Six Lined Racerunner


Bet you won't believe it, but this lizard was photographed at the Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore.

Common to the southern United States, the Six Lined Racerunner (Cnemidophorus Sexlineatus Viridis) has a small population around southern Lake Michigan. Miles of sand dunes must have kept conditions just right to support these creatures this far north. They're not too rare at the park - I spot them almost every visit in the summer.

Lizards, hot sandy beaches, prickly pear cactus, carnivorous plants....... all at the Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore!


Happy Couple

Happy Couple

These two Cabbage White butterflies were enjoying the recent 90 degree temperatures on the dunes of Central Beach, at the Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore.

Cabbage Whites are very common, and easy to tell apart. In addition to the marks on the tips of the wings, females have two black spots on their wings, while males only have one.

Eggs are laid on the underside of the leaves of plants in the mustard family, but they have a particular love for cabbage and broccoli plants.

Morning View of the Chicago Harbor Light

Morning View of the Chicago Harbor Light

Following a minute or two in the lock, the Chicago River level matches Lake Michigan, and our boat sets out onto the Great Lakes. Once on the lake, the Chicago Harbor Lighthouse stands out against the blue water and sky. Only accessible by boat, this lighthouse was built in 1893, then moved to it's current location on the breakwater in 1918. It's built of cast iron, and originally used a third order Fresnel Lens.

This light is now owned by the City of Chicago, so perhaps one day it will be restored.

Contrasting Styles

Old and New

One of Chicago's soon to be landmarks, the glass and steel Trump Tower shares a place along side one of Chicago's best known architectural icons, the Wrigley Building.

Completed in 1921, the 30 story Wrigley Building is clad in glazed, white terra cotta, giving rise to the nickname "Jewel of the Mile." on Chicago's Magnificent Mile of course. The tower provides office space for chewing gum giant Wrigley and other major Chicago-based corporations.

A few hundred feet away, at the first major jog in the Chicago River (from Lake Michigan), the Trump Tower rises 1,389 above Chicago. It's location - the site of the former Sun Times building - provides beautiful views of the river, lake and skyline. This building coincides with most if not all new construction along this part of the Chicago River - residential.  Trump Tower is home to an international hotel and luxurious condominiums.

Worlds apart in history, and engineering, these two buildings couldn't differ more, yet their contrasting styles and materials complement each other as seen from the bank of Chicago's most famous waterway.

Capturing a Prehistoric Looking Landscape

Capturing a Prehistoric Looking Landscape

Cowles Bog is one of my favorite places for a spring hike. While not a true bog, (the wetland it's actually a fen), it is home to a variety of plant species that you don't see in too many other areas of the dunes.

In May, thousands of ferns unroll into plants with fronds over three feet long. In this photo, they're not fully opened, so they give an almost prehistoric look to the wetland.

In addition to the variety of wetland plants and animals, Cowles Bog contains a number of other types of landscapes including prairie, forest, beach, dune, and savanna.  A two mile hike from the parking area to the beach will introduce you to most of these environments. For a bit of variety, walk along the beach to find another trail head, then follow that back to the parking lot.

Worth a visit in any season.

Catch and Release

Catch and Release

We stumbled upon many of these little butterflies on our walk along the Lake Michigan shore. Most were at the edge of the water, trying to fly away, but they were waterlogged and unable to move.

Dan picked each one up and held them until their wings dried, then they either flew away on their own, or he placed them in a safe spot to dry out on their own.

He saved quite a few butterflies that day.

Natural Slide

Natural Slide

The one thing you're not supposed to do at the Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore, but probably the most fun! This family climbed to the top of a dune near Central Beach and slid down the slope to the beach below.

This is frowned upon by the park service because it erodes the dune prematurely. Another reason this is not a good practice is the fact that there are hidden dangers under the sand. roots and sticks partially buried act as punji sticks and can impale people who slide over them or fall onto them.

It does look like a lot of fun.

Grounded Falcon

Grounded Falcon

Well hidden in a valley between steep, densely wooded dunes, this early 1960s Ford Falcon slowly disintegrates and returns to the earth.

At least a mile and a half from any road, how this car made it to it's final resting place is a mystery. More than likely, it was left here before the area became part of the Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore.