Silver Beach Locked In

Silver Beach Locked In Ice collects along the shore of Silver Beach, the public beach in St. Joseph, Michigan. Dozens of people walked along the shore to view the icy lakefront, and many decided to venture out onto the ice - a very dangerous thing to do. What seems to be solid ice, is often riddled with holds and thin spots leading directly to the frigid water below. Some visitors also walked onto the snow covered piers to get a closer view of the lighthouses. Seen in the distance, they appear to walk on the water past the lighthouses.

Advancing Ice

On an unseasonably warm winter day, pancake ice and drift ice gather at the confluence of Lake Michigan and the St. Joseph River. While temperatures climbed high to melt the snow, the ice was thick enough to withstand a couple of days of warmth. Temperatures are expected to drop to near zero in the next day or two, helping the ice to grow once again. Dozens of people walked along the frozen beach and piers to get a view of frozen Lake Michigan; a few even ventured out on to the shelf ice. Luckily, nobody fell through the ice into the freezing water.

Merry Christmas

Wishing everyone a Merry Christmas!

Before the Snow

The Dunes Before the Snow A cold walk over the dunes of West Beach, before the arrival of the season's first snowfall. The conifer forest is still green, while all of the Marram grass and other ground plants have gone dormant, and turned a drab brown. This trail allows people to experience full dune progression in just one mile. From beach to bare foredunes, Marram grass covered dunes, to conifer forest, Oak Savanna to forested rear dunes. The trail is a bit easier than others, since the steep dunes have boardwalks and stairs. Still, with hundreds of stairs, it can be a strenuous climb for some. By now, this areas should be covered in about six to eight inches of snow; I'll need to check that out soon.

Winter's Arrival

Winter Arrived Winter weather arrived this week, with cold temperatures and the first measurable snowfall of the year; the perfect backdrop for an antique sled. I was asked by a friend of mine to photograph her beautifully decorated antique sled outside an historic home. Brings back memories of the sled we had when we were kids.

Backlit Blowout

Backlit Blowout The morning sun bathes the dunes in warm light, while the air temperatures were in the 40's. This dune has a rather large blowout in the center. A blowout is an area with no vegetation to hold the sand in place, so wind and weather erodes it. While I believe this is a natural process, the National Park service wants people to keep off of the dunes so they can recover. By the number of footprints in this blowout, it's not working. While I respect the "keep off" order, I have doubts about it. It seems that if the path to the top of a dune is blocked off, people simply walk around it, creating much more erosion as they stomp and kill the marram grass next to the path. Now the path is larger, and eroding more. For what it's worth, I think the existing paths should become trails, and people should be allowed to walk on them. Providing they stay on the path, erosion would be kept to a minimum. Instead, visitors will ignore the signs, and blaze new trails, further eroding the dunes.

Coming in Waves

Coming in Waves To get to this part of the beach, we enjoyed walking on the rocks placed there to prevent erosion. More of a rock climbing excursion than a walk on the beach. At times when the lake is just right, we've been able to walk in front of the rocks, without climbing, but that's usually when the wind is blowing offshore, pushing the water toward Wisconsin. Of course, we could have simply walked on the street to our left, but what fun would that be? As we rounded the curve of the shoreline, this was our view. Nothing special - due to the industry on the horizon - yet the manner in which the waves lined themselves up prior to pounding the shore attracted me. More like the ripples in drifting sand, or cultivated rows in a farmer's field, than water hitting the beach; perhaps hurdles between the start and the finish line. In this cold weather, definitely hurdles.

Crawling Out

Crawling Out A leaf, moments before a wave washed it off the beach by a large wave. Autumn this year arrived late, but ended quickly. The beaches of the Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore were covered in leaves from the Oak trees atop the dunes last weekend, many carried to Lake Michigan by wind, others by small streams. This particular leaf appears to be crawling out of the water like a crab or crayfish.

Evening at the Fulton Windmill

Late Evening at the Fulton Windmill Built in the Netherlands, and shipped to Fulton, Illinois, "De Immigrant Windmill" stands nearly 100 feet tall, on the bank of the Mississippi River. The working windmill was assembled by Dutch Millwrights who travelled to Fulton for this express purpose. While the authentic smock windmill is only 13 years old, it is fully functional, including wooden gears, and two millstones. Bilinga wood was used to construct the windmill. Bilinga is a clear wood (very few knots)that resists rot and insects. In conjunction with the Windmill Cultural Center, a local museum displaying Dutch artifacts, the windmill teaches visitors about Fulton's Dutch heritage, and the industrial methods of the past.

Running Through the Dappled Light

Running Through the Dappled Light On our way back to the car, the boys ran under a canopy of autumn gold and green, filtering the sunlight, creating a multitude of shadows on the ground. The running figures strobed as they passed in and out of the patches of light. Mississippi Palisades State Park

Rolling Countryside

Rolling Countryside A landscape more familiar to that of Kentucky, the rolling hills of the Galena, Illinois area are beautiful all year, but a real treat in autumn. Rust and yellow leaves dot the fields, along with plenty of cattle, hay and barns.

Fall at the Palisades

Fall at the PalisadesA bright, crisp Fall day was the perfect excuse to drive out to the Mississippi Palisades State Park. Fall color seems late this year, and it looks as if we arrived at the peak of color here in northwestern Illinois. Following a track between the Mississippi River, and the tall, stone cliffs known as palisades, a train rounded the distant bend moments after we arrived at the lookout point. The trees here turn a rust color in Autumn, and they put on quite a display for us in the early afternoon sun. This area of Illinois was not covered in glacial ice during the last ice age, so the ancient cliffs and canyons remain to this day. We encountered so many breathtaking autumn views along the roads of western Illinois, unfortunately, I was unable to capture many of them as I drove along. I need to find a chauffeur so I can point the camera out of the car window!

Peering Into the Past

The Past A few leftovers from times past can be found on the grounds of the Chellberg Farm. Now part of the Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore, the farm is used to demonstrate early Indiana farm life. In addition to the farm, a few miles of wooded trails wind through the property - perfect for autumn hikes.

Golden Canopy

Autumn Footbridge The Chellberg Farm is known in the Spring for it's Maple Sugar Days, where the Maple trees are tapped for their sap, and volunteers demonstrate how the sap it turned into Maple syrup. The woods are full of Maple trees, and Autumn is the perfect time for a hike through a golden forest. The colors seemed to be at their peak last weekend, and the dappled sunlight brought out the best in the leaves. Chellberg Farm Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore

Colorful Hills

Golden Leaves The woods surrounding the Chellberg Farm are glowing with yellow-green leaves, creating the perfect backdrop to an autumn hike. In a few short months, these Maple trees will begin producing sap for Maple Syrup production.


Converging The canyon walls, stream, and trees, all converge in the distance - at the confluence of the stream and Vermillion River. A rainy day at Matthiessen State Park made for some difficult photography, but the moisture, mud, and dim light were overcome by gear, persistence, and high ISO!


Harvested The field of a small farm between Hollowayville and Princeton, Illinois is ready for winter, harvested just a few days ago. The morning rain left a blueish haze in the distance, creating a painterly look to this landscape.

Bend of the Vermillion

Bend of the Vermillion River After getting wet by the rain, it didn't matter much to simply walk through the stream to avoid the deep mud on the trail. We arrived at the confluence of the stream and the Vermillion River, and decided to hike the bank for a while. Chris crossed the river to find out what was beyond the bend, since the slippery rocks in the foreground make if very difficult to hike on the near side of the river. He's on the bend of the river, giving a sense of scale to the area.

Rain Forest

RainforestWell, rain in a forest to be more specific. The day began with light rain, and progressed into a steady rain as we arrived at Matthiessen State Park to view the Fall colors. Sunrise went unnoticed for quite a long time, as the cloud cover and steep ravines prevented any light from reaching the canyon floor - dark and wet, a total nightmare for photography. We pushed on. Already wet and muddy, we decided to explore a canyon we haven't seen before, finding it much easier to walk through the ankle-deep water, than the soft, sticky mud along the bank. (Time to invest in a great pair of waterproof boots). We arrived at the Vermillion River a short while later, and explored the area around the confluence of the two waters. Despite the rain, mud, and darkness, or perhaps in spite of them, today's hike was memorable.

Lock Tender's House

Lock Tender's House Vacated decades ago, the Lock 20 lock tender's house remains standing along the Hennepin Canal near Wyanet, Illinois. While the canal didn't recieve the traffic it was meant to handle, it was historically significant. At over 100 miles in length, it was the first canal in America built of concrete - quite an undertaking for such a large scale project. The concrete locks still stand today, and all but one are visible (lock 1 is sometimes under water). A few of the lock tender's homes remain, most in need of significant repair. This one, according to locals, is said to be haunted. I've met some people who spend time on the grounds next to the home on nights with a full moon, hoping to see something supernatural. Last year, they pointed out something interesting. It was late afternoon, and temperatures were in the mid 80's all day. I expected the boarded up home to be very hot inside. They pointed out an eight inch hole in the siding. While peering inside, very cold air was rushing out - an interesting occurence on such a warm day. Sounds like a great place to spend Halloween night.

Red Covered Bridge

Red Covered Bridge The late afternoon sun bathes the Princeton Red Covered Bridge on a beautiful Autumn day. Built in 1863, at a cost of just over $3,000 the bridge has a 149 foot span over Bureau Creek, and is one of only five covered bridges in Illinois. Once part of the Peoria-Galena Trail, the bridge is now on the U.S. National Register of Historic Places. The bridge is still open to traffic.

Color on the Hennepin Canal

Color on the Hennepin Canal Couldn't ask for a better Fall day for a hike, and we took advantage of it Sunday afternoon. Being a holiday weekend, I tried to find a remote place to enjoy an afternoon. About 30 miles past the tourist laden state parks, was a familiar place for me: The Hennepin Canal. One mile outside of the small town of Wyanet, Illinois, the lazy, quiet waterway was the perfect spot to spend a few hours away from crowds. At over 100 miles in length, this linear park was created after the Hennepin Canal closed. The canal linked the Mississippi River with the Illinois River, providing transportation for goods and industry from the Gulf of Mexico to Illinois. Add the Illinois and Michigan Canal, and access increased across the state to Lake Michigan, and ultimately to the Atlantic Ocean.

Colorful Walk

Colorful Walk Can't argue with the weather we had on this Fall afternoon. High 70's, and partly sunny, a perfect day for a walk through Sawmill Creek at the Waterfall Glen forest preserve. The trees were just beginning to show signs of Fall color as wel walked through the water, upstream toward the waterfall. Peak color should arrive within the next two weeks.


Fall An early Fall afternoon at the fall of Sawmill Creek in the Waterfall Glen Forest Preserve. The colors of Autumn were just beginning to appear on this unseasonably warm Fall day. Colors should peak within the next two weeks or so. As we hiked back to the trail head, clouds gathered in the southwestern sky. Less than a mile down the road toward home, and the skies opened up with heavy downpours - perfect timing, yet again.

Wavy Skyline

Wavy Skyline Not only was it a wavy day on Lake Michigan, but the atmosphere made the Chicago skyline wavy as well. Approximately 30 miles across the lake from Boater's Beach- the beach one hikes to from the Cowles Bog loop- Chicago is clearly visible, yet a bit distorted by the distance. The 2.5 mile hike through Cowles Bog to the beach ends with a beautiful view of Lake Michigan, and a wide, soft, sandy beach. Due to the distance from the parking lot, this beach is mostly populated by boaters and residents of nearby Dune Acres. The beach for us is the halfway point of our hike, and a great resting spot. Of course, we need to hike back as well.

Green Valley

Green Valley The sunlight filtered through the trees onto the green undergrowth, making it glow against the shaded tree trunks. A vibrant landscape to walk through at this time of year, and the 2.5 mile walk allows plenty of time to enjoy the surroundings - and so does the 2.5 mile hike back! Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore

Low Ceiling, High Waves

Low Ceiling, High Waves A float plane surprises us on our hike, as it takes a low altitude flight along the shoreline of Lake Michigan and Cowles Bog. As we aimed our cameras at the plane, we were even more surprised to find two others close by. Flying low over the waves must be exhilarating; it's something I see quite often while hiking here.


Slope The reward following a 2.5 mile hike is a climb up, over, and down the foredune of Cowles Bog. Lake Michigan is a few yards away, but the view of the wooded foredunes is worth the hike. From this point, the dunes appear to go on forever, at least all the way to the horizon. After a walk along the beach, we take another trail back up the dune and into the woods, a two mile hike back to the tiny, secluded parking area. The parking area has been a bit more crowded lately. I remember just a while back where I would be lucky to see another person on the trail; now it seems more people are visiting. I wonder if it has anything to do with the August issue of Backpacker Magazine's article on Cowles Bog (featuring one of my photos)?

Liquid Mountain Range

Choppy Waters Once again, Lake Michigan flexes her muscles, turning the sometimes glassy-smooth lake into a choppy liquid mountain range. Nonetheless, a couple enjoys an afternoon walk along the shore, undoubtedly overloading their senses with sites and sounds more common to oceans. This is only a few miles from the southernmost point of Lake Michigan, where Indiana meets Illinois, evidenced by the steel mills on the horizon. This area was once industrial as well, but is now part of the Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore.



An unusual morning at Kintzele Ditch - the stream was not flowing into Lake Michigan. Apparently the high waves of the previous day built up the beach so high, it dammed the stream. We watched as the edge of the water moved slowly across the sand, at the rate of about an inch every 20 seconds, looking for a way to the lake. The edge of the water appeared to breathe, as it moved back and forth.

I imagine by the early afternoon, the stream found the lowest point in the sand, and finally made it to Lake Michigan. First a trickle, then after eroding a path, a steady flow of water.

Geographic construction in progress, right before our eyes.


CoveThe bright morning sun casts long shadows on the dunes, as beach-goers arrive at Central Beach for a late summer day of fun. Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore

Valley of Shadows

Valley of the Shadows Certain times of the year, the morning sun casts shadows onto the steep angle of the dunes along the shore of Lake Michigan, causing the shadows to grow many times their normal length. The patterns that result often create surreal backgrounds to those visiting the beach. Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore

Bean Field

bean fieldA field of soybeans turns yellow, right before drying out, signalling harvest is near. Luckily, this field was next to a small rural road with very little traffic. I was able to stop for quite some time to compose this image, without ever seeing another car. LaPorte County, Indiana.


Central Beach from the Delta Technically, this may not be a true delta, but Kintzele Ditch deposits sediments on the shore of Lake Michigan every day, and on this particular day, the running water created fan-like fingers that reached into Lake Michigan. Unusually wide and shallow, the "delta" was an interesting place to investigate - numerous rocks, minerals, tiny fossils, and aquatic life filled the area.


Confluence The sand dunes between Central Beach and Mt. Baldy are divided by a small stream that cuts its way through the shifting sands to Lake Michigan. While this stream often changes course from the dune to the lake, it's not often that it appears to enter Lake Michigan at two points. This confluence provides an interesting place to explore, as well as a great environment for wildlife.

Updated Classic

Impala The Lemont Legends Car Show takes place (weather permitting) every Wednesday evening during the summer. Classic cars of all types line up on Main Street, and several adjacent streets to give people a glimpse into automotive history. From perfectly restored classics, to rat-rods, almost everything is represented. This classic Impala was lovingly restored, and updated just a bit to make it interesting.

Running in the Rays

Running in the Rays Nothing beats cooling off on a hot summer day, and these boys found relief in the cool waters of Lake Michigan. Chasing each other in the water, they hardly noticed the patterns in the clouds that created some interesting rays on the horizon.

From Indian Head

The Mississippi from Indiana Head A panoramic view of the Mississippi River following a climb to the top of Indian Head, a large rock formation at the Mississippi River Palisades State Park. Resembling the head of a Native American, this formation towers over the river below, and seems to peer out from the dense trees of the cliffs. Approaching from the top, the formation is eight or ten feet away from the rest of the cliff - apparently it has pulled away over time - creating a steep, crevasse that must be crossed to reach the top of the "head." Looking around, one can see several bolts drilled into the cliffs, these are anchors for rock climbing. This area seems to be full of great places to climb. As I stood on the top of Indian Head photographing the landscape and searching for bald eagles, I watched several buzzards fly below me. Perhaps a warning of what could happen with one slip of a foot.


Meandering the Shore

The boys walk through Kintzele Ditch, a small stream that flows between two sand dunes, and into Lake Michigan.  The waves and wind constantly change the path the stream takes to the Lake, at times, by hundreds if not thousands of feet. Like us, it meanders along the shoreline. Often, this stream flows directly perpendicular into the lake, but following stormy or windy weather, the sand is piled up by strong waves, so the stream must meander along the shore until it finds a point to enter the lake.


This changing shoreline offers so many new things to explore each time we visit.  Last week, the stream flowed in a different direction, depositing mud onto the beach.  Once the water changed direction, the mud began to dry in the sun, forming familiar cracks in the mud.  However, at only 1/4 inch thick, the mud began to curl as it dried, revealing the sand beneath, creating an unusual pattern on the beach, reminding me of chocolate nonpareils.

All Ashore

All Ashore

Boaters anchored just off shore, wade to the beach for an afternoon of fun on the dunes.  Part of the Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore, Central Beach is home to rolling dunes, soft sand, and about 100 parking spaces - a premium in this area, especially in the summer.  These people have the best parking spot available.

A few miles west of this area, at Cowles Bog, the beach is a two mile hike from the nearest parking lot.  The beach there is rarely crowded, however, the shore is often lined with boats - hence the nickname Boater's Beach.  Arriving by boat is the easiest way to enjoy the large expanse of soft sand that particular beach has to offer.

Cruise Night

Buick Eight A summer highlight of numerous towns and villages through out America is the weekly Cruise Night, or Classic Car Night. Classic cars from nearby towns are parked along the main street or in the lot of a local drive-in. Gear heads, and wanna-be hot-rodders alike walk up and down the rows of cars, reminiscing about the times when cars were cars. Each cruise night has it's regular showings- the cars that are on display each and every week. You get to know the cars and the owners after a while. But it's most exciting when a fresh classic comes into town, a car that hasn't been seen for a long time, or when you come across a car you once wanted or rode in as a child. The memories begin to flow.

Soaring Chrome

 No plastic grilles, 5 mph vinyl bumpers or airbags, just pure chrome, horsepower, and memories.

30 Miles Offshore

30 Miles Offshore Technically, over 30 miles from the Chicago shore, but only a few hundred feet from the beach at the Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore. On clear days, the Chicago skyline can be seen from the "dunes" beaches, making the distance across Lake Michigan seem short, but at this point, it's almost 40 miles across. The curvature of the earth prevents the bottom of the buildings from being seen so far away. In fact, an average person standing on the beach can only see about 3 miles - that's where the curvature of the earth begins to slope away from them, and the horizon is perceived. Elevated on a hill or dune, and the distance is increased; add a 110 story building on the horizon, and one can easily see it from 37 miles away.

Kite Surfing Emerald Waters

Kite Surfing
A lone kite surfer tries his luck on a rather calm day on Lake Michigan. The large kite was able to catch enough of the breeze to tow him along, but I'll bet he was a little disappointed in the size of the waves. High winds and large waves give kite surfers a fast and wild ride, which is one reason you'll find these intrepid surfers on Lake Michigan in November. The waters around Silver Lake State Park, near Mears, Michigan, were rather flat, but displayed beautiful bands of emerald and blue - especially when viewed from high up in the dunes, or from the Little Point Sable lighthouse.

Celedon Waves

Celedon Waves Overcast skies and windy conditions create deep green waves reminiscent of the ancient Celedon pottery of Asia's Eastern Han Dynasty. On clear days with high waves, the water is deep blue, and one can often see sand in suspension for quite a distance in the water. The waves pick up the sand and move it out into the lake, making the water near the shore a bit tan in color, with deep blue in the distance. Rarely the same twice, Lake Michigan conditions and colors can change by the minute, and never fail to impress.

Midwestern Sentinel

Big Sable Point Standing guard since 1867, on the eastern shore of Lake Michigan, the Big Sable Point Lighthouse dwarfs the surrounding keeper's house and rolling dunes. Located just north of Ludington, Michigan, an old Midwestern logging town, the 112 foot lighthouse marked the middle of the three most prominent points extending into the great lake - Point Betsie to the north, and Little Sable Point to the south. Open for tourists in the warm months of the year, the lighthouse is a 1.8 mile hike from the nearest parking area, but well worth the hike. Consider hiking in on the trail, and hiking back along the beach.

A Walking Stick on the Beach

Hanging at the Beach Hanging around at the beach, this walking stick (or stick insect) was attempting to hide on a large piece of driftwood, washed up during the last storm. Interesting little creatures, walking sticks mimic not only the shape of a stick, but also their movements. They bob up and down, and sway side to side, the same as a stick moving in the breeze. Harmless to humans, they're interesting to encounter, fun to watch, and can make great playmates for kids.

Behind the Dunes

Behind the DunesJust over 100 feet tall, the Little Sable Point lighthouse towers over the sand dunes adjacent to the shore of Lake Michigan.

Open for tours during the warm months of the year (a $3 bargain), the view is worth the climb up. Friendly staff are there to answer questions and guide you through the history of the lighthouse.

Big View From Little Sable

Little Sable, Big View

Climbing up the spiral stairs inside the Little Sable Point lighthouse, we anticipated a great view, but instead, we were presented with an awesome view. The sun, waves and sand created patterns in Lake Michigan that I've never seen before - and weren't seen from the ground.

Along the railing of the deck are tags with distances of popular cities around the area. According to one, it's 60 miles across Lake Michigan. In addition to the tags, it's always fun to read the writing in the sand on the beach below. The usual "Cindy loves Bill", and "Hi mom" were trumped on this day by "Don't Jump!"

Little Sable Point

Built in 1874, the lighthouse stands over 100 feet tall and utilized a third order Fresnel lens.