Lock Tender's Quarters

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lock tender
Restored Lock Tender's Home
Illinois and Michigan Canal near Morris, IL

In the mid 1800's, the Illinois and Michigan Canal was a vital link between Lake Michigan and the Mississippi River - basically between the Atlantic Ocean and the rest of the country. Barges of goods were pulled by mules that walked on a path next to the canal. Changes in elevation were overcome by installing several locks. The locks would either fill with water or be emptied of water to allow the barges to travel the length of the canal. Each lock needed a tender or someone who would open and close the gates that held back the water.

This structure is a preserved lock tender's home and is located near Morris, IL. One of the two locks has been closed to show how it once operated.

Merry Christmas!

Merry Christmas
Have a very Merry Christmas!

Driving Through a Winter Wonderland

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frosty trees
A Winter Morning on State Road 4
Near Salem Heights, Indiana

After a night of freezing fog, every surface in sight was covered with frost and highlighted by the early morning sun. This winter wonderland only lasted for a short time - until the sun warmed up the surfaces and the frost began to melt. It was truly a sight to behold; I just wish I could have parked somewhere so I could get a few better photos.

Abandoned Farm in Winter

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crib barn in winter
Abandoned Farm in Winter
December, 2007

A sunny afternoon following a 9 inch snowfall in a rural part of Cook County, Illinois highlights a deteriorating crib barn on an abandoned farm.

Crib barns were used to store corn, tools and the occasional tractor. The siding on the barn was set apart so air could circulate and keep the corn from rotting. Spacing the siding also let high winds pass through without blowing over the barn. The clapboards on the north side of this barn butted up against each other, probably to provide some shelter from the colder north winds.

The Promenade

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Light show at the Promenade
Bolingbrook, Illinois

Every evening from now until New Years Day, a music and light show plays at the new Promenade mall in Bolingbrook. Thousands of Christmas lights "dance" to the music as shoppers gather to watch the colorful spectacle.

The Promenade is just west of I 355, off of Janes Road and Boughton.

Walkerton Interlocking

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csx tower train
BNSF Freight Train
Walkerton, Indiana

A lonely, two storey, brick interlocking tower owned and operated by CSX stands empty in the small rural town of Walkerton, Indiana. This tower was once three levels, but was reduced to two several years back.

This building stands a few feet away from a double interlocking where two sets of parallel tracks intersect with one set. This line is still heavily used, almost every time I pass through Walkerton I hear or see a long train rolling quickly by these tracks.

I hope someone soon has the good sense to preserve this building before it's too late.

Door Prairie in Winter

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door prairie barn winter
Door Prairie Barn in December

A magical winter morning and I happened to find myself next to the nine-sided Door Prairie barn in LaPorte, Indiana. The overnight fog crystallized onto almost every surface, creating flocking on all of the tree branches. It was very picturesque just driving around town.

The owner of this barn has restored it and maintains it regularly, keeping it in terrific shape; thus it has become a landmark in LaPorte. He has also decorated it for Christmas with traditional wreathes.

Michigan City Light

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michigan city light
Michigan City Lighthouse on a cold morning

A cold, desolate morning in Michigan City, Indiana was the perfect time to capture the lighthouse on Lake Michigan. The rising sun creates a vivid image of the lighthouse against the deep blue water. Most of my images of this lighthouse were taken after noon, when the sun is above or behind the lighthouse, creating an image with washed out colors, so this was a treat.

Cold, Lonely Morning on Lake Michigan

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mt baldy on a freezing morning
Cold, windy morning at Lake Michigan
Mount Baldy National Lakeshore
Michigan City, Indiana

On the way to take care of a furnace situation, it was a cold and windy walk to the top of Mt. Baldy a 125 foot tall sand dune in Michigan City, Indiana. It snowed the night before and then got very cold, turning the sand along the shore to slippery ice. I managed not to slide into the water or off of the dune.

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washington beach in december
Washington Park Beach

The usually busy beach at Washington Park in Michigan City, Indiana was desolate. Not a single human being could be seen in any direction, not even in a car or boat. A terrific morning for photography aside from the high wind gusts and 9 degree temperatures!

Wish I had more time - I could have spent hours there! Maybe on winter vacation in a few weeks.

Ice Storm

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lantern ice
Ice forming on a lantern
December 1, 2007

The first ice storm of the season hit on Saturday, causing several minor delays and problems across the Chicago area. Driving wasn't exactly fun due to the icy conditions and crowded streets. It took us 40 minutes to drive about 6 miles!

Another storm is about to hit the area tonight, so I'm bracing myself for a long trip to work in the morning.

Toys for Tots Parade

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santa motorcycle
Santa Leads the Way

The annual Toys for Tots motorcycle parade got off to a rainy start on Sunday, December 2. A freezing rain storm the day before left the roads wet and slick, but rising temperatures helped keep them from freezing. No matter what the weather, the motorcycle riders turn out by the thousands to ride from the Dan Ryan Woods on 8300 south Western (the highest point in the city of Chicago created by the edge of the glacial Lake Chicago) to Foster 5600 north to deliver an unwrapped toy to the Toys for Tots drop off.

Toys for Tots collects toys each Christmas season to give to needy children, and the motorcycle parade certainly brings smiles to thousands of children.

At times, up to 30,000 motorcycles have participated in the parade, each with a gift and many decorated with garland and Santa Claus.

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thousands of motorcycles
Line of Motorcycles
Looking South
Western Avenue at 46th Street
Chicago, Illinois

This year, the warmer temperatures attracted hundreds of enthusiastic spectators along Western Avenue. Past years when the temperatures have were in the single digits, spectators were few or sitting by windows or in cars.

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parade train2
Santa Fe Railroad Float
Toys for Tots Parade

Small Town America

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mj package store
M.J. Package Store
Walkerton, Indiana

A drive through Walkerton, Indiana is a drive back in time. The old architecture is still in place, although it's painted a different color and has a few modern signs screwed to it. This town lies directly on US 6, a major east-west midwestern highway used by plenty of truckers.

Scores of businesses have come and gone in the past few decades - a Studebaker dealer, Paulett's Restaurant, Welco truck stop, Ray and Kenny's grocery, Wilcox grocery just to name a few, but this town is still full of charm and friendly people.

Plus, you can visit Koontz Lake just a few miles away!

It's Beginning to Look a Lot Like Christmas

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christmas decor
Christmas Decorations
November 2007

We managed to get past Thanksgiving without too many people rushing to put up their Christmas Decorations. Now, it seems everyone has their homes and businesses decorated.

We got most of our outdoor decorations in place and lit up. I've still got a lot more lights to go on the tree in front of the house, but at least it's beginning to look festive.

Tinley Park Metra Station

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train at tinley station
Train 410
Tinley Park, IL Metra Station

Passengers climb aboard the Metra train on their way toward downtown Chicago on a cold, snowy November Sunday at the Tinley Park train station.

Moonrise at 70 MPH

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moon on farm
Moon Rising over Indiana Farm

On the way home from Indianapolis I was in the passenger seat for once, so I was able to experiment with the camera. Just after sunset, I noticed the moon rising in the east so I attempted to get a shot of it.

It's not easy to use a 300mm lens in a car moving at 70 mph - especially when it's pretty dark outside. Luckily, I was able to get a few shots that weren't too blurry thanks to a fully manual camera.

I wish we had time to pull over to take some "real" shots of that evening's moon rise.

Waffles Anyone?

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worth the three hour drive
My Waffle House Dinner
Waffle House Indianapolis, Indiana

No trip to a Waffle house would be complete without a delicious waffle. It seems you can't find a traditional waffle at many places these days - they're either malted or the Belgium type that are too thick for my taste. Waffle House still serves up the great, thin waffles just bursting with flavor.

Their hash browns can be ordered scattered (not in a patty), smothered (onions), covered (cheese) capped(mushrooms), peppered(jalapeƱo peppers), chunked (diced ham), diced (diced tomatoes) or topped (with chili). Of course you can get them "all the way" with everything on them!

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waffle house waffle irons
Waffle Irons
Waffle House Indianapolis, Indiana

It was certainly worth the three hour drive for this meal. I can't wait until the next!
Get in the car John!

Waffle House Coffee

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Coffee Anyone
Coffee station at Indianapolis Waffle House

Anyone who has traveled in the south has seen the bright yellow Waffle House Sign at almost every other exit! They really have great waffles and grits, not to mention good coffee.

John and I decided to take a little detour on Saturday afternoon to get some coffee at the nearest Waffle House from Chicago. It turns out to be the Waffle House in Indianapolis, Indiana! Only a 2 1/2 hour drive for some great food!

The waitress was rather surprised when we told her we drove from Chicago just to eat at the Waffle House.

We'll have to do it again next month John!!

Happy Thanksgiving

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dan and mike making greenbean casserole
Dan and Mike making Green Bean Casserole

chris making pumpkin pie
Chris making his "famous" pumpkin pie (all by himself)
Have a happy Thanksgiving!

Fallen Leaves

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parking block
Leaf Parking Only

Steel Bridge

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steel bridge
Steel Bridge
Chicago Sanitary and Ship Canal

The Chicago Sanitary and Ship Canal was built in 1900 to replace the small Illinois and Michigan Canal that connected the Great Lakes (lake Michigan) to the Mississippi River. Prior to the completion of this canal, Chicago's waste water was dumped into Lake Michigan - the source of water for the city.

The modern canal is 28 miles long, 202 feet wide, and 24 feet deep, allowing plenty of room for barge traffic as well as an outlet for the city's treated waste water.


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cascade falls
Cascade Waterfall
Matthiessen State Park
Utica, Illinois

More than just the water was falling when we visited Matthiessen State Park. The leaves were on display and steadily falling to the bottom of the canyons.

I didn't bring a tripod with, so this shot was pretty hard. I had the camera in my hand but resting on a small boulder to help keep it steady.

Next time, I've got to remember a tripod.

Fall Colors at Dellwood Park

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Dellwood Park Trail Entrance
The path leading away from the IandM Canal trail
Dellwood Park
Lockport, Illiniois

The last of the fall color is on display in Dellwood Park. The trees are getting bare and the weather is certainly much colder as we approach winter.

Path Through Fall Colors

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bridge in fall

Bending trees cover this bridge with fall color on a warm, October afternoon. Matthiessen State Park was showing off at the time of this photo - lots of gold and red colors along this path over a 40 foot tall waterfall.

Not Fit for Human Contact

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not suitable for human contact
Not Fit for Human Contact
Sign under Route 83

After walking through the Lemont Quarries looking for fossils, we wandered down a closed path that lead toward the Calumet Sag Channel. An interesting but lonely area marked with spray paint and garbage. Not the kind of place I enjoy, but one that was worth exploring.

We noticed the sign pictured above, heaven help anyone who falls into the channel!


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Ladies Quilting
LaPorte County Fair
Indiana July 2007

During the LaPorte County Fair, the Pioneer Village is open for visitors. This village offers a peak into life back in the early days of LaPorte County and includes a blacksmith, post office, general store, house and barn. Each year in the house, these two women work on a hand-sewn quilt. There may be others who help too, but I always see the same two! They are always happy to show you their work, and will answer questions about quilting and sewing.

See ya next year!

Autumn Pool

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giants bath
Giant's Bathtub
Matthiessen State Park, Illinois

Fall colors are reflected in Giant's Bathtub, a pool of water located between two waterfalls in Matthiessen State Park. This day was very warm and sunny, so lots of people were enjoying the canyons and trails. The people in this photo help to give an idea of just how large this "bathtub" really is.

A certain destination this winter.

More Fall Colors

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red leaves
Red Maple Leaves
Dellwood Park, Lockport, Illinois

Certainly not my favorite time of year, Fall has some nice aspects. Take the colors for instance, reds, yellows, greens and browns combined with the low angle of the sun make for some great scenery.
I still don't like the increasingly cold weather, but if you think about it, the farther we get into fall, the closer winter is, and the closer winter is, the closer spring is!

That's how I get through the winter.....thinking of spring.

Floating on By

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Floating On By
Leaves Float in a Small Stream
Naperville, Illinois

The colorful fall leaves have been inspiring this year. Warm weather and just the right amount of rain and wind have prolonged the "leaf" season for more people to enjoy. Peak color seems to be right about now, but I'm certain that it won't last much longer.

These leaves fell onto the surface of a small creek in Naperville, Illinois. They'll be transported somewhere else by the running water. Perhaps eventually they will travel down the Des Plaines River, into the Illinois River, to the Mississippi River and turn up in the Gulf of Mexico.

Fall Reflection

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fall colors on fish lake
Autumn Colors
LaPorte County, Indiana

What a great day to walk around in the cold water! The water may have been freezing, but when you glanced up you saw this beautiful color -made me warm instantly.

Approaching Storm

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surviving another storm
Storm Approaching an Abandoned Farm
Orland Park, Illinois

A late October thunderstorm is slowly approaching this abandoned farm in northern Illinois. I counted three supercell thunderstorms from this vantage point and was able to take cover before the drenching rains, wind and hail began.

The setting sun was shining brightly, creating almost impossibly saturated fall colors on the trees and grasses. It also created a perfect double rainbow.

Begging for Food

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pretty please
Chipmunk waiting for a handout
Brookfield Zoo

These little guys are running all over the place - outside and inside some of the animal exhibits! The usually shy and elusive chipmunk has realized people at the zoo don't want to harm them, they want to feed them.

This little guy is waiting for a little piece of a cracker.

Fall Splendor

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fall stream
Stream Leading to Giant's Bathtub
Matthiessen State Park
Near Utica, Illinois

With temperatures around 80 degrees, it was a great day to head out to Matthiessen State Park and explore the canyons. We've only been to Starved Rock but heard about the beauty at nearby Matthiessen so we decided to give it a try. Good thing we did! Not only was it less crowded than the popular Starved Rock, it's canyons and waterfalls are really beautiful.

The main canyon runs for a little over a mile and you can walk a great deal of it above as well as below along the streams. Steep cliffs carved over centuries by running water are dotted with waterfalls, formations and caves. The kids loved the little caves.

It was the perfect day to see the park - warm weather, turning leaves, running streams (in summer the streams and waterfalls sometimes dry up) but a little crowded to get photos of the waterfalls without people in them.

We will definitely head back here in the winter to see the frozen falls and snow covered canyons.

Couldn't Find the Pot of Gold

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Large Rainbow
Rainbow During Severe Storm
Orland Park, Illinois
October 18, 2007

A very warm, windy October day ended with severe storms in parts of the Chicagoland area. Temperatures reached 79 degrees (that's warm for October!) and an approaching cold front produced heavy winds, storms, hail and a terrific double rainbow.

Light passes into a raindrop and is refracted back to the opposite side and then again until it leaves the raindrop. The "bending" of the lightwave causes different wavelengths of light (or different colors) to exit at a slightly different angle thus producing the colors of the rainbow.

The inside of a rainbow is brighter than the outside because rainbows are actually discs of light, not narrow bands, so the interior of a rainbow is quite bright. Occasionally, a double rainbow can be seen. The outer band is called Alexander's Bow and displays the colors in the opposite direction as the primary bow. You can see a little bit of a second band in the photo here. Note the the space between the two rainbows is much darker than the inside, this is called Alexander's Dark Band.

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double Rainbow

Rainbows are best spotted just after sunrise or just before sunset. The low angle of the sun produces a rainbow that "touches" the ground on both sides. Actually, a full circular rainbow can be seen from an airplane.

Every rainbow is unique to the viewer. In other words, the rainbow you see is actually completely different from the rainbow observed by the person next to you.

This is probably the last rainbow of 2007 for us in Chicago, but the way the warm weather has been sticking around, maybe we'll have one for Christmas.


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Mike with Acorns
Mike with Acorns

Mike, Chris and Danny collected this bucket full of acorns at the lake last weekend. There were so many oak trees and acorns that it didn't take them long at all.

Next week comes the fun part, throwing them at targets in and near the lake!

Fall Still Life

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Acorns and Leaves
Acorns and Oak Leaves
October 2007

Fossil Hunt

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Endocerid Fossil
Sag Quarry
Lemont, Illinois

An afternoon walk through the Sag Quarries yielded a few cool fossils. The Sag Quarries are in Lemont near the intersection of Archer Road and Rt. 83. They have been abandoned and flooded for decades and are now part of the Cook County Forest Preserve District.

When walking along the shore you're walking along the edge of the old limestone quarry, so one must be careful not to fall into the deep water. Limestone is everywhere and with a little luck, you can spot fossils that are 450 million years old! The limestone in this area began to form beneath the warm, shallow sea that covered this area over 400 million years ago. Some of the creatures that lived in the sea at this time were shellfish including the Endocerid, a long conical shellfish that could reach lengths of 10 meters or more. The one preserved above was about 18 to 24 inches in length.

It died and sank to the bottom where it was covered up by sediment including sand and tiny particles of calcium from other shells. Over millions of years the sediment compacted and formed the limestone we see today.

The Sag Quarries were in operation in the early 1800's, and during the time of the construction of the I&M Canal. The limestone from these quarries was used to build the Chicago Watertower, Holy Name Cathedral, St. James of the Sag Church (monk's castle) and numerous local buildings.


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Reflecting upon Summer
Geese Wading
Sag Quarries
Lemont, Illinois

The long abandoned limestone quarries in Lemont, Illinois are now filled with water and an abundance of wildlife. An easy, rather interesting walk around the quarries will reveal some things from the past. You'll see a lot of limestone blocks cut by the former workers at the quarry - just left where they were cut on the last day of operation - way too big to move. You'll also see the occasional fossil. This layer of limestone was formed over 400 million years ago when this part of the earth was covered in a warm, shallow sea. Evidence of fish and other sea creatures is rather easy to find while walking along the quarries.

Stocked with fish, these lakes are also popular haunts for local fishermen.

Terror Hill!

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swallow cliffs from top
Swallow Cliffs Toboggan Run
Palos Hills, Illinois

One of the two remaining toboggan runs in the Chicago area, Swallow Cliffs is over 90 feet high and toboggans can reach speeds of 50 miles per hour as they slide 900 feet. Last used in 2003, Swallow Cliffs was also known as Terror Hill by local residents.

The last ice age created the "cliff" that the toboggan run is built upon. Glaciers formed moraines at this point in the country and glacial meltwater created the predecessor to Lake Michigan called Lake Chicago. Over time, the waters began to erode the moraines that were keeping the water in place. Over a period of about 3000 years, this meltwater drained Lake Chicago into the Mississippi River with a flow greater than today's Amazon River. The meltwater carved out the depressions known as the Sag that runs through this area. This cliff was actually the shore of Lake Chicago - you'll note in the photo that the land is flat once you get down from the top of Swallow Cliff. If there was a rise in the distance, that evidence would have proven this had been an ancient riverbed, but the land remains flat showing it was once a large body of water.

A private company wishes to create a winter park out of the old Swallow Cliffs Toboggan site. So perhaps once again in the winter, children and adults will experience "Terror Hill."


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View from the Top
View from cherry picker on a firetruck
Orland Park, Illinois

Sunday we visited the firehouse for an open house and got to take a trip up the 55 foot high cherry picker on the fire truck.

The view would have been nice if we were somewhere interesting, pretty much all we saw were the roofs of shops and stores.

We still had fun.

October Rainbow

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Faint October Rainbow
Rainbow over Naperville, Illinois
October 5, 2007

A brief rain shower this morning caused a large, but faint rainbow in the northwestern sky. I happened to have the camera in hand (as usual) and snapped a picture before it disappeared a few moments later.

Temperatures are in the mid to upper 80's today - that's hot for October in Chicago!
Hope it lasts all winter!
Hurray for global warming!

Soft Sand

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grass and sand
Sand and Sea Grass
Mount Baldy
Michigan City Indiana

Lake Michigan

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lake michigan
View of Lake Michigan from Mt. Baldy
Michigan City, Indiana

With fall here, I'm still thinking about hot weather and sand. Here's a photo from a visit to Mount Baldy. This 125 foot tall sand dune is right on the edge of Michigan City, Indiana and part of the National Lakeshore.

It's hard to imagine this place will be frozen in about two months....
I've got to get there one more time before it gets too cold.

Fall Has Arrived

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first day of fall
View of Turtlehead Lake
Cook County, Illinios

Even though it was the first day of fall, the leaves have already begun to change in southern Cook County. Soon this lake will begin to freeze over and take on an entirely different look.

Not looking forward to the rain, wind and cold, but the colors are spectacular in the Fall.

Afraid of Nothing

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baby turtle
Baby turtle
Northwest Indiana

Here's a little guy Danny found right by the lake shore. It looks to me like he's really young. He's not even in his shell - I guess he's not afraid of anything! I certainly hope he makes it through the winter.

I used to see many more turtles around the lake, but in recent years, I've been lucky to see one or two a year. Let's hope this is the start of something good and these little guys stick around for a while.