Spring Sky

White clouds in a deep blue sky give the illusion of ghosts leaves on this bare tree atop a tall sand dune near Mt. Baldy at the Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore.

Finally Safe to Walk on the Ice

The last bit of shelf ice along the Mt. Baldy area of the Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore. It's finally safe to venture onto it. What a difference from this same spot just a couple of weeks before when 15 foot mounds of ice extended hundreds of feet into Lake Michigan.

Vanishing Point

The dunes and the shelf ice converge in the distance on a cold February afternoon. Notice the two people walking on the shelf ice - a very dangerous thing to do since they are walking over Lake Michigan, and most likely over water 10 feet deep. They do give you an idea of the scale of the mounds of ice on the water.


A short walk from Lockport's Dellwood Park, Lock 2 of the Illinois and Michigan Canal remains locked in ice and snow on a late winter afternoon.

Retreating Ice

Winter's grip on St. Joseph, Michigan is beginning to relax, as the warmer days melt some of the shelf ice along the shoreline. The mounds of ice next to and on the pier were over 15 feet tall, almost up t the catwalk.

Most of the lake was still full of flow ice, but the St. Joseph River to the left of the pier was clear enough for a kayaker to explore the area.

Inside the Sugar Shack

This sugar shack was built around the 1920's at the Chellberg Farm to produce maple syrup from the sap of the sugar maple trees on the property. The sap is around 80 percent water, so gallons and gallons of sap needed to be collected and boiled to obtain enough maple syrup for the year.

Maple Sugar Days continues next weekend - during the peak of the sugaring season. Warm days and freezing nights are needed to get the sap flowing, and once the nights no longer get really cold, the sap flow slows down.

Checking the Progress of the Syrup

Boiling Maple sap in large kettles on open fires was the preferred method of producing maple sugar for years. Here, an Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore volunteer checks the progress of the boiling sap. Still thin and colorless means it had a long way to go before it became syrup. Around 80 percent of the liquid must be boiled off of the sap to produce a sweet syrup.

Maple Sugar Time

It's early March and time for gathering sap for maple sugar. At the Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore, the annual Maple Sugar Days allow visitors to see how maple sap was harvested and made into maple syrup by the native people of North America (east of the Mississippi River).

They also show how sap gathering and syrup making technologies changed over the years at different stations along the trail to the sugar shack built in the 1920s.

Visitors get a chance to tap trees and hang buckets on the taps to collect syrup.

Living Sand Dune

Mt. Baldy seen from the beach. You can't really tell from this view, but believe it or not, this dune is over 100 feet tall. It's one of the few "living dunes along Lake Michigan. It's called living because the wind is moving the sand from one side to the other. This dune is moving at the rate of four feet a year, and burying the woods on the other side.

Winter Mountain Range

Not really a mountain range, but mounds of shelf ice along the Indiana shore of Lake Michigan. These mounds are formed by the waves splashing onto the shore. They eventually build up to 15 to 20 feet tall, and then begin to extend into the lake hundreds of feet where they take on the look of a distant mountain range.

Up Through the Ice

The St. Joseph, Michigan range lights seen from the frozen shore of Tiscornia Park. The pier is completely obscured by the 15 to 20 foot tall mounds of shelf ice formed by the waves of Lake Michigan.

Winter Lakeshore

Kintzele Ditch flows into Lake Michigan within the confines of the Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore. The mouth of the stream often changes location due to wave action, and here in the winter, the shelf ice along the shore is undercut by the stream and continues to flow into Lake Michigan.
This photo was created by stitching 6 images together.

Icing Up Again After a Short Thaw

The outer light of the St. Joseph, Michigan lighthouses is ice free and visible after a week of relatively warm weather - at least for Febrary.

Today's colder temperatures and high winds are once again building ice on the catwalk leading to the lighthouse. The 15 to 20 foot thick mounds of shelf ice still engulf most of the pier and all of the lakeshore as far as the eye can see.

Today's walk to the outer light wasn't as dangerous as the last - this time there was exposed ground on the pier instead of solid ice. We'll see what tomorrow's weather brings.

Winter Well

I've been visiting this Artesian well for a while now, but only in the warm weather. The road next to the well is closed most of the winter, and not plowed. I was curious to see how the well looked in the middle of winter - is it mostly frozen? Does it have ice formations on it several feet thick?

So I parked about a mile away, and began my walk to the well. Half the walk was down a plowed road with about an inch of snow on it, but the other half was down the closed, unplowed road with up to a foot of snow on it.
Artesian Well in Winter
Once there, I found the well running, and very little ice around it. What was there was attractive, but not nearly as interesting as I thought it could be. Still, these wells interest me, they flow without any pumps because the ground water level is higher than the opening of the well.

And the water tasted as good as ever........

A February Stoll on the Beach

As a person who really doesn't like winter or cold weather, I find myself drawn to photography ice and snow - especially along the shoreline. Contrary to almost everyone else, I find a winter walk along the shore to be beautiful and inspiring. It's a totally different experience, almost alien. No sound of waves crashing, no other people, not much sand exposed, and no clear view of water, only mounds and mounds of ice and snow.

If you haven't been to the lakeshore in the winter, make sure to take a trip this month to experience it first hand. Just don't venture onto the mounds of shelf ice.

Exploring the Ice Cave

Entering the ice caves formed by the frozen waterfall and the canyon wall, the boys watch their step as they explore in the eerie light filtering through the sediment-stained ice.

This was a great place to spend an afternoon exploring.

Dual Waterfalls

An often overlooked branch of the canyon in Matthiessen State park has two waterfalls close to one another. In winter, it's very easy to cross the frozen stream and visit them. You can walk behind both waterfalls and enter the cave formed by the frozen water and the canyon walls.

The falls are around 20 feet high.

Out in the blizzard

The boys were out in the snow toward the end of the blizzard that dumped nearly 20 inches of snow in the area. 40 mph winds kicked up the snow creating near white-out conditions, stinging the face and making it almost impossible to see for small bits of time.

With all that wind, some grass is still visible in the park, making it look like only an inch or two fell - until you walk into the 5 foot drifts!

The Drive Home

The blizzard began around 2pm on Tuesday, and within minutes, it was apparent it was going to be a big storm. The drive home from work took around two hours and there was only about two inches of snow on the ground. The blowing snow limited visibility to about 1/4 mile.

I grabbed this photo as I was driving home - at about 20 mph.

Rolling Ice

Lake Michigan is beginning to freeze, and shelf ice is forming along the shoreline. Aside from being dangerous to walk on, it's performs a great service to the beach - it protects it from erosion. High winds during the winter often cause more damage than summer storms, so a nice thick rim of shelf ice is a helpful thing.