Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Remote Control Airplanes

I had a gas burning model airplane when I was about 12 years old,  was never able to get the thing to off the ground, but this young man had his flight plan together. He was using a grocery store parking lot as an air field for his remote control model aircraft.

Here he is preparing his aircraft for flight. The model pilot is standing next to the SUV, the other young man happens to be an actual aviator.

Prepared for flight
Bi-plane ready for ignition
In flight
After a few acrobatic tricks, time to return for refueling
A perfect three point landing
P-38 Mustang ready to go

The landing

On the ground for refueling
A model helicopter

In flight

Even flies upside down
Just a side note, the pilot gave me this bit of information. Every 2nd Saturday of the month, the Tuskegee Airmen Young Eagles of Gary, IN, host a free flight day at the Gary Airport, the event starts at about 9:00 AM. This event is open to the public and the Young Eagles are looking for new recruits to join and train to be aviators.

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Paul H. Douglas Center for Environmental Education

Found myself in the Miller section of Gary, with a couple hours to kill. So I drove to the Lake St. Beach on Lake Michigan. West of the parking is another section of the Indiana Dunes National Shoreline. The weather was much nicer than last month's conditions during my scouting trip for fishing holes. Temperature was close to thirty degrees and a mild wind.    
(Click on any photo to see an Enlarged Slide Show)
American marram or beachgrass
Walking the beach, in a westerly direction, between the lake and the foredune( the first dune on the beach). I encountered American beachgrass grow up the entire north slope of the dune. Beachgrass only grows on the foredune(first dune), where the sand is constantly shifting, its roots stabilizes the sand, aiding with the growth of the dune. On the south face of the dune, where the sand is stable the beachgrass has a hard time growing. You can see a line on the backside of the dune where the beachgrass will not grow and it is replaced by other dune plants.

Chicago on Ice
Looking in a northwesterly direction, you can see how the dunes are formed or the process of dune formation as it is happening. Okay, what do you see, besides "Chicago on Ice". The Winds makes waves that carry sand ashore and pile the sand in the form of dunes. In time some of the sand will be blown inshore to replenish the dune and some will wash back into the lake forming underwater sand bars that create the dangerous rip currents that claim too many lives each summer.  

A view to the south, the high grounds are the dunes, the land between the dunes are called swales. The plant life changes as the distances from the lake increases. Grasses to shrubs and Pin Oaks to the large Pines,  Oaks and Maples in the distances.

Ring-billed Gull. This is a pic for the sea gull lovers in you
Finished the dune walk. Pleasant weather but I forgot how hard a walk in the sifting sand dune can be for an old man. This walk will count for my early spring stress test.

Center display table with a view of the dunes
Had to stop at the Paul H. Douglas Center for Environmental Education. Maybe I can get a map of the National Lakeshore and directions to where I can find access to the Little Calumet River. I was in luck. The Center was open and I met two nice National Park Rangers. They gave me maps galore and let me take a couple pic.

Display of  some of the animals that live in the dune habitat
A display bench, holds some of the animal traces that can be found in the forest litter if you are observant while hiking the dunes. Here are animal skulls, deer antlers and animal skins.

This is an activity room where environment education is taught. Remember keep the lids on your garbage cans, so we don't feed the animals.

A Junior Ranger Activities Board and Display

Bio-Rama display of the dune ecology
A neat Bio-Rama. The mural depicts an overview of the wooded dune with a bog in the swale. The animals that inhabit the dune environment can be seen in the foreground of the painting.  In front of the mural is a 3 dimensional replica of a cross-section of the forest floor and the soil below. Actual plants and leaf litter are collected from the woods to build the litter surface. Replicas of the animals that live on the forest floor are in place to show the zones in which they live. Under the litter layer is the dark rich top soil where the plants set their roots and most small animals live. All of the above rests on top of the sand that formed the dunes.  Look closely and you can see the mole and  gopher tunnels and tree roots that mix and aerate  the soils.

Covered foot bridge over Lake Street, Gary, In
Well, time to go.  Just a pic of the covered foot bridge over Lake St., that leads to the Environmental Education Center from the parking area. If you have a group of potential Junior Rangers or are an Educator who would like to brush up on your Environmental Education. I would suggest you visit the Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore Environmental Education website and sign up.

Monday, February 25, 2013

Lake Michigan Fishing Spots

On a cold, January day, cabin fever kicked in. So I grabbed a fishing pole and a hand full of tackle and set my sights on the Lake Michigan shore line to scout places to fish. Its been years since I've fished Lake Michigan, so this would be a trip to see if the old places are still open and if there are any new places to be found. Besides, the temperature was 10 degrees with a 25 mph north wind, too cold to fish.

Indiana DNR shelter and parking area

My first stop was a Indiana Department of Natural Resources Restoration Area on the east branch of the Little Calumet River.

Indiana Department of Natural Resources Restoration Area
Little Calumet River East Branch

I was hoping to find a river access spot where I could launch my canoe. The parking here is a little to far from the river to drag a canoe. At the time the river was low and looking good. Lots of deadfalls along the shoreline, good places for the big ones to hide.

Little Calumet River facing East

This bridge and the road leading to the river are closed to vehicular traffic. To the left (south) of the bridge about a half mile is an undeveloped parking area. You can walk in from there. After a rain, the road leading to the unofficial parking area  would be a mud hole.  So, it would be best to park at the picnic shelter provided by the DNR and pictured above. The walk to the river is just a wee bit longer.

Old Bridge over Little  Calumet River facing West

The above photo is facing west. Two or so miles is a public marina. I've fished near the marina before, so it looks like the marina would be the best place to put in the canoe and paddle the river. By launching at the marina, I will be able to float, not only the east branch of the Little Cal, but also the west branch and paddle north to Portage Bay and Lake Michigan.  

Somebody's  watching me

Walking back to where I parked, I got the feeling I was being watched. There on the naturally overgrown Oak-Maple Forest floor was a young White-Tail Deer, a doe, watching my every move. 

White-Tail Deer

Yep, if you feel as though you are being watched, chances are, you are being watched. I moved forward a bit and found a clearing in the brush, for a less wild photo. The doe stared me down until I gave in and vacated her woods.

Fox Squirrel

At the DNR picnic shelter, I encountered a Fox Squirrel. The largest of the North America tree squirrels. He's hanging out at the shelter, looking for an easy meal, sorry, I'm a firm believer in "Do not feed the animals". Squirrels in particular, if they eat soft food instead of cutting hard shelled nuts, their upper and lower front teeth will not be worn down and will continue to grow, causing the squirrel to starve . 

Indiana DNR Public Fish Site, Port of Indiana

A few miles north of the Little Cal is the Port of Indiana. This is another Indiana DNR public fishing site. Don't let the sunshine and calm water fool you, this was a cold, windy day.   

Large flock of Common Mergansers

On the waters of the port, was a large flock of waterfowl. This photo was cropped, there are actually three times as many bird on the water. This is a flock of Common Mergansers aka Sawbills aka Fish Ducks. Mergansers dive under the water to catch fish. Every few minutes, the entire flock would dive, proving to me that the fish were in the harbor, but like I said before, it was too cold to fish.    

Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore,  National Park Service

Due west of the Port is a section the Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore and the Portage Riverwalk Park. Located where the Little Calumet River enters Lake Michigan.  

Wind pruned Pin Oak and Pine trees

The dunes meet the river where wind pruned pines and pin oak anchor the high banks of the river. About fifty feet below these stunted trees is the river. Shore decks are placed along the river bank from which you can fish or just watch the pleasure boats make there way to the lake from the marina.

Pine Cones

Old pine cones that dropped their seed long ago. The harsh conditions of the dunes environment causes the trees to be stunted. They may not be large trees but they are very old. (And you thought man 'invented' bonsai trees) 

Ice on the Rocks

Lake Michigan is at a low water stage. These rocks would be under water at normal water levels. Look at the ice on the rocks, another good reason not to fish. 

Black Mussel

A freshwater mussel in the sand. I wonder if there's a pearl inside of it? Mussels have a interesting life cycle. The female is fertilized by the male. She retains the eggs until they are hatched. the larvae are released into the water and actively search out fish. When a fish is found the larvae attach themselves to the fins or gills of the fish until they become juveniles. Then drop off onto the lake bottom and grow to adults.  

Western Grebe at Portage Harbor

What's this? The Loch Michigan Monster! No, just a bad photo of a Western Grebe in Portage Harbor. Another diving bird that will winter here as long as it can find open water and fish. This area is where the Little Calumet River meets Lake Michigan. 

Chicago Beyond the Horizon

Right about now, I'm at the point where I can't take this cold any more. A couple more shots and I'm out of here. So here's "Chicago Beyond the Horizon". 

Portage Dunes

After all is said and done, it was a good day. I found a few places to fish and float my canoe. Visited some new scenery and got a few pic to boot. When the Coho run in March, you know where I can be found. 

(Click on any photo to see an enlarged photo slideshow)