Windy Morning

Windy Morning A sure sign of Fall, high winds on Lake Michigan. While not unusual on the Great Lakes - I've seen days with MUCH more wind than this - the more unique thing about this day was the approaching cold front seen on the horizon. It moved in very slowly even though the winds at this time were around 30 miles per hour. What was supposed to be a wash-out turned out to be okay for the first few hours of the day. Curling As we arrived at the beach, the winds were coming in right off the water, and the waves followed that pattern of wind. After a while, we noticed the wind changed direction almost 90 degrees, and was moving from the left to right relative to the shore. If you look closely at the photo above, you'll noticed a rippled texture in the water from the wind moving across the waves instead of pushing them. The waves even crashed differently, and almost seemed to die out right after breaking because the wind pushed them so powerfully from left to right. With November approaching, so are the gale force winds common to the Great Lakes in the Fall. Waves topping 10 feet are not uncommon along the Indiana Dunes, and I hope to experience them again soon.

Sun and Shadows

Sun and Shadow My visits to the Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore usually begin in the mornings, but generally mid mornings. On occasion, I venture out before sunrise and begin hiking to catch the highlights and shadows the rising sun makes on the contours of the dunes. These high contrast shadows are fleeting, so I enjoy running up and down the rolling dunes to capture them before they change or disappear. They not only change by the minute, they also change by the week. The position of the sun changes through the seasons, changing the shadows as every day passes - making every visit unique. Morning Dune Around every turn of the trail, new vistas open up, and at different times of the day, they appear so distinct. I've encountered this small dune countless times, but on this day, at this time, it was totally new to me.

Wide Open Dunescape

Rolling Hills

Continuing an early morning hike, we came upon an opening in the woods leading to a vast open area of rolling, grassy dune. These openings are common in this area, and illustrate the progression of the dunes, or the stages in which they are formed. The dunes range from beach, to grass, to savanna, conifer forest, then oak savanna. These stages are all found at the Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore, and in some places, all within a mile hike.

Opening Up

Not our first time here, we encountered some familiar features such as particular trees we used to climb and rest upon. These trees were at one time destinations for our hikes, as we noticed them from far away and set out to find a way to reach them.  The children grew up exploring these areas on weekends, so these special places bring back memories, and also allow us to see how they've changed over time.

Wide Open

These hikes take quite a while, and not only include trekking through loose sand trails up and down the rolling hills, they also include a relatively long, easy hike on the shore of Lake Michigan.

Morning Dunes

Morning Panorama

Following our hike to view the sunrise, we headed down the shore of Lake Michigan about two miles, searching for fossils on the beach, until we arrived at a large blowout in the dunes. This was the perfect location to begin our hike into the rolling dunes.

The sounds of crashing waves faded into the distance as we headed inland along the trail through the wooded dunes. After a bit of winding trails, we arrived at the first large expanse of open dunes, illuminated by the rising sun. Lake Michigan was still in view from this vantage point, as the trail stayed relatively close to the shore.

Trail Beginning

At times, when hiking the valleys between dunes, nothing beyond the grassy dunes is in view, making you feel as if you are hundreds of miles away from civilization, when in fact, you're only about two miles from the parking area, and 5 miles from Michigan City, Indiana, a relatively large city.

The trails here wind around for miles and miles, but this is our favorite trail, almost every type of dune landscape can be experienced here in just a few miles.

First Light

Moments Before Sunrise
Leaving home well before sunrise, we were able to drive to the Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore, and get in some hiking before the sun came up.  Hiking about a mile from our car, the sun finally began to illuminate the tops of the clouds, then a few moments later, the sky became a bit brighter until our surroundings were visible.

First Light

The first part of our hike was through the wooded trails up and around a rather large dune. The sky was bright enough to differentiate from the trees, but the trails were still quite dark - especially in the dense woods. My hopes were to capture the sun as it broke the horizon, but the view from the top of the dune was blocked by a number of trees, so we hiked the half mile to the beach.

Once again, we had the entire beach to ourselves for the first hour or two. After the sunrise, we continued and explored the wooded dunes and grassy dunes on a particular trail we've come to enjoy.