I went back to the Indiana Dunes. I had to. I left the bike at home and went to the Dunes Nature Preserve at Indiana Dunes State Park and did it right. It was a very long hike. It was marvelous. I enjoyed the pretty leaves and the sunshine, mostly in that order.
I explored a bit of the Calumet Trail west of the Dune Park South Shore train station. There was supposed to be a deer in this picture, but she bounded away before digi responded to the shutter button. Doe.
The new entrance/parking/Dunes Creek "daylighting" configuration is more aesthetically pleasing, environmentally sound, and bicycle-friendly than it used to be. However, it's just as pedestrian-unfriendly as ever, or else I was too stupid to figure out where peds are supposed to go. I'm going to guess that either the walk-in traffic into the state park simply isn't large enough to justify building a separate sidewalk/footpath system at the entrance, or the state of Indiana doesn't believe otherwise. It's obnoxious and blatantly unsafe, but I'm not sure I want to bother throwing fits about it. If the people walking into Indiana Dunes State Park are mostly University of Chicago students and Hyde Park intellectuals taking the occasional train to Indiana for fun and sport, well, let's say I don't want to be the one responsible for starting a civil war between two states with a long history of hating each other.
Trail 2, near the west end. The morning sun shining in the forest reminded me of a stained-glass window, and then I thought about all the stained-glass windows in the Smith Museum at Navy Pier that are supposed to remind you of the sun shining in a forest. And then I remembered that it was Sunday morning, and for a moment it seemed like it should be significant.
Fall foliage on trail 2.
More fall foliage on trail 2.
How often do you see a tree with four trunks?
I took another picture from another angle in case anyone wanted to try to make a 3D image.
Shagbark hickory leaves on trail 2. I encountered a small cluster of young shagbark hickories with very pale yellow leaves that looked like ghosts. But I couldn't for the life of me get a good angle, so I took this picture instead.
Even more fall foliage on trail 2. Was this along the boardwalk through the swamp? I can't remember now.
Experiment with perspective (read: "I forgot to switch to macro setting") at the north end of the boardwalk on trail 2.
Autumnal fire on trail 10.
Purple herbaceous leaves along the boardwalk through the marsh on trail 10.
Fall foliage on trail 10. Sorry, I went nuts. The leaves I've seen in the city have mostly been turning a muddy shade of brown.
View more or less straight up somewhere in "the pinery" on trail 10. I was again reminded of stained glass, as well as of Gothic architecture. Funny how I still sometimes get a sense of being at Mass on hike in the woods.
Western end of trail 10, where you crest the dune and arrive at the beach. The Chicago skyline is just barely visible on the horizon if you know what to look for and where to look. I've had years of practice, so I rarely have any trouble spotting it.
View northeast toward Michigan City from the beach near Big Blowout.
View southwest toward Gary from the beach near Big Blowout. This is why I earlier referred to the Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore as "paradise between the sewers." You can't ever quite forget the heavy industrial presence in the area.
Furnsville blowout, looking very desert-y.
"Tree graveyard" in Furnsville blowout.
View northwestward from the crest of the dunes on trail 9, near Beach House blowout. The Chicago skyline is on the horizon just beneath that bit of grass sticking out. Trust me.
View northwestward from the crest of the dune at Beach House blowout on trail 9. Chicago skyline is again visible on the horizon near the center of the photo, just to the right of the dark elongated rectangle, which I'll guess is a barge or something.
View southeastward from the crest of the dune at Beach House blowout on trail 9 (no place for folks shy of heights, btw). I recently learned that the farthest line of trees is the Valparaiso Moraine. I think. Or maybe it's actually the Calumet beach ridge. Or maybe it's neither of those. I really should have erased this one and took a better pic from the top of Mt. Tom, where nice a kiosk is installed explaining all this, but I didn't think of it. Oh darn, now I'll have to go back...
In the meantime, the National Park Service Web site has a brief overview of how the dunes formed and their various ecosystems here. I'll try to find a better one later; let me know if you know of any.
Wistful view northeastward back toward the Dunes and self-portrait, sort of, from the shore at the foot of Mt. Tom an hour or so before my train home.
For the first time I realized that the steel mills and power plants flanking the Dunes, which I had previous thought of as blots on the landscape, are actually parts of the landscape. The parts all together make the whole, which is somehow greater than just the sum of the parts. Without the heavy industry nearby, there would be no Chicago; without Chicago, too few people might have realized and appreciated the natural value of this place for anyone else to want to bother saving it. The Indiana Dunes just wouldn't be the Indiana Dunes we know and love today; they might not even be anything at all, just some big piles of sand on the shore of a large lake. Being parts of the same whole, however, doesn't automatically make them harmonious. Indeed, the different parts are often in direct conflict with one another. But that's what makes the Dunes so beautiful--the parts that make up this wonderfully diverse, dynamic whole. We all get along here, somehow. We have to.
Strength and beauty, just around the corner.
Sudden random thought: What we ought to do is figure out a way to draw the Calumet river/lake system more into the protective shelter of the Indiana Dunes in the popular imagination. The latter have enjoyed a long, solid history of fame and fortune in the midwest and beyond, while the former have suffered long in relative obscurity with brief bursts of notoriety. Could we get some sort of super-regional south side/Southland/NW Indiana environmental campaign going? Not like the Sierra Club, something more grassroots but not quite so local in scope? Does something already exist and I just don't know about it?
Too bad there isn't a convenient interurban passenger railroad that goes near Lake Calumet, because those would be very interesting promotional posters. I can envision one or two of them very clearly. Oh, why can't I paint?
In other news, I had every intention of going to Halloween Critical Mass last Friday as a polite, law-abiding bicycling advocate who was a Critical Mass participant for Halloween, but apparently that violated the Law of Conservation of Irony because natural forces conspired to keep me away. The bleak, blustery, November-like weather convinced me that my time would be much better spent at home with a book and a nice hot cup of tea. Sorry, folks.