Tag Archive | Lake Michigan

Illinois State Beach Park ~ What a View!!

Last weekend we went to Adeline Jay Geo-Karis Illinois State Beach Park to camp. We got right in since many folks weren’t thinking about swimming in May… at least not here. Lake Michigan doesn’t get warm enough for swimming until early July. We did walk by the beach and I could walk with my toes in the water, for a short time. No more of me was going in! Brrr.

This is a IDNR (Illinois Deptment of Natural Resources) park, one of the most protected areas in Illinois. I love coming here, as there is such a diversity of plants, animals, birds and insects. We also had a great view of the dormant Zion nuclear plant. Awesome…?

General Information and History

This area is 4,160 acres and has a recorded 650 plus different plant species. Long recognized for its unique geological features, native flora and unmatched beauty, the Lake Michigan dunes area originally was, in the 1700s, part of the “Three Fires” of the Algonquin Nation: the Potawatomi, Chippewa and Ottawa.

This area was slated to be a preserve as early as 1888, when Robert Douglas, a Waukegan nurseryman, and Jens Jensen, a famous landscape architect (If you live/visit Chicago, you’ve seen a lot of his work), worked together to make the area a regional park. With the threat of industry progressing from the south and sand mining ravaging nearby dunes, legislative efforts to save the area finally began in the 1920s.

In 1948, the state obtained the first parcels of what is now known as Illinois Beach State Park. The Illinois Dunes Preservation Society was established in 1950 to protect the area. Through its efforts and the determinations of the Department of Conservation, in 1964 the area south of Beach Road was dedicated as the first Illinois Nature Preserve.

This area is unique, as it is a sand dune area and the rest of Illinois is nothing like it. I was on the hunt for Opuntia – Prickly pear & Juniperus horizontalis – Trailing juniper, both of these are native to this area. In 1804, explorers Lewis and Clark noted that trailing juniper “would make a handsome edging to the borders of a garden”.

Our bedroom is in the back of the camper and furnished with a large window to gaze out of. You can barely see it to the right of the photo, however there is a small window right where my head is. I can’t tell you how nice it is to have a window less than 3″ inches from your face. The fresh, night air is wonderful to sleep by.

The real view, not through the window. Lake Michigan.

     

We were back to balancing rocks. Here’s a simple one that took a bit of patience.  ||  I don’t think anyone was home.

This is the coolest thing. It’s an ice fishing house, that’s also a travel trailer! It’s on hydraulics and lowers to the ground / ice for fishing. So neat.

As far back as 1982, the federal government began collecting a nuclear-waste fee, paid by electricity users through fees tacked on to their bills and earmarked to pay for disposal of the radioactive spent fuel rods. Starting in 1998, the U.S. Department of Energy was supposed to start picking up spent fuel rods and taking them for storage, according to Everett Redmond, senior director of fuel cycle and technology policy for the Nuclear Energy Institute, a power industry trade group. But there was no ready storage option to hold them. So power companies were forced to store more and more of them at their own facilities and eventually successfully sued to recover costs for this storage.  Chicago Sun-Times 2017

Someone likes to dig.

     

We keep trying to outdo each other on the rock stacking. Well played husband, well played.

© Ilex ~ Midwestern Plant Girl

Kayaking Green Bay in Lake Michigan

We had a wonderful time in Door County, Wisconsin. We were able to explore Lake Michigan via our kayaks in the tranquil Green Bay. We disembarked from Gills Rock and paddled south.

To quote myself, from my Door County post:

“The geology of this area is pretty unique. In a seriously, small nutshell: About 425 million years ago, there was a shallow sea in the Lake Michigan area. After the sea dried up and deposited all the Limestone, it was covered in a glacier. All the pressure & chemical reactions turned it in to dolomite. Many years of erosion made all the beautiful bluffs we see here today.”

Goodness! I just summed-up 425 million years in 5 sentences =-O I don’t believe I shared the utter beauty of the place with you. Here’s just a bit more info on the area.

NiagaraEscarpmentmap    image

The circular area in red is called the Niagara Escarpment, and stands taller than the surrounding areas. Green Bay and neighboring Door County run along the escarpment which extends in a wide arc from eastern Wisconsin through Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, Ontario, Canada, and through the Niagara Falls. I’ve not been to Niagara Falls, however now I know what to look forward to when I do visit.

While hiking, you get to enjoy the height of the cliffs looking out over the lake. However, while kayaking, you get to enjoy the cliffs looking up FROM the lake!

The trees have obviously been hanging onto the cliffs for years. It was so cool to look up into a tree’s roots.

The area was originally full of alder (Alnus), willow (Salix) and cedar (Juniperus) which has given way to forests dominated by spruce (Picea) and, then later, pine (Pinus). Mixed forests of eastern hemlock (Tsuga) and hardwoods such as beech (Fagus) and elm (Ulmus) became standard by about 7,500 years ago and have persisted. I saw many birch (Betula) and Eastern red cedar (Juniperus), like the ones in this photo.

There are many animals that rely on the cliffs for shelter and food. The gulls in the photos below soared just above the water looking for fish.

Although we did not see any, there are many bats that are indigenous to the area; little brown myotis, the northern myotis, the big brown bat, and the tri-colored bat. All four of these species are currently listed in Wisconsin as threatened. In addition, the forests above the escarpment provide summer homes for the migrating bat species, including the silver-haired, eastern red, and hoary.

    


Clean rocks among the dirty. It was only about 4′ (1.5M) deep here.

We were told by a bartender that there were Native American paintings on the cliffs near Gill’s Rock. We paddled south for about a mile, all the while staring at the walls. Finally! I don’t know what they used to paint the walls, however I’m really shocked me that it was still able to be seen. Doubly shocked that no one has desecrated it =-)

I did try to do some research into what tribe may have painted it, to no avail. The Potawatomi Indians are still around, however there were many other tribes in the area. I wasn’t even able to find these same paintings posted on-line. That’s strange. I can’t imagine I’m the first one to post these things. Either way, it was really cool to have seen them and experience them in a kayak, looking quite like them.

Just sit right back and you’ll hear a tale,
A tale of a fateful trip
That started from this tropic port
Aboard this tiny ship.* HeeHee!!

Washington Island

Rock slides are common.

There’s not really a beach where we were paddling. So much of the limestone has eroded and fallen into the lake. Although the lake works its magic quickly, the rocks were smooth and not too rough on the tootsi’s.


It is 25′ (8M) deep here. Scuba divers like to view the shipwrecks in this area. The small passage between the islands and Lake Michigan is called ‘Death’s Door’. Ironically, not because of all the shipwrecks (and there are many), but because of ancient Potawatomi legend. To learn more, click here!

Vessel Name: Fleetwing (1867)
National Register: Listed
Registry #:9883
Casualty: 10/26/1888, stranded
Vessel Type: Schooner
Built: 1867, Henry B. Burger, Manitowoc, WI
Owners: Andrew McGraw John Spry
Home Port: Chicago, IL
Cargo: Lumber (that is what you’re seeing in the above pix)

   

The photo of the tree was taken by me looking straight up the cliff.

I felt the water was a bit too chilly to swim in, although many folks were enjoying it.

The water was absolutely beautiful and clear.

I would highly recommend coming here for a paddle.

© Ilex ~ Midwestern Plant Girl

*Gilligan’s Island

Door County, Wisconsin

image

I write many of my camping posts while riding in the passenger seat. The star is Door County.

We decided to spend our long, Independence Day weekend in the quiet town of Rowley’s Bay in Door County, Wisconsin. It was magnificent! My husband used to come up here for his summer vacations as a child. I’ve never been.

He was tooootally holding out on me!

The area is called, The Cape Cod of the Midwest, however I liked the catchier, The Thumb the local radio station used. Cherries and apples orchards are everywhere around here. We were here for cherry season, and if you are a fan, you can enjoy cherries in too many forms for me to list here! Basically, from wine to cheese to pie, you name it, they can make it with cherries here!

image

Halfway to the North Pole

The geology of this area is pretty unique. In a seriously, small nutshell: About 425 million years ago, there was a shallow sea in the Lake Michigan area. After the sea dried up and deposited all the Limestone, it was covered in a glacier. All the pressure & chemical reactions turned it in to dolomite. Many years of erosion made all the beautiful bluffs we see here today. Click here if you’d like to read more about it. I think it’s fascinating. I really feel like a true Northerner when we stood at the halfway point between the equator and the North pole.

There are many bays on this peninsula and since the area is so skinny, there aren’t any cities in between the bays on the Green Bay side and the Lake Michigan side. The GB side is much calmer, better for us kayaks, swimmers and non-motor boaters. The LM side is rougher, requiring a larger boat, however that’s where the good fishing is. Many folks at our campground had both campers and boats.

image

Actually not sure which Green Bay side bay I’m in here, however they are all equally exquisite!

The area is also known for its concentration of artists. Every craft is represented via signs along the roadways. Aside from the beauty of the area (which would make anyone want to stay), I’m not sure what draws them all here. Is it the camaraderie?

There are many workshops available to attend. The Clearing, a folk school founded by Jens Jensen, a famous landscape architect of this area, is a future destination of learning for me. We visited, however only went on the 2 hour walking tour of the grounds. I’ll have a post to link to this soon.

Otherwise, living here year-round can be tough. There are no Walmarts or big box stores nearby. I think the nearest larger town is Sturgeon’s Bay, which was an hour away from our campsite. The winters can get really hash here and there are no tourists at that time. I could see it being a good time to be immersed in a project. A bit of ‘alone time’.

The towns are all very conscious of the natural beauty around them and try to keep Mother Nature happy. Many shops had beautiful gardens and well chosen natives for the area. I think these gardens gave me about 6 posts of Blooming Flowers alone!! Hmmm, I wonder if I could make it as a garden designer up here?

image      image
Many little nooks contained fountains and other artwork. Modern technology is not abandon here, however it does get its artistic touches, like this cell tower currently getting spruced-up to resemble a spruce!

image     image

These folks spend many hours putting together their summer flower displays. So pretty!

Sadly, we felt that the shopkeepers were all pretty rude. It seriously amazed me. The shops here are all somewhat upscale and expensive, not exactly touristy. Most of the time we were not acknowledged at all. We went into a kaleidoscope shop. I love them! Many were over a grand, however there were some for as low as $50. The ‘Do Not Touch!’ signs outnumbered the kaleidoscopes. Had one of the two clerks just said HELLO, I would have promptly bought the $80 one that I thought would produce some cool photos via my camerone. I’ve got principals, tho. I felt like I was looked-over and dubbed too poor to buy and no energy was going to be exhausted on us. They lost a sale because of their attitude.

Like I said, there are not many average places to buy a shot glass with Sister Bay on it or a T-Shirt, seems those places were off the beaten path. If you did find a T-shirt location, it was an astonishing $35 for a thin shirt. I always feel you have to go to a ‘locals bar’ for good T-shirts. Now those are our homes away from home. We love hanging with the natives and getting the inside scoops to places they go, away from the hustle and bustle. My advice is, always tip heavy and respect that you’re in their hood. They’ll be flapping their gums about the best spots in less than 10 minutes.  We bought our commemorative, vacation glass from a bar in Gills Bay that was being sold for charity, with all the proceeds going to the local dog shelter. Duh, that was a no-brainer!!

As with any area here in ‘Merica, there seems to be a concentration of one culture or another. Here it’s Nordic. We saw many examples of this, such as the Al Johnson’s Swedish Restaurant and Butik, “The place with the goats on the roof”. in Sister Bay. You can click those words for the ‘Goat Cam’… Yes folks, there is a goat cam!!! (It’s a still shot, so repetitively click your ‘refresh’ button to make it a video).

image

Clearly not something you see on a daily basis….

image

Aside from the horns, they almost resemble Breck!

image

Horns are great for getting those back itches!

image

Another bay where I don’t know where I am….

image

There was only one night of rain, but it was a doosey. Many weak tornadoes around, but little damage. This was Rowley’s Bay.

image

image

image

More examples of the artistic flair of this county.

All in all, it was a wonderful trip, and we’re so coming back to this area next year. Among so many other pluses, there is little light pollution at night, which makes star gazing and spotting constellations cake. Fishing is great, along with the fish being offered at the restaurants. It is very quiet here, no big box stores, large highways or airports. If you pick a strategic location, you can see a water-based sunrise and a water-based sunset!

 

© Ilex ~ Midwestern Plant Girl

Wind Point Lighthouse

imageWind Point Lighthouse

We visited here, hoping to climb a bunch of steps for a cool view… Nope. Denied. Oh well. Maybe next time.

(From the website)

In 1997, the U.S. Coast Guard transferred the Lighthouse to the Village of Wind Point, requiring the Village to maintain it as a historic site and landmark, but kept the responsibility of the light itself. The Village of Wind Point is responsible for the care of the Lighthouse and the grounds surrounding it.
The Friends of the Wind Point Lighthouse, a 501c3 non-profit organization, was formed in 1999 with a mission to educate the public about the history of this local treasure.

  • The Wind Point Lighthouse is one of the oldest and tallest still operating on Lake Michigan.
  • The Lighthouse was built in 1880 and was designed by Orlando Metcalfe Poe who had served in the Civil War as a Brigadier General. After the war, he served as engineer secretary of the Lighthouse Board and was in charge of lighthouse construction. It was lit for the first time on November 15, 1880.
  • The Fog Horn Building shows the original design with the huge fog horns aimed toward the Lake. The fog signals could be heard 10 miles out into Lake Michigan.
  • The Fresnel Lens created the distinctive flashing light using dozens of glass prisms to bend and focus the light which made for an immensely powerful light. The original lens can be seen in the old Coast Guard Keepers Quarters.

    image

    Note the dandelion growing right on the wall!!

  • A mechanism of weights, cables and pulleys rotated the enormous Fresnel Lens to create the flashing that navigators on the Lake recognized.
  • Fuel for the light had to be carried up the 144 iron steps and the Keeper or his Assistants had to make that climb daily. About 270 gallons were used in 1881.
  • The Keeper or his Assistants had to clean the Lens every day so that it sparkled.
  • There were 7 Head Keepers and more than 30 Assistant Keepers of the Wind Point Lighthouse from 1880 – 1964 when the light was automated.
image

ERRRROOOOO – ERRRRROOOOO!!!

 

image
© Ilex – Midwestern Plant Girl

Cliffside Park Camping – Racine, Wisconsin

The camping season is coming to a close… sigh.

We recently stayed at Cliffside Park, which is part of the Racine County Park District in Wisconsin. This gem of a campground doesn’t seem to come up on campground searches, as it is a county park and not really listed as a campground.
image

This campground is water & electric only, however the sites were HUGE! Reservations are a bit odd, half of the park can be reserved, half is first-come-first serve. It is a cheap $23.00 per night, however if you are making reservations, there is a flat $12.00 reservation fee. Although the website told me many of the sites were already reserved, many people forfeited their deposit and did not show.

The sites are quite level (no boards needed) and utilities are easily accessible. The dump station was clean & easy to use.

Cliffside_Park

Above is the trail map for the park. I loved how the trails started right out of the campground.

You’ll have to work for the view. The trails are a combination of mowed trails, dirt paths, tree bridges and everything in between! They are pretty easy to follow, however they are not marked. We followed what we thought was a trail and it just ended at a wash-out. About face!

I did not notice this while I was making reservations, however, upon entering the park, I saw the sign:  ‘NO DOGS ALLOWED ON PARK TRAILS’  Laaaaaame!

That didn’t stop the 8 groups of people that HAD their dogs on the trail. ARG! I wish I wasn’t so rule-abiding.

image

Leaves float down a lazy creek..

image

Here’s an oak burl. There are many reasons a burl will form on a tree, an injury, virus or fungus are just a few. These are sought after by artists and carpenters.

image

Glad these steep trails were dry, however, please take my word for it that dry leaves can be slippery also…

image

No worries, we were only 10 feet from the ground… Vertigo in check… FOR NOW.

image

This is what you’ll see at the north overlook off the prairie. I let Chris go first.

image

Here’s what I first saw, as I crawled on my hands and knees forward, Lake Michigan.

image

OK, I can sit on the ground near the edge and take this panoramic view. I know… you’re all wondering just how high up could she possibly be in the Midwest? Mind you, I am at Cliffside Park…

image

I was able to hold the camerone over the edge. This is about 40 feet (13 M) up from the water. There was no way to get down to the beach. Well, unless you wanted to go down really fast! So, yes, these are the cliffs of Wisconsin…

image

The shadow looked like a dragon to me.

image

This is the Southern lookout point. Not as steep or as scary.

image

image

The steam stacks are the water treatment pant. Beyond that, to the left is Milwaukee.

image

Trail markers

 

The Aurora Borealis and Lake Michigan Ice Balls

I was on-line verifying the local weather is going to allow me to check-out the Northern Lights tonight! A rare treat for us in the 42nd parallel. It looks like the little bit of cloud cover I’m seeing now will be gone for my 10 PM – 1AM window. Let’s see if I can stay awake until that laaate hour. Haha!

I found some information from the NOAA.com. about the Aurora Borealis

Aurora: Galileo first used the term to describe the light. Aurora is the Roman goddess of dawn.

Borealis: The Greek name for the north wind (Boreas). In the southern hemisphere it is called the Aurora Australis.

The cause of the lights is a massive eruption on the sun known as a coronal mass ejection (CME), that sent billions of charged solar particles speeding toward the Earth last Tuesday. Large enough to provide a show for the Midwest. After whizzing through 93 million miles of space, they are expected to smack into the Earth’s magnetosphere tonight, shaking it up and causing electrons to fall into our atmosphere.

The colors of the auroras are triggered by the electrons interacting with oxygen and nitrogen in the atmosphere. Colors can range from blueish-purple, reds, pale yellow and predicted for tonight, a green hue.

So, I have completely digressed… When I went on-line to check my weather, this video was on the page. The video was fascinating.

These basketball-sized boulders are formed as the lake begins to freeze. A small piece of ice keeps getting thicker and larger to the point they all freeze together.

UPDATE: Welp. It was either too overcast, or they did not reach my area. I was able to watch from 10-11 and then got woken-up by the hubby coming home at 1am. I’ve searched for reports of the viewing range to no avail. This, like most news stories, don’t get followed up upon because new and juicy news is being generated by the minute, why focus on this old news?!? Did any of you see it? I know I’ve got followers A Curious Gal & Forest So Green up der in Minnesota!  =-)

Camping at Adeline Jay Geo-Karis Illinois State Beach Park

About the Area:

This weekend we went to Adeline Jay Geo-Karis Illinois State Beach Park to camp for the first time. This is a IDNR (Illinois Dept. Natural Resources) park, one of the most protected areas in Il. It’s located in Zion, kinda a rough neighborhood, but you don’t even realize where you are after entering the park. We also had a great view of the dormant Zion nuclear plant. Awesome…?

This area is 4,160 acres and has a recorded 650+ different plant species. Long recognized for its unique geological features, native flora and unmatched beauty, the Lake Michigan dunes area originally was, in the 1700s, part of the “Three Fires” of the Algonquin Nation: the Potawatomi, Chippewa and Ottawa.

This area was slated to be a preserve as early as 1888, when Robert Douglas, a Waukegan nurseryman, and Jens Jensen, a famous landscape architect (If you live/visit  Chicago, you’ve seen a lot of his work), worked together to make the area a regional park. With industry progressing from the south, sand mining ravaging the dunes and parts of the surrounding rural area succumbing to pasture and homesteads, legislative efforts to save the area finally began in the 1920s.

In 1948, the state obtained the first parcels of what is now known as Illinois Beach State Park. The Illinois Dunes Preservation Society was established in 1950 to protect the area. Through its efforts and the determinations of the Department of Conservation, in 1964 the area south of Beach Road was dedicated as the first Illinois Nature Preserve.

This area is unique, as it is a sand dune area, and the rest of Illinois is nothing like it. I was on the hunt for Opuntia – Prickly pear & Juniperus horizontalis – Trailing juniper, both of these are native to this area. In 1804, explorers Lewis and Clark noted that trailing juniper “would make a handsome edging to the borders of a garden”

Our Weekend:

The weather was bleak, raining Friday, blustery Saturday until noon when we took our walk, and 41F at 10 pm, when the roaring fire couldn’t keep us warm.

It was also our first trip ‘dry camping’ or there is no H2O hookup, so we had to fill our 40 gallon tank before we left. Turns out, they had good city water being piped in where we could have filled here, but when the water supply is questionable, byow.

image

Site #248. Great large, well shaded site.

image

Yup, our bad, forgot about the raccoons. Luckily they were able to open zippers instead of chew threw things. They did nibble a bit though. Breck in the back ground.

image

No alcohol, pets, ass or fires… NO FUN!!! But wait! There’s asbestos?!? Now it’s a party!

image

The old beach house.

image

The old Zion nuclear power plant. It’s been closed 25 years & is supposed to be completely removed by 2014. No nuclear material is supposed to be there.

image

A shot from the other side. They still do have a security checkpoint. We also found a geocache right here.

image

Honestly, we were bored with this part of the walk.

image

I’m guessing this is something cool, but not sure what it is… Thoughts anyone?

image

I thought this was strawberry, but it didn’t look right. I’ve got strawberry all over my yard. I now think it’s Rubus Flagellaris – Common Dewberry

image

Morel mushroom – Didn’t know it was edible until I googled. Noted for later!! This was in a R.O.W.

image

Polygonatum – Solomon’s Seal

image

Stumped? – Anyone have any thoughts?

image

Equisetum – horsetail, snake grass or puzzlegrass

image

Opuntia – Prickly pear – The fruit is edible. Pretty kewl eh, Cacti in Illinois!

image

Looking north, up Lake Michigan.

image

Juniperus horizontalis – Creeping Juniper
In 2006, creeping juniper was listed as endangered in Illinois.

image

Geocache!
We’re sorta private people and don’t post photos on-line, but we use our wedding rings (dogs also) as talisman for logging photo geocaches.

image

Rain-

image

bow! It was parallel to the beach. Gorgeous!

image

The deer eye-balled us, but didn’t really care that we were there.

image

Oammmmm.

If you can get out here to camp or even a walk, I recommend it!!

Enjoy the day & keep on planting!
Ilex