After a year of closure, Central Avenue Beach was opened to visitors once again. Finally. A storm in July of 2015 eroded much of the sand from the beach, creating a drop of over eight feet from the trail to the beach. In addition, much of the beach was gone - washed into Lake Michigan. What was once a beach of around 50 feet wide, is now reduced in many places to just a yard or two.
In some areas, the waves crash right into the foot of the dunes, making a hike down the beach difficult if one wishes to stay dry.
Trees have toppled over from the tops of the dunes into the lake, and the sides of the dunes appear rather unstable as "waterfalls" of sand constantly pour down the dunes further eroding them. The waves wash away the base of the dune, the sand becomes unstable, as more and more sand falls to the beach.
A natural process that for some reason is constantly attributed to people walking on the dunes. Every single path and footprint that was once on these dunes is now at the bottom of Lake Michigan - and it's not because people walked on the top of the dune.
High lake levels (waters have risen around four feet over the past few years), and the construction of the pier in Michigan City back in the early 1900's are to blame, not everyday visitors. The pier marks the entrance to Trail Creek, but blocks the flow of sand from the northeast, starving the beaches to the south. Without this replenishment, the beaches erode away.
The Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore seemed to be the national park of closed signs. So many areas were closed to the public due to "emergency conditions" it became almost laughable. Signs at the foot of every dune warned visitors not to walk on the dunes - anywhere. It's understandable to keep people off of many parts of the dunes, but this was excessive. Every sign was ignored, every fence was simply walked around, and this created even more erosion because visitors made new trails around the closed ones.
All this to protect the dunes from erosion - then Lake Michigan took over and washed everything away anyway. I'm all for protecting the dunes from unnecessary damage and erosion, but visitors need to see the dunes, touch the dunes, and explore the dunes, not just see photographs from the past when people were allowed to walk on them.
Official paths should be made along the dunes, and visitors should stay on them. Enforce the new paths and punish those who wander off the trail. The national lakeshore shouldn't keep the public off the dunes unless there's a danger to them (such as Mt. Baldy). People need to experience the dunes in a natural state, not paved trails with stairs, benches and signs - just sand, sun, and nature.
Posted by Tom Gill at Tuesday, August 16, 2016
The night sky illuminated by the lights of Chicago just 30 miles across Lake Michigan. Hoping to photograph some meteors, but knowing it was too early, I captured some stars along with fast moving clouds over the lake.
The artificial lights from Chicago appear like a sunset on the horizon, but the light comes from below the clouds, not above.
A small spot of rain was almost perfectly aligned with the Chicago skyline, blocking out most of the lights from the skyline.
Posted by Tom Gill at Monday, August 15, 2016
After a hike along the shore of Lake Michigan, we came upon a high dune blowout and decided to climb to the top. From there, several trails were visible, giving us options to explore the land behind the dunes.
One area was especially attractive to us, the wide savanna behind the blowout. In particular, a single evergreen tree stood out, so we decided to find a way to hike to it. After many failed attempts on trails that brought us to the wrong places, we managed to hike to the lonely tree.
In this savanna, we discovered prickly pear cactus, racerunner lizards, and an expansive view of the dunes with Lake Michigan in the distance. We watched as the clouds formed over the lake, little did we know that in just another hour, this cloud would produce several waterspouts. (see my previous post).
Posted by Tom Gill at Tuesday, August 09, 2016
On a beautiful, sunny, summer morning, multiple waterspouts formed over Lake Michigan. A small area of clouds produced the waterspouts, yet all around was beautiful sunshine. After a long hike through the Indiana Dunes, we spotted the first waterspout.
The funnel grew longer, and wider until it reached the surface of the lake. While it never appeared to connect the clouds and water, spray could be seen on the lake where the waterspout touched the lake surface.
We watched as more waterspouts formed, and at times, two were visible at once. We counted four separate waterspouts in less than an hour.
Waterspouts are not tornadoes, they are columns of water formed by a vortex over water. Generally associated with thunderstorms, most of the waterspouts I've encountered over the years appeared in good weather.
Posted by Tom Gill at Monday, August 08, 2016
Only half the enjoyment of Maquoketa Caves State Park is subterranean. The above-ground scenery is beautiful as well, and there are over six miles of trails winding through the rocky, wooded landscape.
A major attraction is the natural land bridge. It's much larger than it appears, and is a beautiful feature to explore. Located just outside of Dancehall Cave, the land bridge dominates the landscape as you exit the cave. This rock formation seems to split the state park in half, with almost half the trails and caves on each side.
Hiking between caves is rugged, and at times, I'm reminded of places such as Costa Rica, with rock cliffs rising up from dense, forested valleys. The trails looping around and over the top of these cliffs yield some interesting, small features of the park many people miss.
This small arch is located high above the well-traveled paths below, yet is safe enough to explore. Another just a few hundred feet away, is just as interesting, but perched on the edge of the cliff side, and potentially deadly to explore in the same manner.
We still have almost half of the park to explore on our next visit - which is scheduled for early Fall.
Posted by Tom Gill at Tuesday, August 02, 2016