From sun to rain, and everything in between - that's what we experienced while walking the beach at St. Joseph, Michigan. One moment the sun was shining, the next it was raining. It didn't force us to alter our plans, we still enjoyed the beach. In fact, the changing weather made for some great interest in the sky.
Once a few raindrops fell, almost all the beachgoers fled, and we had the beach pretty much to ourselves. Rain showers only lasted a few minutes at a time, with plenty of rainless periods in between.
It was odd, however, to see our footprints in the wet sand - they were completely dry. quite the opposite of walking on pavement, the wet sand stuck to our feet, and revealed dry sand underneath.
Posted by Tom Gill at Thursday, September 25, 2014
The ruins of a small dam located in Dellwood Park, in the town of Lockport, Illinois. The park was built in 1905 by the Chicago and Joliet Electric Railway Company to gain ridership on the small line. Two dams were built on the small creek that runs through the small limestone canyon to create deeper water for recreation. A boat house, dancing pavilion, and other amenities were constructed, making Dellwood Park one of the most picturesque parks in the area. The railroad was used to transport visitors to and from the park on weekends - thousands picnicked on the grounds, and rowed boats in the man-made lagoons each weekend. The dams are still visible today, but no longer hold water.
Posted by Tom Gill at Wednesday, September 24, 2014
A boat heads for home as the sun sets over Lake Michigan. On the last weekend of Summer, rain showers interrupted much of the day, yet as if on queue, the sky cleared for sunset. As we watched the sun dip below the horizon for the last time this summer, I noticed the usual bands of red, yellow, and white appear on the photos I captured. Adusting the shutter speed to bring out the intense reds in the clouds, only brought out more of the bands in the sun. Just as the moon appears larger and more colorful when it's lower in the sky, the sun also appears to change at sunset. When the moon or sun is low in the sky, the light emitted from them must travel through more of the earth's atmosphere. The atmosphere is different temperatures at different levels, so the light is distorted a bit at each level, creating a mirage that changes the shape and color of the sun as it sets. That's why the solar disk is flattened and has different bands of color.
Posted by Tom Gill at Tuesday, September 23, 2014
Following a day of showers, the sun illuminated the few remaining clouds left in the sky as evening approached. Almost giving up on a walk on the beach, we turned back after the last raindrops fell, and arrived a few minutes before sunset.
The sun did make an appearance, and we were able to watch the full solar disk disappear below Lake Michigan for the last time this summer. We'll continue to visit the beach throughout the Fall and Winter, but summer sunsets hold a special place in our souls.
This was like watching a good friend drive away after a long summer vacation. We'll stay in touch, but things won't be the same until we meet again next summer.
Posted by Tom Gill at Monday, September 22, 2014
Standing guard in heavy surf, the Michigan City, Indiana East Pierhead lighthouse acts as a beacon for the sailboats and kitesurfers who dared to enter the water on such a windy day.
Known as an inland sea, Lake Michigan covers over 22,400 square miles -large enough for ocean going vessels, and considered just as dangerous as the ocean when it comes to waves. On this day, the waves were only about 4 to 7 feet high, but their frequency seems greater than that of most oceans. Still, sailboats and kite surfers were not deterred; with a lot of skill, and a little luck, all returned to shore safely.
Posted by Tom Gill at Thursday, September 18, 2014
Still warm enough to enjoy the outdoors, the boys climb on a log that washed up on the beach. The waves were strong enough to move the log as they stood on it, making for some fun "surfing." Lake Michigan water temperatures were probably in the low 60s or high 50s, so getting splashed by the waves wasn't comfortable, but it was exciting.
It seems right after Labor Day, the temperatures drop enough for it to feel like Fall, and the winds begin to churn up the lake. When the winds come from the northwest, the clouds seem to hang right over the lake, like a cotton ceiling; almost endless.
Posted by Tom Gill at Wednesday, September 17, 2014
High winds kicked up Lake Michigan, and drove the surf far onto the beach - up to the sand dunes. Visitors on this cool weekend were forced to walk in the waves, as the beach all but disappeared due to the high water.
Waves crashed into the dunes, causing some erosion and small slides, as the sand washed into Lake Michigan. Walking along the beach was challenging; we couldn't walk on the dunes because they're protected - people's footprints will erode them. Seems Lake Michigan was doing a pretty good job of eroding the dunes without the help of visitor's feet.
This natural process happens time and time again, regardless if man is present. He is a witness.
Posted by Tom Gill at Tuesday, September 16, 2014
Plenty of duckweed, fallen trees, stumps, water birds, and shadows - all the makings of an interesting swamp. This week, we decided to take a short hike from Central Beach to the swamp, to see what was new in this wetland.
Most visitors to the Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore, generally stop at the beach; they're not aware of the other interesting places to see in the park. Woods, forests, grasslands, bogs, farms, are all part of the park, and I think just as interesting and beautiful as the lakeshore.
As we drive to different places in the park, we pass this swamp, and each time I notice the changes that occurred since our last visit. Following a storm, there are new fallen trees; during a dry period, the water often dries up. Most changes, however, are so subtle, that visitors won't take notice of them as they head to the beach. The wildlife changes as well. Frogs are among the first creatures to make an appearance in the Spring, followed by sightings of turtles, blackbirds, then waterbirds migrating from the south. Snakes and lizards can be seen in early summer, along with mosquitoes and biting flies.
As the Summer winds down, we'll experience the more obvious changes of Fall. As the leaves turn color and drop, many of the animals will hibernate or head south before the lush green turns to fluffy white.
Posted by Tom Gill at Wednesday, September 10, 2014
It seems every year, right after Labor Day, everything takes on a different look. The clouds and sky seem more vivid, the sun all of a sudden moves to a drastically different angle, and the days seem cooler and windy. I'm sure it has a lot to do with Fall approaching, and perhaps Labor Day simply provides a point of reference where we begin to notice these changes that have taken place for weeks prior. With early morning temperatures in the low 60's, and winds howling across Lake Michigan, we still set out in shorts and short sleeves to explore the beaches of the Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore. Nothing unusual there - we visit in January too! After a walk along the shore, the sun warmed things up, and we took to the water. The winds were whipping up the lake, creating some high waves, and pushing the water onto the beach, up to the dunes in some places. We witnessed the collapse of small portions of the dunes as the waves hit - something natural, and not due to people walking on them as the park service might seem to indicate with the closing of the paths on most every dune in Indiana. Due to man? Maybe; the construction of the Michigan City pier generations ago has starved these beaches of sand. Many people have closed up their summer cabins, taken their boats out of the water, and no longer think about visiting the beach, but we're still in summer mode, enjoying the sun, sand, and surf.
Posted by Tom Gill at Monday, September 08, 2014
There are plenty of small streams the cut through the dunes and empty into Lake Michigan, and we manage to find most of them! This particular one formed a small marsh just before it entered Lake Michigan, making it a fun area for the boys to explore. Probably due to the beachgoers, not many creatures were hanging around the marsh on this morning, but we did come across plenty of dragonflies. Soon, the weather will begin to turn cold, and crossing these small streams will not be as easy - at least, not as comfortable - as it is in the summer months.
Posted by Tom Gill at Tuesday, September 02, 2014