Sunday, September 11, 2011

Indiana Dunes: A Little Bit of Everything

Lots of markers to read along the nature path.
a "ride' in a canoe at the nature center

Unfortunately, yesterday when we went to the beach I forgot to bring the camera so all that beautiful sunshiny landscape and a walk up a big sand dune are locked in my memory, but no pics. I told Larry we had to stop at the beach before we left to take pictures of the beach for the trip record.

This morning's plan was to hike the marsh trail before we left on the next leg of our journey. On the way to the path we passed a Mennonite family with three little blonde boys -- one in a stand up backpack smiling over the top. I admired the children and their dad and I had a brief conversation about the joys of family.  As we chatted his young bonneted daughter came back to the campsite carrying water. It was a charming picture to begin the day.

We had a choice of trails around the park, but picked the "easy" one through the woods and the marsh. What a delightful walk in the woods! Wildflowers surprised us around each curve tucked in among the tall grasses -- some I recognized from Virginia. The orange jewel weed is one of my favorites. The red cardinal flower was easy to spot. I think the blue is lobelia. So many of the trees were huge old oaks. One that fell over the path was cut away. According to the rings on the trunk that remained, it had to be at least 100 years old.

A sign on the path warned that the boardwalk through the marsh was impassable. I'm glad we ignored it because, while it was definitely damaged, we had no trouble. the marsh was a little bit of a disappointment. We're used to Huntley Meadows in Alexandria with a boardwalk that meanders through a watery pond. But this was what the naturalist at the Nature Center called a "buttonwood marsh." He said he kayaks through it in the spring and sometimes has to pull himself through some spots the undergrowth is so thick. We stopped at the observation tower and found some evidence of wildlife there, some animal scat full of seeds. The view of the "the marsh" gave no evidence of its watery ground. I guess we'll have to take the naturalist's word for it.

In one place along the trail, nature's garbage men were busy decomposing a fallen tree which had disintegrated into sawdust. When Jamie and I did the pre-school Nature Detectives at Huntley Meadows I always wanted to do a program on the decomposers, but we never got around to it. Something on my bucket list I'll probably never do, but I can talk about it with my grandkids.

Some of the trees had the strangest deformities. I wonder what causes that. We also saw one that had three trees growing so close together they were like Siamese triplets. We ended our walk at the nature center which has some fascinating displays including one about the fur trappers with an exhibit of different pelts. I sat in the canoe on display and imagined what it was like to paddle around Lake Michigan two hundred years ago.

When we got back to the campsite it was beginning to drizzle. (Hmm...Why are we always taking the camper down and hooking up in the rain? I hope this is not a harbinger of the entire trip!) We stopped at the beach for my photos and then headed out to Chicago around 12:30 with every expectation of missing rush hour. What a mess! It took us 45 minutes to go about five miles. It was slow enough for me to get a picture of the skyline -- about as close as I wanted to get. We are definitely country folk and nothing in the city can tempt us enough to make a stop there especially after they soak you for tolls every few miles. In one place it was $3.50 per car and they charged us $10.10 for one extra axel with our modest pop-up camper.

The rest of the drive was uneventful. We arrived at Bay Shore County Park outside Green Bay about 6:30. Wow! The parks just get better and better. Bay Shore overlooks Lake Michigan from a bluff and the campsites are large and level. We didn't have time to explore before dark, but look forward to that adventure tomorrow.

Challenge to my grandchildre: Can you count the rings in this tree? Can you find rings that show a year with more rain? Less Rain?

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