November Morning

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Leaves on Mt. Baldy
Leaf Litter on Mt. Baldy

November in Northern Indiana can be quite miserable. Wind, cold temperatures, horizontal rain, and gray skies make me long for summer. Occasionally, we get a few warm days this time of year, and yesterday was one of them - 74 degrees and sunny!

Just as the sun rose, I began a hike through the woods to the top of Mt. Baldy, a 125 foot tall "living " sand dune. This huge dune moves at the rate of about 5 feet a year, burying the nearby woods in the process. In fact, it moves so quickly that the Marram Grass and Cottonwood trees cannot take root, making it the largest living dune that these plants cannot hold in place.

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Fall on Mt. Baldy
The Sun Illuminating the Fall Colors
Mt. Baldy
Michigan City, Indiana

As the sun climbed higher in the sky, the fall colors began to illuminate the landscape. Rich browns, golds and reds provided a contrast against the dunes and Lake Michigan. Standing atop the dunes gave a panoramic view of Lake Michigan and the Michigan City lighthouse far below.

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Lighthouse in the Distance
View From Mt. Baldy
Michigan City, Indiana

Walking southwest along the shore without another human in sight, I headed to a familiar spot, the mouth of Kintzel Ditch. This stream cuts between the tall, forested sand dunes of the 15,000 acre national lakeshore. I decided to follow it upstream to see if I could find the source. There is no trail, so walking along the shore became very difficult due to the large chunks of clay and sand that have fallen off into the stream. The walls of these parts of the dune seep water and feed the stream, making for some soft, muddy hiking.

Rather than return the way I came, I figured I could follow an animal trail toward the lake. After a half a mile or so, the trail ended, leaving me two possibilities: turn around or go through the brush. I chose to hike through the brush and head southwest. I was about a half a mile from the shore, so it should have taken a few minutes of walking, but then I encountered impasse after impasse. These woods grow on steep sand dunes covered in trees and short vegetation including poison ivy, thorny shrubs and vines. The strong vines were everywhere, and they grew horizontally between the ground and my waist. It was impossible to walk more than two steps without either turning, tripping or climbing. I think it would be easier to walk through a jungle. The thorny shrubs snagged everything I was wearing and carrying and tore my clothing and scratched my skin. My left arm has over 20 scratches on it alone.

Well over an hour later, I reached the top of a dune that overlooked Lake Michigan. Finally, I could make my way down to the familiar shoreline where again, not a soul could be seen.

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