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Hoosier Hysterical

Your Standard National Park Trail

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.)


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.


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.

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.

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.


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:"Mark R. Hunter"
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I Missed Fire Prevention, but Fires Go On

 I've barely had a moment free the last several days, and completely forgot that last week was Fire Prevention Week. (A lot of its normal activities, naturally, were curtailed by COVID. Little meanie virus.) So I'm late, and the upcoming week doesn't look all that much better, so I'm partaking in that time honored tradition of reposting a previous blog, or as we called it at the time, newspaper column.

The actual theme of this year's fire prevention week was "Serve Up Fire Safety in the Kitchen!" Heaven knows the kitchen can be a pretty dangerous place, especially when I'm using it. Why, just last ... never mind. So be careful in the kitchen, have a fire extinguisher and an escape plan, and when Daylight Savings Time ends in two weeks don't forget to change the batteries on your smoke detector and carbon monoxide detector.


In my three (or so) decades in the emergency services, (Forty now. I don't want to talk about it.) I never heard anyone complain their smoke detectors worked properly. Well, okay, once—but that guy was an arsonist.
Fire Prevention Week this year is October 9-15, mostly because nothing else goes on in mid-October. No, actually it was because the Great Chicago Fire happened on October 9, 1871. That fire destroyed more than 17,400 structures and killed at least 250 people, and might have been prevented if Mrs. O’Leary had installed a smoke detector in her barn. Have you ever seen a cow remove a smoke detector battery? Me neither.
Nobody really knows what started the Great Chicago Fire, so the dairy industry has a real beef with blaming the cow, which legend says knocked over a lamp. Does the lamp industry ever get the blame? Noooo....
We do know that at about the same time the Peshtigo Fire roared across Wisconsin, killing 1,152 people and burning 16 entire towns. In fact, several fires burned across Michigan and Wisconsin at the time, causing some to speculate a meteor shower may have caused the conflagration. There might have been shooting stars elsewhere, but Chicago got all the press.
This year’s Fire Prevention Week theme is “Don’t wait, check the date!” So ask your date: Does she have a working smoke detector? If not, maybe you should go back to your place.
Just as you should change your smoke detector batteries every fall and spring, you should replace your smoke alarm every ten years. Doing the same to your carbon monoxide detector is a great idea, so it can make a sound to warn about the gas that never makes a sound.
As I hadn’t given much thought to the age of my own smoke detectors, I took that advice. The one in the basement stairway said: “Manufactured 1888 by the Tesla Fire Alarm Co.”
Not a good sign.
The one in the kitchen hallway said simply: “Smoke alarm. Patent pending.”
Oh boy.
So don’t wait—check the date. Do it right now, because otherwise you’d be waiting. I know it doesn’t have quite the pizzazz of the 1942 Fire Prevention Week theme: “Today Every Fire Helps Hitler”.
But hey … you can’t blame the Nazis for everything.


Ahem. This would be a good time to remind you that proceeds from our book Smoky Days and Sleepless Nights: A Century or So With the Albion Fire Department go to support, naturally, the Albion Fire Department. You can grab a copy of that or any of our books at the website,, or from the other usual suspects."Mark R Hunter"