Sunday, November 24, 2013

November 23, 2013 Sandhill Cranes at Jasper-Pulaski Fish & Wildlife Area

So last week's Social Club Event to Jasper -Pulaski was canceled due to the area getting hit by a storm that created about thirty tornados. Yet on this past Tuesday, the crane count was over 15,000 birds. So I decided to check out the cranes today. Thanks to Cindy and Jack for joining me and to Ken for meeting us there. It was a cold but sunny day in Illinois, unfortunately it was much worse in Indiana. As we drove east there was a massive black cloud over the entire northern part of Indiana. By the time we got to Jasper-Pulaski, the temperature seemed to be in the teens with wind gusting to about 40 MPH. We even had snow every few minutes. There were fewer sand hill cranes than on my previous visits but we did see quite a few flocks landing in the viewing area field but most quickly took off for a more protected area in the nearby woods. Most people stayed for a few minutes. We stayed about an hour and even though I was bundled up, the wind made it impossible to stay any longer. It was difficult to get good pictures because of the dark clouds but the sun broke through right before sunset and put some great colors in the sky.

I still believe this is worth the drive to witness in person. Being able to witness a stopping point along a great migration of birds is something very special. As on previous trips we did see the cranes feeding in the farm fields of Indiana on our way to the viewing area. Then we witnessed the birds struggle with the wind as they congregated in the field. Of course the wind dampened the sounds of the cranes socializing but you could still hear them. Afterwards, we stopped at Marti's Place at Ramsey's Landing on the Kankakee River to have dinner and warm up.

Despite today being the coldest day this fall, I still enjoyed being here. I love that something this cool happens close to where I live. There truly is natural beauty everywhere...please go outside and enjoy it.

Sunday, November 17, 2013

November 9, 2013 Mountain Biking at Sweet Woods

I have a lot of things to do around the house today because I'm going to the Bears game tomorrow. So I decided to take the dogs for a hike locally. We ended up at Sweet Woods. It was a perfect fall day about 55 degrees and sunny. What could go wrong? The trails were covered with fallen leaves but they were dry. After hiking with the dogs, I decided to get my bike and return to get in one last ride before winter. Hey the chores will still be there to be done on a crappy day.
Oslo, scratching the ground after taking a dump.

The early morning sun made for long shadows.

Most of the leaves are now on the ground.
Playing with perspective.

The Cook County Forest Preserve has done a lot of work in the parks near me. In the past few years they rebuilt shelters, planted trees and improved the signs especially for the trails.
It felt great to go riding.

The trails were covered with leaves but I managed to stay on the trails...for most of the ride.

Most likely won't see this again this year.

Saturday, November 16, 2013

November 3, 2013 Long Lake Trail at West Beach

We got up before sunrise this morning. Of course we cheated a little since we had to turn the clocks back one hour this morning. Apparently the NPS was on a different clock because West Beach was still closed when we arrived. So we had to park at the Marquette Trail lot and sneak into West Beach.
The sun rose quickly and warmed the frost covered trees causing a bit of fog.
We crossed the entrance to West Beach and decided to hike the Long Lake Trail.
Roxie was moving slowly this morning so Christy took Oslo and Roxie & I trailed behind.

The dew drops were everywhere as the sun warmed the Earth. It looks like it will be another beautiful autumn day.

Depending on where the sun hit the trail we switched from heavy fog to brilliant sunshine often. 

Oslo waiting for Roxie to catch up.

Here come the old girls.

Long Lake looking more like a marsh. It's been a very dry second half of the year.

The geese don't seem to mind the lack of water.

Roxie's hot breath on a cool morning.

Yes Virginia, there is cactus at the beach in Indiana.

Colors along the trail and on the dunes.

Roxie was limping so we decided to rest at the picnic shelters near the parking lots. Oslo impatiently waits for our hike to continue.

The next part of the hike is up the dunes...

...Chrissy took Oslo and I had Roxie, just in case she couldn't climb the sand dune.

It turns out that Roxie is a tough old girl, we made it up the dune faster than Oslo.

Now a very nice hike through the forest and up and down the dunes.

This was very cool to me. The only light in one of the valleys came streaming through the trees...

...I let Roxie off leash and took a lot of pictures trying to capture how magical it looked to me... 

...Roxie got bored and tried to catch up to Oslo.

This section of the trail was amazing. As the sun warmed the trees, the frost and dew began dripping off of the leaves. As we walked by it sounded as if it was raining, I stood there listening to this for several minutes enjoying every moment. These rare moments make hikes like this unforgettable.

Christy listening to the 'rain' fall through the trees.

When we got back to the car, Mother Nature left her 'card' on the door handle for us.