Stu and I visited Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore this October for the first time – after passing by it for decades, going from east to west or west to east. It always seemed such a mystery. Unattainable. But when I visited, I found it quite attainable.
Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore turned 50 years old this year. I’m grateful for the insight of those who wanted to preserve lakeshore views for the public. Many of the roads in the park are two-laners (one lane in each direction), with no shoulders. Some roads pass through swampy areas.
I’m glad I went on an afternoon in fall v.s. summer. I imagine traffic is bumper to bumper during the hot summertime being so near the Chicago area. Parking is limited, but the view of the southern end of Lake Michigan is LGL (Lovely Great-Lakey). If you look toward the west, you do see the industrial structures along the coast. Look north or east, please.
I look forward to returning sometime to hike some of the trails – not, I think, in summer when there are lots of bugs and lots of people. I prefer my forest walks to be Foresty and quiet, except, of course, for the natural sounds and sights.
It still felt a little claustrophobic for my National Parks taste, but again, I have the woods yet to explore.
In celebration of our national park’s 100th birthday, here is Stu Patterfoot at Theodore Roosevelt National Park in North Dakota.
Bison and wild horses roam the park. It was here in a parking lot, where I overheard a man asking a park ranger if he could put his granddaughter on the back of one of the bison walking though the lot so he could take a picture. I was very impressed by the young ranger’s calm no and explanation why not. Me, on the other hand, standing behind the grandpa, had popped open my eyes at his comment and dropped my jaw to the pavement. It would have taken me he’d asked that question, it would have taken me several minutes to respond. But then grandpa complained that the animals weren’t fenced in and why did they let them roam around if they were so dangerous? Well, they are fenced in, only the fences are miles and miles long. So: No sitting on the bison! Really. Don’t even get close. (In the photo below, Stu was only this close because he was inside a van. See the side mirror over his shoulder? Yeah. Don’t get close to wild animals. People are gored every year.)
Inside the park, it’s not just the animals, nor the human history of the area, but also the land itself. Just when you (I) think you’ve (I’ve) seen about every rock formation in the world (across these wide and varied United States), along comes an interesting sight. Take a gander at the size of this perfectly round naturally formed “pebble”.
In honor of our US National Park’s 100th birthday later this month, here are some shots of Stu Patterfoot visiting Wind Cave National Park in the southern Black Hills of South Dakota. This was the first cave in the world to be named a national park. (Thank you, Teddy Roosevelt.) The park is nearly 34,000 acres on the surface with plenty of wildlife, but below ground it includes one of the world’s largest cave system. It is famous for the calcite boxwork formation which is quite rare and stunning.
Visit our national parks this month.
P.S. Towards the end of August, all national parks will be free for four days!!!!
Here is Stu Patterfoot along the Blue Ridge Parkway, a National Parkway maintained by the US Parks Service. The road passes through several states. These were taken in North Carolina.
When I was a child, my father drove us home for a bit on this road. It is windy, hilly, and the speed limit is 35-45 mph. My father could hardly wait to find a way to exit it, curing the entire time because he couldn’t go fast. Decades later, my husband and I visited the Parkway. We savored every moment on the windy, hilly, gorgeously scenic road and did not want the journey to end. Stu Patterfoot liked it, too.
In celebration of our National Parks Birthday later this month, here is Stu Patterfoot in Rocky Mountains National Park in Colorado.
The park is enormous, and two photos can hardly capture the millions of places to stop for photogenic moments. Rocky Mountains National Park is an awesome landscape for fantasy stories, especially when you hike back into the wilderness (on trails) to when you can see or hear no sign of human life except for yourself (and companions).
Oh, and summertime is the best recommended time to visit, as some roads may be closed in the snowtime.
In Celebration of our National Parks Birthday which turns 100 on August 25th, here are shots of Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. It is named such because if the dells rock formations along the Lake Superior coast, but there are also the dunes to climb, the many, many waterfalls to hike through woods to see. Blues and greens. The water is very clear. Greens and blues and clear. And lots of water in many forms.
Granted, these are summer shots, which is a great time to head north to this national treasure. If you go in winter, you would have another wonderland scene, but the predominate color then would be white-white-white. Also, mind, that although the water looks inviting, only if you are of polar bear descent should you attempt a dip into cool Lake Superior – any time of year.
HAPPY BIRTHDAY, U.S. NATIONAL PARK SERVICE!
I took Stu Patterfoot to visit Yellowstone National Park. This was the first US National Park, signed by an Act by President Ulysses S. Grant in 1872. The park is mostly within the state of Wyoming, but also covers parts of Idaho and Montana.
It displays many geothermal features, like Hot Springs and Old Faithful Geyser, which Stu is sitting in front of. Besides the unique land features, there is also an abundance of wildlife.
This park, particularly is near and dear to me because long ago, between college semesters, I spent a summer in the park. I was a cabin maid at Mammoth Hot Springs. This was my first time seeing mountains up close, and took me nearly two weeks before I no longer felt like I was walking inside a picture. The entire summer was one wild adventure. Back then, there were a few times at work when my maid-partner and I waited inside a cleaned cabin to allow a bear or bear family to wander on past us before we deemed it safe enough to dash to the next cabin to clean.
Although I haven’t added geothermal features to any of my stories (yet), nor bison or many of the hundreds of unique experiences or near-misses I experienced that summer working in Yellowstone, all my adventures are stored with many of them sneaking into my characters’ adventures. I strongly encourage you all to get out and experience nature, over and over again. The National Park Service has over 400 “units” to explore. (https://www.nps.gov/index.htm) This is our country.
I’ll now return you to your regularly scheduled author writing posts. Keep on writing.
Here is Stu Patterfoot visiting Devils Tower National Monument in the Black Hills of Wyoming. You can see this unique rock formation rising dramatically from the prairie for miles as you approach it, growing larger and larger and larger.
Climbers have tackled this formation for a couple hundred years. Although during the month of June, most climbers honor the Native Indians and do not climb these 30 days for related Indian ceremonies and prayers. Stu didn’t get much past the crumbled base.
Using US National Parks for writer inspirations for settings has existed before there were even National Parks. Devils Tower was used as a backdrop for “Close Encounters of the Third Kind,” but visiting it after seeing the movie was a bit disappointing in that respect. Spoiler alert: FYI, you oldsters or old movie buffs, there are no aliens from other planets on the grounds. But I can’t guarantee the same if you look up.