Saturday, November 24, 2012

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Fabyan Lighthouse

Driving down Route 25 by Geneva one can’t avoid noticing a Dutch windmill by the road. This windmill sits at the entrance of the Fabyan Forest Preserve, a property that once was owned by Colonel George and Nelle Fabyan (property was acquired by the Kane County F.P. in 1932).
The Fabyans bought the initial 10 acres in 1905. The estate, which they named Riverbank, at its largest, encompassed 350 acress and included a zoo, a Dutch windmill, a Japanese garden, formal gardens, a house, a boathouse and an island (Isle of View) with a Roman-style swimming pool (no longer in existence) and a lighthouse.
The Riverbank state stretched over the east and west bank of the Fox River. Initially, the Fabyans crossed the river by boat (Jack Wilhelmson was captain of the Riverbank fleet) but they eventually decided that the whole property should be accessible by foot. They proposed the installation of bridges but since the river was considered a navigable waterway, the effort was thwarted. Fabyan fought back by requesting an Act of Congress to construct his bridges. Public records show that the Act was presented to the House Interstate and Foreign Commerce Committee by John A. Sterling (R - IL) on March 28, 1916 and to the Senate Commerce Committee by Morris Sheppard (D - TX) on May 31, 1916. The Act was approved on June 12, 1916 (Public 87, 64th Congress).
The lighthouse was built on Isle of View sometime between 1912 and 1917. It originally conveyed the message “23 skidoo”, a way of telling any boats that venture down the river to get lost. Although the lighthouse is no longer in operation it still is a very photogenic landmark that hopefully someday will be restored and shine again.
Fabyan Lighthouse in Autumn

Isle of View as seen from one of the banks of the Fox River

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Miners Falls

Miners Falls as seen from the observation platform
I was unsure on whether to visit Miners Falls. Most of the sites describing this waterfall have images, that at best I found not very interesting, taken from a platform that is across the canyon; didn't look like there was much room here to get creative. Since I was doing well on time and this was an easy hike (1.2 miles roundtrip) I decided to make a look.

The trail leading down to the waterfall is easy to hike. You can pick up a brochure at the head of the trail that contains information for different spots along the hike. The trail ends on two platforms overlooking the falls, one of which requires climbing down 77 steps.

Fisherman standing next to Miners Falls

The Miners River drop about 50 feet on this waterfall. From the images I've seen it was hard to get a sense of how much big and how much water flowed through this waterfall. As I was standing on the platform across the way I could see right next to the waterfall a fisherman. My mind started inmediatedly looking for a  way down. The dirt leading down from the platform looked loose and given my unfortunate accident in 2011 (twisted my ankle hiking by a creek in the mountains), I was weary. Still, the river was calling me so I strapped my camera bag to my waist and started slowly (and very carefully) the descent.

There was no incident on the trip down and the view from the river was spectacular. Standing by the large canyon wall one can feel the power of the water.  Just watching and hearing the water flowing in between the rocks made the hike worth it.

A second waterfall can be found downstream but there is no clear trail and I didn't have the time to bushwhack my way to it. The hike back up to the platform proved to be a little trickier but fortunately I made it up safely.

Miners River flowing away from Miners Falls

Friday, November 9, 2012

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Miners Beach

Miners Beach formations
Miners Beach on Picture Rocks National Lakeshore is well know for the sandstone formations on the shore. In late afternoon, when the sun is low and shines its golden light, the ridges on these formations glow like gold. If the timing is right (and mine has never been), a small waterfall will trickle over the ridges adding more interest to this beautiful area.

A not well defined trail leads from this beach to an area that overlooks the cliffs along Picture Rocks. The trail can be treacherous and slippery as you have to cross a stream, many very muddy spots (make sure your shoes fit tight or you may loose it on the mud!), and jump over or crawl under several fallen trees. The trail is not well defined which adds a little more challenge to the adventure. If you manage to persist on the endeaver you will have a spectacular view of this National Lakeshore.

Picture Rocks Cliffs
Miners Beach is a favorite sunset location for many, specially photographers. After the hike to the cliffs, I though that I was going to find the beach overrun with people but that wasn't the case; only a handful of photographers (and their companions) were there. I was able to setup my camera and while I waited for sunset, I spent some socializing. As sunset approach, a caravan of people started arriving, all with tripods on their hand. Pretty soon I was surrounded by a tangle of tripods and cameras which made it virtually impossible to move left or right without getting into someone else's image.

After ducking out of my 3x3 space, I went on a hike along the beach. A few hundred feet away from the sandstone formations is a small dune covered with grasses that were glowing with golden light. The tree line behind it had some hints of fall color sprinkled in between the evergreens.

Dune Grasses and Fall Color
As sunset approach more and more photographers lined up the beach. Rather than joining them, I decided to stay on the small dune and photograph low removing all the clutter in the beach. There was no wind so all the grasses were standing very still. It was a great end to a long day.

Miners Beach Sunset