Stay-Go-Be-Do #4

Post 36/2020 Thursday 12 November (Featured image: These brilliantly colored leaves were on display 10 days ago.) As of today, most trees have shucked their coats, leaving a ground cover to swish through on paths in the woods. Fallen leaves also present a rakish challenge to people who want a pristine lawn. I’ve been there.

Recently I read an article that recommended mulching leaves on the lawn, putting them to compost and generally not worrying too much about disposing of every last one. Been there, too. O’ happy, happy 2020. We’re swishing right along.

The natural world has given us an ideal domain for walking this month.

As these trees on the Greencroft campus shed their cover they’re assured the strength and stability to embrace winter.

What? No comment on the US election? Just this, with Biden and Harris preparing to serve the country as of 20 January 2021, the nation and the world will finally, finally, finally breathe easier as they and their team provide a real and resounding counterpunch to the coronavirus pandemic. I’m relieved, grateful, hopeful. Exasperated, too, at the White House’s shenanigans allowing the contagion to spread. Let mercy reign and sensibility return.

Rambles in the wild

On 4 November we rambled through Cowles Bog in Indiana Dunes National Park. We’ve walked that five-mile trail once or twice annually for a number of years, the last time on 13 January 2020. It doesn’t get any easier, though no less thrilling.

Oak trees dominate the forest growth on the dunes. Henry C. Cowles wrote a scientific article, published in 1899, that established him as the founder of plant ecology. In 1908, he and others formed the Prairie Club of Chicago to protect the natural region from the booming industry of steel mills and power plants. The Indiana Dunes State Park was created in 1925. With further threats to industrialization, Dorothy Buell and 19 other women formed the Save the Dunes Council to expand the state park. The state park remains an entity within the grand expanse of a national park. “In late 1966 Congress created Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore, whose 8,330 acres would eventually be expanded to over 15,000 acres today. The deal to protect the dunes also included creating the Port of Indiana. In 2019 the park was redesigned as Indiana Dunes National Park” (Park brochure).
The green area marks the area included in the 15,000-acre Indiana Dunes National Park. The Indiana Dunes State Park (established 1925) lies within the National Park.

On our recent visit we walked past wetlands and over wooded dunes on this most rugged trail in the 15,000-acre Indiana Dunes National Park, located on the south eastern edge of Lake Michigan. (In 1966 Congress created Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore, redesignated as Indiana Dunes National Park in 2019).

Arriving on the eastern shore of Lake Michigan. A .2 km walk along the beach takes you to the return path, that one with an especially steep climb over exposed tree roots. You are rewarded with the swishing sounds of fallen leaves, pungent air, singing sands underfoot, breath-catching pauses to survey the surroundings, mostly silence and the immediacy of thoughts and no thoughts.

Once upon a time ice sheets of up to two and a half miles thick advanced over this area and filled the gouged-out bed of what today is Lake Michigan.

In the National Park brochure I read that glaciers advanced and retreated over northern North America at least four times from 1.8 million years ago to 10,000 years ago.

The National Park surrounds the Port of Indiana and Indiana Dunes State Park. There’s plenty of Great Lakes history to explore in the area, in addition to other important matters of the day, such as dinner at Brewster’s in New Buffalo, Michigan. The park’s brochure headlines the history section thusly: “Gouging glaciers’ liquid retreats + pulsing winds and waters = rippled shorelines.” Walk first, dine later.

The path leading from the Dune Acres carpark provides a solid surface, bog to the left, wooded dunes to the right, wonder all along the way.
That’s the skyline of Chicago on the horizon, some 50 miles across Lake Michigan. I don’t know what’s up with the tug and barge. The barge is transporting a crane.
I think this is a white pine, a lone, towering white pine along the trail.
Marty poses among birches, and oaks, lining a section of the path to the carpark.
I’m not sure if the welcome mat here is out or not. I didn’t pause to find out.
Seafood at Brewster’s in New Buffalo, Michigan. We each took half of our meal home for dinner the next evening. Delicious both days. They’ve closed the outdoor dining, but we had a table in a corner overlooking the out-of-doors, safely distanced from other diners at two other tables in the room.

Spicer Lake Nature Preserve

This preserve is managed by St. Joseph County Parks. The county lies adjacent to and west of Elkhart County.

Spicer Lake is the remnant of a glacial kettlehole lake formed during the last ice age over 10,000 years ago, I read in the Preserve brochure. “A large block of ice broke off here creating a vast wet depression. . . . Today the glacial kettlehole consists of two open ‘lakes’–Spicer and Lancaster–and a large swamp home to ferns, wildflowers, endangered shrubs and animals.”

We last visited Spicer Lake in June 2017, a visit marked by happening upon a bed of sunning snakes (pictured later).

The boardwalk to Spicer Lake is a quarter-mile long, offering a fine walk over the swampy area.
My eyes deserved me. It looked like a horse but turned out to be an uprooted tree.
Overlooking Spicer Lake. I think the red berries are part of a baneberry bush (poison). The bush’s sawtooth leaves have fallen.
Looking back to the forested area on our return from Spicer Lake.

A one-row cornpicker lies abandoned next to the, slightly overgrown, Maple Woods trail.

Flashback to June 2017

In June 2017 we came upon a den of snakes sunning on and beside the boardwalk to Lancaster Lake. We retreated, the snakes hardly stirred.
We stopped dead in our tracks when we came upon this den of snakes. I haven’t been able to verify what kind they are, but they could be Eastern Massasauga Rattlesnakes. Snakes are misunderstood animals. I have my high school zoology/botany teacher to thank for drilling that point home.
I think it’s an Eastern Massasauga Rattlesnake. I took this 2017 picture along on our visit to the Indiana Dunes Visitor Center earlier this month, but, sadly, the park ranger was out for lunch.

Scenes present and past

Harvesting corn has been in full swing these past weeks.

This New Holland combine “owns” the road. The driver popped into a field to let us pass.
We have yet to stop at this farm market on New Road in St Joseph County. I wonder what’s in the fridge.
New-mown hay in November.
What you don’t come across on country roads. We patiently followed this trailer-load of hay for several miles.
This barn must store myriad memories.
The truck looks like a Studebaker, just like the brand my uncle Harold once owned.
If only I could pause and hear the tree’s story.

Pokagon State Park

We visited Pokagon on the last warm day in a stretch of November warm days, Tuesday 10 November. it is located on Lake James and Snow Lake in Steuben County, east of LaGrange County.

Pokagon, too, spouts an ice age legacy when the climate was about 10 degrees cooler, more snow falling in winter than melting in summer. The resulting “Wisconsin” glacier was the last one of four to cover Indiana.

Nowadays, besides the trails and other usual recreational opportunities, in winter one can ride the Toboggan Run, a 1,780-foot refrigerated twin track that operates on weekends from Thanksgiving through February. I rode it years ago, sometime in the previous century. What a blast.

Hell’s Point is the highest point in the park.
Known as a “glacial erratic,” this rock is part of the glacial till that the glacier brought from the north 10,000 years ago.
Potawatomi Inn Restaurant. I wish I could say we had a delightful lunch, but that would not be true. Our fish and chips were too, too salty and over-breaded. We’ve let the culinary folks at the State Parks know about our disappointment. The setting, nonetheless, proved so prime.
Snowy Owl on display in one of the spacious, historically rich, Potawatomi Inn lobbies.

Thoughts across the pond

While rediscovering footpaths close to home, I’m reminded of what a pleasure over the years it has been to walk and interact with the West Cornwall Footpaths Preservation Society in Cornwall, UK. I imagine how much fun it would be to host the group on a 4-mile walk here. I hope these pictures help to make such walks a virtual experience, for them, for anyone.

Blessings for rewarding interactions, even though they be circumscribed, in the precious world of people.


10 thoughts on “Stay-Go-Be-Do #4

    1. Spicer Lake indeed spices up the walks regimen. Nothing like going lightly across terrain shaped by prehistoric forces. And, while the nature center is closed, I hope they keep the restrooms open all year.


  1. Hello John,

    Glad you and Marty were able to take advantage of the early November warmth and go on several hikes and outings! We are hopeful about the election outcome and look forward to a Biden/Harris Administration. I am currently 8 days out of Surgery and all is going well. I am getting home PT every other day and will begin 6 weeks of outpatient Therapy next Thursday.

    God’s Blessings! Monty & Ginger

    May the God of Wonder be with you, delighting you with the beauty of sunrise and the majesty of sunset, with the song of the bird and the fragrance of the flower.



    1. Thanks, Monty. As you recover from surgery, may I apply the same eagerness and resilience to the minds and hearts of our nation and wider world. Yes! We can do it.


    1. The time will come, Stanley, when we can stride along scenic paths and pause for refreshment either indoors or out. Always good to hear from you.


  2. The fall season of wonders. Beautiful pictures. One thing that is wonderful and free is walking in nature and being to see the beauty. Different times for sure, but so much to be thankful for.


    1. Thanks, Kaye. So much to be thankful for, past, present and anticipation for the future. Be well. Be happy. Be on the lookout for beauty.


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