Your Standard National Park Trail

지난달

I wrote this a few weeks ago, and held onto it to cheer me up on those first cold, windy days of autumn. Oh, there they are. If you walk this trail now, I'd imagine you'll be treated to some amazing fall colors.

I joke with the title, because there's no such thing as a "standard" national park. Still, the first trail we hit on our first visit to Indiana Dunes National Park struck me as being a more or less normal Indiana trail. Woods, gullies, a little river, boardwalk over the swamp--that's Indiana, all over. (You can click on the photos to make them larger.)

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We were only a short distance from the dunes, and from Lake Michigan, where no doubt more spectacular views could be found. Certainly this trail wasn't as up and down as Turkey Run State Park, or Brown County, or Clifty Falls State Park way down south. But there's something to be said for just a normal, quiet walk in the woods.

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This is assuming you don't find some creepy half-completed Blair Witch Project-like structure in the middle of nowhere. Luckily I'd already done my research: This was someone teaching how the local Native Americans used to make their domiciles. So we continued on our very short hike.

Except, of course, that we took a wrong turn. Instead of hiking the mile and a half we intended, we went for three and a half miles. Believe me when I say that by the time we got to the end, we were very happy that there weren't too many ups and downs this time around.

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Many places in Indiana that are now parks and nature preserves were once settlements or farms, so it's not unusual to see a few big, old trees surrounded by a bunch of younger trees that just started growing within the last few decades. In my novel Storm Chaser I described a meadow at Chain O' Lakes State Park that doesn't exist anymore--it's a woods. So it was here, but we saw some trees like this one that were gnarly and huge and crazy old.
It was an overcast day, so the pictures didn't pop as well as I'd hoped they would, but they still give a sense of the place, I think. The funny thing is that we were just a short drive from the sprawling Chicago metropolitan area, and from the edge of Lake Michigan you can see the city's high-rises across the water.

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We crossed the Little Calumet River twice. I'd hate to have been canoeing here--there were lots of dead trees fallen into the water, and it would mean a lot of portaging around them. Apparently such blockages are called strainers, which I didn't know, and can be very dangerous, which I did.

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Ah, but we walked, Three and a half miles we walked, around gullies and over the river and through the woods and--wasn't that a song? We also hit a boardwalk across an area that would ordinarily be swampy, but in our drier weather was just mushy. I love boardwalks, and we've followed them through many Indiana parks and preserves. Why do I like them? No idea.

We're hoping to get back to the National Park when the leaves are turning, and maybe get you some dune and lake pictures. Stay tuned.

Here's a link to the Dunes website:

https://www.nps.gov/indu/index.htm

http://www.markrhunter.com/
https://www.amazon.com/Mark-R-Hunter/e/B0058CL6OO
https://www.barnesandnoble.com/s/"Mark R. Hunter"

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I find it always amazing to see, how nature conquers back place that were abandoned by people. And it doesn't even take all that long.
A good example Is Prypiat, the city next to Chernobyl nuclear power plant in Ukraine, that blew up in the mid 80s. It was evacuated inside one day, and is left like that ever since.
The cool thing is, you can take a look at it on Google Street View:
https://www.google.com/maps/@51.40804,30.0556789,2a,75y,23.44h,84.79t/data=!3m6!1e1!3m4!1srBe9SvnBP3SozwADD320Ag!2e0!7i13312!8i6656
This is not some forest - its in the former center of the city. After more than 30 years without people. All those trees have grown since, before it looked like that:

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Wait--they let the Google Street View car in there to take pictures?!

Have you seen the TV show, Life After People? (We may have discussed this already.) It examines what might happen in the years, decades, and centuries if people suddenly disappeared. Fascinating.

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Yes, actually it was a car from a local tourist company. They do sideseeing tours through Prypjat and the surrounding area. It's possible to be there for a short time, if you avoid some radiation hot spots.
But nobody is supposed to live there permanently. Its said that some people do it anyway, because they refused to leave or have no money to go somewhere else or whatever.

Yes, i have seen that TV show. Prypjat matches that desciption pretty well. But things seem to progress faster than they say in the show. The accident was only 35 years ago, and look how over grown everything already is. In 100 years it will probably even be difficult to find the place again.

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Could be--weathering and foliage have a huge effect. Personally, if I got an offer I'd be tempted to move there--I'm over having other people living close to me. Maybe they'll be good neighbors, maybe they won't, but it sure would be nice to walk into my back yard without worrying about whether anyone other than a spy satellite is watching me. A little radiation? Bah. :-)

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Well, it's not quite clear what effect it has to live there permanently. At least most of the wildlife is thriving after the people have gone. A few have died out, though.
The biggest problem is the still existing power plant, where the exploded reactor is covered with some kind of dome. To be safe, this dome has to last 10.000 years or something, which is not very likely. So the danger is far from being managed.
And then there are the "hot spots". Those are small areas with a critical radiation level, that are randomly spread in the region. That can be somewhere in the forest, or in a building in Prypiat, or where ever. And they sometimes shift as well. Nobody really knows why that is.
But if you are ok with having a Geiger counter on you all the time, it could be a place for you. :)

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Yes, and that dome wasn't exactly built under the best possible construction conditions, either.

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No, everything is pretty difficult, being so close to the melt down site. It was a huge project to build the new dome and then move it over the reactor. And a extremly expensive one, too. And still, in a few decades they will have to replace it again. That's what they called "managable risk" connected to nuclear power, I guess.

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The Soviets weren't exactly renown for their safety precautions, and now the Russians are paying for it.