Sunset on the Farm

Sunset on the Farm

The end to a long day of hiking around rural Illinois was made perfect by this sunset near an old log cabin on the prairie. The light was no longer acceptable for images of the cabin, but the setting sun, windmill, and trees on the horizon yielded some great silhouettes.

Temperatures dropped dramatically right as the sun hit the horizon, and storms were on the way, but we managed to complete our photographic mission without encountering any rain.

Enjoying the Falls

Giant's Bathtub

Illinois' Matthiessen State Park packs plenty of scenery in its mile-long upper and lower dells trail. At least seven waterfalls wait for exploration in this narrow canyon covered by trees from the woods above.

The largest pool of water is the Devil's Bathtub, just below a cascade of two waterfalls. (pictured above)  A few meters beyond is Lake Falls, at around 35 feet tall.  To walk from one to the other, visitors must step in the stream at the top of the falls to Devil's Bathtub - the stream is only two or three inches deep at this point, and perhaps 5 feet wide, so not a large obstruction.

The trail running along the top of the dells is wooded, but doesn't offer too many views of the canyon below, however, there are a few points leading down to the dells if one prefers not to walk in the often muddy trails along the stream.

Less crowded than it's larger sister, Starved Rock State Park, Matthiessen offers quite a bit of interesting scenery not found in too many places in Illinois.

Severe Weather

Illuminated Clouds

While the storms never reached us, the distant lightning and overhead mammatus clouds kept us intrigued throughout the evening.  A cold front just south of our position, stalled, and produced some severe thunderstorms that just didnt' seem to move away.

Mammatus Clouds

Just before sunset, mammatus clouds appeared overhead, spun off from the thunderheads a few miles south. Almost constant thunder could be heard in the distance as we looked above at the unusual puffy, clouds.

Usually, mammatus clouds last for a few minutes, as the storm approaches, but on this evening, they stayed for at least two hours, perhaps longer as we could no longer see them after dark.

Lightning Bolt

The storm continued into the late evening. Around 10pm, constant flashes of distant lightning to the south kept us watching the horizon. Aside from the streaks of lightning, the illuminated clouds interested me even more.

Peaceful Sunset

Peaceful Sunset

The end to a beautiful spring day in rural America.

Hoping to arrive at our destination before the sun set below the horizon, I was a bit disappointed the sun was too low to illuminate the landscape.  The distant trees blocked the light, and the subjects that I intended to photograph during the "golden hour" were now in shadow.  Looking around a bit, I noticed the sun on the horizon, filtered by high, wispy clouds; providing the perfect back lighting for a great silhouette- especially next to the distant windmill.

Sometimes the landscape dictates what's going to happen, and when you listen, the outcome is usually better than the one you planned.

Dark Falls

Dark Canyon Falls

Early morning at the bottom of the canyon was quite dark, even though the sun illuminated the falls and the trees some 30 feet above us.  We spent the morning following trails we normally don't explore, and encountered some interesting new landscapes, but we came back to visit one of our favorite waterfalls.

At around 30 feet, Lake Falls, is the tallest waterfall in Matthiessen State Park, and one of the most popular.  It's relatively easy to view from the trail above, or the bottom of the canyon, but if you wish to get close to it, you'll probably get your feet wet.  If you know where to park, this waterfall is only a few steps away from your car - great for freezing cold days when you wish to view the frozen waterfall but don't want to hike in the cold.  The best way to experience this fall is to hike in along the stream from the main parking lot. You'll experience a few other waterfalls, and wander through plenty of moss covered canyon.

Beyond the Falls at Cedar Point

Beyond The Falls of Cedar Point

I've explored and photographed the falls just beyond Cedar Point in all seasons, but I especially love these falls in winter.  The slow trickle of water freezes across the entire surface of the canyon ledge, creating an ice cave large enough to enter.  The image below shows the waterfall beyond Cedar Point. The photo above shows what lies further upstream - above the waterfall.

Falls Near Cedar Point

In winter, the path through the canyon turns to ice, so it's very difficult to walk the trail above the falls.  I always wondered what features were above these falls, but I didn't expect several more small waterfalls.  On this day, we followed a narrow trail up the side of the canyon, and onto the top of the falls, where the path led us to more waterfalls and interesting canyon features.

An interesting morning exploring some of the lesser known canyons and waterfalls of the park.

Parallel To Shore

Parallel To the Shore

Kintzele Ditch runs parallel to shore on this day, virtually eliminating all of the beach on the Mt. Baldy side of the stream. Lake Michigan has eroded most of the beach over the years, and collapsed a good portion of the foredunes in this area of the National Lakeshore.

Despite predictions for cold weather and rain, the beach was very comfortable on this morning.  The cold front rolled in a bit later, bringing with it rain and much colder temperatures.  A wall of fog can be seen on the horizon over Lake Michigan; it slowly made it to shore, as we left the beach.



Dividing the Dunes

Dividing the Dunes

Kintzele Ditch flows into Lake Michigan from the waters of the Great Marsh, a 10 mile long wetland just behind the large sand dunes along the shore.  The two dunes it divides appear drastically different from one another - one is rather bare, while the other is lush with trees and vegetation.  Lake Michigan is slowly wearing away the beach, and collapsing the dunes little by little.  With each collapse, grass and full grown trees fall onto the beach, and are washed away by the waves of the lake.

The dune at the left has seen some major erosion over the past few years (not to say it was completely covered with trees previously), most of the front of the dune is gone. This erosion is evident on the lakeside surface of the dune at the right. Once covered in shrubs and trees, many have fallen victim to waves and gravity.

This panoramic image is composed of eight photographs stitched together. The effect gives an interesting vantage point to the stream and dunes.



So many things converging in this image. The land with the water; the stream with the lake; grass with the sand; dunes with the beach; sky with water; nature with industry; steam with clouds, and warm and cold weather.

A morning with warnings of rain, wind, shoreline flooding, fog, and cold temperatures, was tolerable for the most part, and seems to have scared everyone off the beach - we were the only ones in sight.

The gloomy morning enhanced the mood of the industry on the horizon - Michigan City's electric plant, with the landmark cooling tower allowing steam to touch the clouds.

Moments after this image was captured, a line of clouds appeared on the horizon as far as the eye could see.  Knowing the predicted storms were on their way, we hastily headed the 1/2 mile to the parking area.  The wall of clouds quickly moved toward us, and with no way of making it to shelter, we readied ourselves for a drenching.

Much to our surprise, as the clouds approached, and the cold winds hit us, the wall of clouds turned out to be fog - no rain.  The beach ahead of us and behind us disappeared, as did the tops of the dunes, as the thick fog rolled in off the lake.

The weather created an almost surreal view of so many things converging at one time.