Fall into the Canal

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falls into IM canal
Falls spilling into the Illinois and Michigan Canal
Lemont, IL

On the second I & M Canal photo group meet up, we traveled the canal towpath east from downtown Lemont, Illinois, about 1.5 miles to a small stream that emptied into the canal. I can't find the name of this stream, but I did find its source about 2 or 3 miles up stream.

The canal was cut through the limestone bedrock in this area, so at least the canal did not need to be lined with limestone! Lots of limestone quarries were located here, and have long since filled up with water, creating some very nice fishing holes.

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Into the Depths
Rocky Shore of Consumer's Quarry
Lemont, Illinois

One can still see evidence of the quarries all along this part of the canal. The Great Lakes Quarries Recreational Area is a park created around these old quarries and the I & M Canal. It's a mix of nature, including a natural limestone fen (or wetland), the man made canal, and heavy industry along the Sanitary and Ship Canal just in the distance. A fen is very common, but limestone fen is a rare thing indeed. Water bubbles up from the shallow limestone bedrock in this area creating this unique habitat.

Rock Creek

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Colorful Limestone
Rock Creek Canyon

The colorful limestone cliffs line the banks of Rock Creek, part of the Kankakee River State Park in Illinois. This creek carved it's way through the limestone until it reached the Kankakee River. It's a bit difficult to walk along the bank of the creek without getting wet, and the main trail is at the top of the canyon, so you have to climb up and down the canyon walls to get from place to place. Rock climbing is not allowed, but obviously everyone does it.

There are plenty of breathtaking views of the creek from the top of the limestone cliffs, and the views aren't so bad once you get down into the canyon either!

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Rock Creek Falls
Rock Creek Falls

The Rock Creek Falls cascade gently over a natural drop in elevation of the limestone. The falls can be seen from the top of the canyon some 50 feet above.

Semphore Relic

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Railroad Semaphore Signal Tower
Old Semophore Signal Tower
Dwight, Illinois

On a recent drive through Dwight, Illinois, I spotted three of these odd structures along the Amtrak tracks. It appears they once held the old semophore signals before electric signals were used.

Michigan City Lighthouse Watercolor

The art bug is really biting me. I hope it doesn't wear off too soon. It's been years since I actually sat down and painted, then I tried a watercolor of the Wind Point Lighthouse and now a week later, I decided to create one of the Michigan City, Indiana Lighthouse.

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Michigan City Lighthouse Watercolor
Finished Painting
Watercolor on paper.

Here's the painting with the reference photo (one I took a few months back).
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Watercolor with Reference Print

I'm still trying to get used to painting with washes rather than opaque colors that hide what's underneath. It's an unpredictable medium to an extent, the colors blend the way they want to; the trick is to control it as best you can and use the nature of the paint and water to your advantage. They still control me most of the time, but I'm sneaking up on them.

More works to come!

Egg Coloring

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Coloring Eggs 2
The Boys Coloring Easter Eggs

It never fails, we seem to color way more eggs than we can eat! That's okay, it's all part of the East fun. We colored over six dozen eggs (probably more like 9 dozen!!) for Easter. That makes lots of egg salad, and deviled eggs for everyone at the beginning of this week!

Chris, Mike and Dan had a great time coloring the eggs, fingers, hands, faces, shirts, table and floor. Fortunately for us this year, they didn't really make a mess - they are getting older.

Tightly Wound

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Embedded Turnbuckle
Vines and Metal Band
Silo, DuPage County, Illinois

On an abandoned farm near Naperville, Illinois, a vine has worked its way under the metal band that holds together an old concrete stave silo. The meandering vines offset the perfect vertical and horizontal lines of the silo.

I'll bet it will be interesting to see when the foliage comes back in the spring.

It's the First Day of Spring!

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Sunny Snowfall
February Day
Naperville, IL

....and it's supposed to get cold and snow! We could get a few inches of the white stuff over the next couple of days.

I'm tired of snow already - let's get on with spring.

View of Lake Michigan

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A Window to the Lake
View from the shelter at 12th street beach

The new shelter at 12th street beach was constructed in 2003, after Meigs Field was mysteriously closed in the middle of the night by the City of Chicago. This beach is small, but sits inside a relaxing little cove formed by Northernly Island where the Adler Planetarium is located. The Adler Planetarium is one of the few structures left from the 1933/34 Worlds' Fair.

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Ice Covered Branches
View of Chicago Skyline, Planetarium and 12th Street Beach

Almost Finished with the Watercolor

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Almost Finished with the Wind Point Lighthouse Watercolor
Windpoint, Wisconsin Lighthouse Watercolor

Got the painting bug last weekend, so I started a watercolor painting of the Windpoint Lighthouse. I've never painted with watercolors before, so it took a lot of getting used to. I have to keep remembering to use light washes of color not bold globs like oils or acrylics. So every stroke I have to think through and build up from light to dark and front to back which is opposite of everything I've ever done before!

Here's the Windpoint Wisconsin lighthouse photo I used as a reference.
Wind Point Lighthouse
Reference photo

Frozen Shore

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Ice Covered Branches

A windy day on the shore of Lake Michigan combined with cold temperatures created a frozen wonderland near McCormick Place. The spray from the crashing waves froze on every item within 25 feet of the water.

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Icy Branch

The ice was several inches thick in some spots, bending trees down to the ground.

Chicago Harbor Light

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Chicago Harbor Light
Chicago Harbor Lighthouse
Lake Michigan

The Chicago Harbor Light was built in 1893 and moved to the present location in 1917. It's a brick covered, metal structure, 82 feet off of Lake Michigan. The lighthouse uses a third order Fresnel lens and is an active navigational beacon.

The lighthouse if off limits to visitors, but can be seen from the Chicago lakefront, Navy Pier and by private boat.

Chicago from Montrose Harbor

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Leaving Montrose Harbor
View of Chicago from Montrose Harbor

After being sick for the past 9 days, I finally have something to post!

It was a cold and windy afternoon, but I was able to get over to the Lake Michigan shore to snap a few pictures. I was going through photo withdrawal!

This is the Chicago skyline as seen from the entrance to Montrose Harbor on Montrose Point, a few miles north of the Loop. This is a rather large area of lakefront that has a lot of beach, fishing areas and park. One of the best things is that parking is FREE! That's an unusual thing to find in the city.

The beacon pictured in the foreground marks the right side entrance to the harbor. A similar beacon with green stripes marks the left side. Red is always on the right of a channel when returning from a larger body of water, so it's pretty easy to determine what direction you're traveling on a stream if you remember "Red right returning."

Kenosha Pierhead

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Kenosha Pierhead Light
Kenosha Pierhead Lighthouse
Kenosha, Wisconsin.

Built in 1906, this brilliant red lighthouse marks the entrance to Kenosha Harbor on the southwestern shore of Lake Michigan. Like most southern Lake Michigan lighthouses, this one is at the end of a concrete pier extending way into the lake.

While it's not the most elegant example on the lake, the construction of this lighthouse is quite interesting. Made of increasingly smaller cast iron rings stacked on top of one another, the tower tapers toward the top to form the familiar conical shape of the light.

A forth order Fresnel lens sits atop of the 50 foot tall structure, warning boats of the shore and marking the entrance to the harbor.

A few hundred feet inland sits the old 1866 Southport lighthouse that was replaced when the pier was built in the early 1900s.

Southport Lighthouse

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Southport Lighthouse
The Old Southport Lighthouse and Keeper's Quarters
Simmons Island, Kenosha, Wisconsin

Built in 1866 of Cream City Brick from Milwaukee, this 52 foot tall lighthouse and its fourth order Fresnel lens served the maritime community until 1906 when it was replaced by the new North Pier Light. The lantern room was removed a few years later and a flag staff was installed at the top of the tower to display storm warning signals.

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Southport Lighthouse Doorway
The Southport Lighthouse Doorway
Kenosha, Wisconsin

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Southport Lighthouse Vertical Panorama
A vertical panoramic view

Slated for demolition in the 1950's, the Southport lighthouse was saved and restored over the years and remains an important symbol of Kenosha's maritime history.

Overnight Snowfall

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Snowy Winter Morning
DuPage River
Naperville, Illinois

A wet snowfall overnight highlights every branch on all of the trees along the DuPage River.

Wind Point Light

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Wind Point Lighthouse
Wind Point Lighthouse on a beautiful winter day
Wind Point, Wisconsin

A sunny February day is ideal for heading up north into Wisconsin to take in some lighthouses! Sunday was sunny and 31 degrees in Racine, WI, but it seemed much warmer in the sun. In fact, it felt like spring the entire time even though the ground was covered in around a foot of snow.

Wind Point, Wisconsin is a few miles north of Racine and just south of Milwaukee. There is a very picturesque lighthouse and keeper's house located in this little town of around 2000 people. Built in 1880, and standing at 108 feet tall, it remains one of the tallest operating lighthouses on Lake Michigan. With it's original third order Fresnel lens, the light from the kerosene lamp was able to be seen up to 19 miles away. A detached fog house was later built that had an audible signal capable of warning vessels up to 40 miles away. It was also one of the first lighthouses on the great lakes to become electrified, that occurred in 1924.

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north point light pano
A Panoramic View of Wind Point, Wisconsin

The lighthouse sets right on a natural point that projects into Lake Michigan - hence the town name Wind Point. The views are spectacular from the beach, the golf course next door and even from the park a few blocks away.

Wind Point Light is possibly the most beautiful lighthouse I've visited on Lake Michigan (so far!). The tall, white tower and keeper's house paint a striking picture against the deep blue sky and water of Lake Michigan. I'll have to visit in the summer when the grass and trees are green and we can enjoy a day in the shadow of this beautiful lighthouse.

Winter Sunset

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prairie barn sunset
Sunset and an abandoned farm
Orland Park, IL

A dilapidated crib barn and common reed are silhouetted against the setting sun on a cold February evening. This is one of my favorite farms to visit because it's so convenient for me to see while driving to and from work. It also has a little pond right in front of the barn that provides great reflections.

I'm sure it will be gone soon, but if I ever will the lottery, maybe I'll buy the property to make sure it stays around a little longer.

Lunar Eclipse

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Progression of The Lunar Eclipse
Composite of Lunar Eclipse
February 20, 2008

I braved the frigid temperatures last night and stood outside with a camera and tripod to capture the last full lunar eclipse until 2010 - at least in North America. Taking a few photos every 5 to 10 minutes, I managed to stay frostbite free and still enjoy the rare event.

Lucky for me, it was high up in the sky so I didn't have to travel to some wide-open park and freeze. It was also nice and early in the evening, so unlike last time, I didn't have to get up at 2:30 AM just to see it.

Split Rock

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split rock tunnel
Tunnel through Split Rock
Near LaSalle, Illinois

Split Rock got it's name from the time of the building of the Illinois and Michigan Canal. It was a tall limestone, sandstone and dolomite stone obstacle that stood in the way of the canal, so the workers blasted through it - thus the name split rock.

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split rock tunel interior
The Split Rock Tunnel
Original brick lining still in place

As railroads replaced the canal, the Rock Island Railroad cut a tunnel through Split Rock to get their trains through the stone formation. This tunnel remains in Split Rock to this day, but the old tracks and bridge have been removed.

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tracks on fire
The 706 delivering a load of sand to LaSalle

One can still access the tunnel, and from the looks of it, not many people do. It's a 2.5 mile walk from Utica along the I and M Canal Towpath, but well worth it.

Lighthouse Keeper's View

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from the keepers catwalk
Michigan City Lighthouse
From the Catwalk

It was an unusually warm Sunday for February, temperatures in Michigan City, Indiana reached 50 degrees. It rained on and off most of the day, so after some shopping at the nearby mall, we stopped by Washington Park (it's becoming a weekly event to capture ice on lighthouses).

I walked to the lighthouse from the parking lot - it's about a block or so - with the wind howling around 40 mph. Once I got to the lighthouse pier, I jumped up and found that I could hardly stand up! The wind was blowing so hard I was almost pushed backwards.

I decided that since nobody in their right mind was out with me, I'd climb up the catwalk and take in the view. It's amazing how different things look from 15 feet higher! It was a spectacular view, the catwalk was below me for once, I could take in the entire beach, lake and harbor, and I could see the approaching rainstorm over the lake.

Of course, I did not venture out to the lighthouse via the catwalk, I was certainly afraid of getting charged with trespassing - the Coast Guard station is about a half block inland, and I'm sure you could see me standing up there from a mile away.