Getting to Grandma’s

On the way from Indiana to our destination near Peoria, IL, we took in one more quick National Park site—Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore. We parked Rocky at the visitor’s center and dashed off in the Mazda to see as much as we could see (and hopefully complete a Junior Ranger program) in a few hours!

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The visitor center had an area behind it with beautiful native grasses and plants.

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Checking out Lake Michigan…it’s a little cooler than the ocean at Myrtle Beach!

When Spunky Monkey was two and we visited Chicago six years ago, he took it upon himself to try to fill in Lake Michigan with sand from the beach.

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It’s a big job. He’s still at it.

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We couldn’t stay long enough for him to get much done, but at least we can say we saw Lake Michigan. We needed to get to the season’s last open tour of the Quaking Bog. None of us had seen a bog before, so we knew we were in for a treat.

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Once inside the gates of the bog, we had to stay on floating walkways. We could hear and feel the oozy, slimy ground squishing below our steps as we walked. The sphagnum moss makes a thin cover over portions of the bog, but never thick enough to trust, and the bog is quite deep in places. The rangers told stories of very old bodies (2000+ years) that have been found in bogs around the world, either fully or partially preserved, because of the acidity of the water, the moderate temperatures and the lack of oxygen. Some say this is where the term “boogey man” comes from…derivation of “boggy man” or that perhaps parents of children living near bogs made up the concept of a boogey man living in the bogs to scare children from playing near them and risking falling in.

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We saw carnivorous plants! Here is the Pitcher Plant, which traps bugs by attracting them with bright colors and perhaps a bit of nectar. When the insect lands, the surface of the plant is slippery, and the soon-to-be dinner falls into the “pitcher” and is trapped in the liquid at the bottom. Some pitchers have downward-pointing “hairs” inside to ensure the insect can’t crawl back up and out.

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Sundew gets its meals by using a combination of sticky “flypaper” and extremely fast tentacles that actually grow in response to prey, trapping the insect in a gooey cage.

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The third insectivore at the bog is the bladderwort, which the Ranger was kind enough to dredge from the bog for us to take a look at:

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This one uses bulbs (bladders) which have trigger hairs on their hinged “doors”. When an insect touches these hairs, the bulb creates a vacuum by pumping out ions (the water then follows by osmosis) and the insect is sucked inside and digested.

What amazingly creative ideas God has!!

The sweetest part of the bog was the wild blueberries that were growing there. We enjoyed sampling after the Rangers suggested it.

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They were tiny, but oh-so-sweet!

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A quick drawing of some trees for the Junior Ranger program, and we were off to the historic farm. The Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore is an unusual combination of locations to visit. The bog was a 30-minute drive through town from the visitor center. In addition to the NPS managing part of the area, the state and the county also have sections they manage. So there is more to navigate than in most NPS sites we’ve visited.

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Whew!! That was one whirlwind Junior Ranger program completion!

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Only a couple more hours to Peoria!

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After lots of views like this, and a tour through Chicago’s southside, thanks to a wonky GPS, we arrived in Metamora, IL to see Grandma, Aunt Beckie, Uncle Jim, and cousins!! We had a wonderful time there, catching up with family, celebrating my birthday with a date for Chad & I, shopping with Grandma & Aunt Beckie and escaping the heat in the pool.

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