of wet slabs of clay recently uncovered by the waves of Lake Michigan. This erosion took place within the last week and has exposed clay that looks a lot like rock.
Fall seems to be the time of year when a lot of erosion takes place by the increasing wave activity. The face of a dune can change dramatically in just a few days, and the beach can almost disappear overnight.
Dusk at Kintzel Ditch
Now that fall is here, when standing along Kintzel Ditch, the sun sets a bit more to the south and not directly over Lake Michigan. This creates some variations in lighting from highlighted sand to dark shadow along the stream.
Fall is a great time to visit the dunes, especially the trails through the forests.
Image created by stitching together six separate photos.
Chellberg Farmstead 1900
The Chellberg Farmstead is a restored farm within the boundaries of the Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore. The house is used to teach people about farm life in the early 1900's. Festivals are held on the grounds each year, complete with demonstrations on cooking and farming.
To me, this moth looks like a little doll in a dress. If you look, it even has two eyes, two arms and long, flowing hair.
It's a Tolylpe Velleda, and can be found all over the eastern US. This one was found in the Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore over the weekend.
St James Church
Seen from one of the lower portions of the cemetery. Built in 1833, St James of Sag Bridge in Lemont Illinois, is the oldest parish in the Chicago Archdiocese.
Called "Monk's Castle" by children, this cemetery and church are a famous place for teenagers to trespass on Halloween night. Rumor has it that the monks will catch you and either make you kneel on broom handles or in salt until morning.
There are no monks here - never have been. It's a shame it's a target for teenage pranks, but at least it's maintained extremely well and shows no signs of vandalism.
One of the closed trails at the Little Red Schoolhouse Nature Preserve. It's been closed for two summers while they build a new structure for education.
Let's hope they put back the garden and this time plant vegetables in it rather than wild weeks like they've been doing the past 10 years. There is enough space outside the garden for wild and weedy plants, let's show the children what a REAL garden looks like!
The annual Civil War Days took place over the past weekend at Dellwood Park in Lockport, Illinois. It's a great little festival and it's free! The battle is always interesting and informative, and the setting is great as well - no modern lamp posts or antenna to distract you.
The rebel forces captured the Union artillery fairly quickly, but Union reinforcements arrived to recapture and win the battle.
Boys by Yoda
The boys helped build the 8 foot tall Lego Yoda at Orland Square Mall. Each child was given the opportunity to build a single Lego rectangular brick (about 10 x 4 inches). Then the bricks were put together to build the giant Yoda. Lot's of kids participated over the weekend.
By Sunday, the Yoda was ready for the last piece. Along with some fanfare, two store employees who helped build the Yoda were on hand to put on the top of the head.
The kids enjoyed helping out and watching the Yoda take shape.
Marram Grass "Forest"
Marram Grass (seen here from a worm's eye view) is one of the first plants to take hold on a Great Lakes sand dune.
Once it takes hold, it's roots not only keep the sand from blowing away in the wind, the decaying grass begins to condition the sand. Once the sand has enough humus, it begins to support additional plant life, and that in turn offers more humus and shade so larger plants can survive.
Over hundreds or thousands of years, the dunes become rich in plant and animal life.
Following the 2.6 mile hike along the Cowles Bog trail, we finally reached the beach. It seems there are plenty of boaters who anchor off shore to use the beach - I guess it's a great idea since there aren't many people who attempt to walk to this beach from the parking area. I think it's a perfect hike through a wide variety of environments.
You can really get a sense of how the beach turns from sand to Marram Grass to forest by looking from left to right in this image.
Still water and floating leaves created an icy look to the surface of this wetland. Technically not a bog since the water is not acidic, Cowles Bog trail leads you through many different progressive environments in a 4 mile loop.
First Signs of Fall
A walk through the Cowles Bog Trail revealed the first signs of autumn - red leaves. It must be the stress on the trees (water or poor soil) that makes these leaves turn a bit sooner than most.
I'm guessing this trail will be a great place to view the fall colors in early October.
Dr. Henry Cowles conducted extensive botanical research along the southern shore of Lake Michigan in the late 1800's. He was puzzled by the interesting variety of plant life found along the dunes. Some plants were native only to areas far north of Indiana, other further south. He set out to determine why this was.
He studied secondary dune succession - the sequence of dune building from the time they rebound from the weight of the glaciers until the land becomes a hardwood forest. This process continues today - the Lake Michigan bed rises a few centimeters each year. Sand dunes are slowly exposed and become inhabited by Marram and other grasses. Once this takes hold, it changes the environment by shading the sand, and the dying material creates humus, enriching the soil. Once the soil is enriched, other forms of plants can become established, further changing the soil and environment. This process continues from barren sand to Marram grass, to weeds, to tall grass prairie, to shade tolerant shrubs, and ultimately to hardwood forest of Oak and Tulip Trees.
The Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore is one of the few places one can see this succession in one place on a short hike. Cowles Bog is the perfect place to experience this . While not technically a bog (the water is not acidic), the wetland supports all sorts of interesting plant life and animal life. The trail begins in the wetlands, winds through sections of mature forest, shrubs, grasslands and then beach, all in a 2 mile hike.
One of the most striking things I noticed on this trail was the lack of garbage. I did not see a single can, bottle or even a piece of paper! It was great to see that this trail is treated with respect. It may also be that people don't care to walk 2 miles to the beach and 2 miles back to their car.
The beach is accessed mostly by boaters. It's a large stretch of open sand perfect for sunbathing or picnicking.
A branch highlighted by sunlight, hangs over the Little Calumet River along the Heron Rookery Trail of the Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore.
The Heron Rookery is separate from most other parts of the Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore, is a bit out of the way, but it provides a secluded, quiet walk along this small river.
On clear days, the Chicago skyline can be seen from the Indiana shore of Lake Michigan. Depending upon where you are, that's a distance of 27 miles to 50 miles.
The very bottom of the buildings are lost below the horizon due to the curve of the earth. The actual horizon over water is around 4 miles away if you're standing on the shore - meaning you can only see the surface of the water 4 miles away. Taller objects can obviously be seen at greater distances, and standing atop a dune certainly doesn't hurt either.
Yup, I Got Drenched!
The waves on Lake Michigan were high enough to come over the South Haven Pier, drenching those who dared to venture to the South Haven lighthouse.
To get an idea of how high the wave was, people can walk under the support for the catwalk, and this was about as tall as that.
Previously, I was only wet to my ankles, but once this wave came over the pier, I was soaked through to my neck!
Here are the some photos of the previous seconds before I got soaked.
Hiking Along the Lake Michigan Shore
Mike hikes along the Lake Michigan shore on a windy, cool late August afternoon.
His backpack came in handy for shoes, extra shirts and all of the fossils he found.