Fall in LaSalle Canyon

Blind Canyon

One of the longer hikes at Starved Rock is to LaSalle Canyon, a blind canyon where visitors must hike behind the waterfall to continue on the trail. The water cascades over an overhang carved thousands of years ago by running water. Generally just a soft trickle of water, at times when rain is plentiful, the waterfall can increase in flow.

Winter is one of the best times to visit this canyon. The falls turn to ice and create a wall in the center of the overhang.  Hiking behind the ice falls is spectacular.

LaSalle Canyon

While not the deepest or longest canyon in the park, LaSalle Canyon is certainly worth the hike. The multicolored St. Peter sandstone walls, green leaves and moss create an environment more suited to southern islands. In fact, even in winter, lichen, moss, and ferns often stay green, and I've seen dozens of insects crawling and flying in the snow covered canyons.

Hiking LaSalle Canyon

Once off the main overhang of rock, the water flows on the canyon floor, down a few gentle drops, and finally into a round pool which eventually flows out to the Illinois River. This serene pool is the perfect location for a short rest, or even a backpack lunch.

Autumn in the Canyon

Fall Path

In a matter of moments, it seems, the weather has gone from hot and sunny, to cool and windy - a sure sign of Fall. And with Fall comes colorful landscapes, at least in some places. It seems this year's fall color is selective, vivid is some areas, while lacking in others.

As we walked through the canyons of Starved Rock State Park, we encountered pockets of color peppered around the park. Generally, the fall color happens all around at the same time, depending upon the type of tree, but this year, some maple trees were colorful, while others remained green.

The colorful leaves offer a beautiful contrast against the pale rock-walled canyons.

Autum Trail

A positive thing about the sporadic color changing is the possibility of color later in the month - a longer period of fall color.

Harvest Time

Yellow Dent Corn

Nothing beats a long walk in the country on a sunny day, and at this time of year the crops are ready for harvest. Fields of yellow dent corn dry in the early Fall sun, while their brown leaves crackle in the wind. This is often the only sound heard on the rural roads of LaPorte County, Indiana.

On this day, we heard machinery too - farmers harvesting the bean crop just across the road. A few semi trucks waited their turn for the reaper to fill up and unload the beans into their trucks.

Harvest Time

As I walk past these farms, I wonder if the farmers themselves are harvesting using their own equipment, or rented equipment, or, are they using a harvesting service that does everything for them.  I'm sure it depends upon the farm, but a huge amount of equipment is needed to plant, harvest, and maintain a farm these days. How could anyone afford it all?

Soon, the Yellow Dent corn will reach the perfect stage for harvest as well - it's the black layer, and this is when the corn is mature enough to harvest, and contains the least amount of moisture. If it's dry enough, it can be stored in silos until needed, if it's not, it can be dried before storage.

Probably by next week, the walk down the rural roads will be a lot different. The tall corn that blocked the view of the horizon will be gone, and the only sounds we'll hear will be the birds eating what the combine missed.

Open Spaces

Hiking Deeper Into the Landscape

Stepping just a few meters from the beach, visitors experience an entirely new landscape. Rolling dunes, conifer forests, grassy meadows, and oak savanna all within a short hike from each other. We followed the path along the ridge of the dunes, with gentle slopes to a grassy meadow on one side, and steep drops to the forest on the other. I would estimate this "bowl" to be about 1/4 mile across - a bit larger than it seems at first.

What's interesting is the fact that there are so many more of these rolling hills and valleys just beyond the next dune; the landscape stretches for a very long way, and you can hike most of it along the established trails.

These paths seem more interesting to me because of the varying landscape.  Further inland, the more established dunes are covered in forest, blocking the distant views of Lake Michigan and the other rolling dunes.

Open Spaces

We often look in the distance for lone objects such as trees or shrubs standing in the hills, and attempt to find them using the trail system.  More often than not, we can get close, then look back to see the spot where we were standing originally.  It's always a much greater distance than it seemed.

Then, to find our way back using another path takes us in a different direction. There's no better way to start the weekend than to get lost in the dunes.

Morning Hike Along the Grassy Dunes

Morning Vantage Point

A sunny and warm first day of October, so we took advantage of the weather, and headed up the grassy dunes along the southeastern shore of Lake Michigan. We're familiar with these trails, but haven't been on them in a few months - which is unusual for us. Signs of Fall were all around us, but mostly the area was still green, with plenty of wildflowers displaying their blooms before the first frost.

We could see the skyline of Chicago as we reached the higher points of the trail. We were alone, the only three people within sight, looking at the skyline some 40 miles across the lake where millions of people were starting their day amid car horns, trains, and the other noises of the big city. We took a deep breath and continued our hike in the tall, quiet Marram grass, where all we encountered were insects buzzing from bloom to bloom.

Rolling Dunes

It seems once Fall is here, people don't bother coming out to the beaches and paths adjacent.  That's perfect for me, I can walk through nature without interruption, and experience things most others read about in those tall buildings across the lake.

Morning On The Dunes

I wonder if they even notice the sun casting interesting shadows on the ground near them, or if their closely stacked apartments even receive sunlight. Well, millions of people missed what I saw on the first day of October, and what's even more sad, they missed what I experienced.