Monday, July 28, 2014

Hiking the Dunes - Part I

Last Wednesday we left Abigail with my sister in Indianapolis and headed up to northwest Indiana for a couple day vacation.  We were staying at a bed and breakfast and check-in wasn't until the evening, but we wanted to see some sights before we arrived so we stopped by Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore.
Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore hugs 15 miles of the southern shore of Lake Michigan and has much to offer. Whether you enjoy scouting for rare species of birds or flying kites on the sandy beach, the national lakeshore's 15,000 acres will continually enchant you.  Hikers will enjoy 45 miles of trails over rugged dunes, mysterious wetlands, sunny prairies, meandering rivers, and peaceful forests.
--Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore website
I always like to visit National Park sites whenever we're nearby, especially since we get a pass each year, so once I knew we'd be near the dunes I knew it would be a perfect place to visit.  The park was established almost fifty years ago and surrounds an earlier state park (which has the largest dunes in the area in its boundaries).  We first visited the visitor center.
We ate lunch outside--the weather was beautiful if a tad windy.
Inside the visitor center space had a few small exhibits and shared space with the state park and local tourist bureau.
Since we didn't have too much time we decided upon a short hike at the Bailly Homestead and Chellberg Farm.
There were plenty of longer hikes, but we just took the shortest full-circle route to see the homestead and circle back around through the farm.
Sadly the ranger station was closed--which seemed strange for July, which should be in the busy season.  But according to the website it is only open during special events, which is a shame since there is apparently a passport cancellation stamp there.
The walk was shaded most of the way, which combined with the cooler temperatures (in the 70s) made for a great hike.
It was fun to just have the two of us out to explore.
I snapped a few pictures of interesting sights.
The trail was obviously not too remote as evidenced by the trash can.
After a short while we came upon an open area that we realized was the Bailly Homestead.
Joseph Bailly, one of the first settlers in northwest Indiana, arrived here with his family in 1822.  He chose this site to establish his trading post becasue it was on the Little Calumet River.
--site signage
I found these orange flowers and managed to get a clear shot with a log structure in the background.  This is one of my favorite shots from the day.
Although Indiana became a state in 1816, northwestern Indiana was essentially a wilderness when Joseph Bailly arrived in 1822 from Michigan with his wife Marie and their children to build their homestead....  During the fur trading years the homestead consisted of six log structures which served as living quarters, kitchen, storehouse and warehouses for the trade goods.  material from the original buildings is being preserved in the log structures you see today.
--site signage
Beaver felt hats, the fashion style in Europe and the eastern United States created a demand for beaver pelts.  This demand and the Potawatomi Indians' desire for trade items such as blankets, knives, metal hatchets, fabric and clothing enabled Joseph Bailly to operate a modest fur trading business in the 1820s.  Potawatomis brought the beaver pelts to Bailly in the spring of the year; he shipped them to Mackinac.  From there they traveled to Montreal and eventually to Europe. 
By 1830 Bailly's fur trading business had nearly ended.  Overtrapping had nearly depleted the beaver population in the area and the beaver felt hat had gone out of style.  In the early 1830s Joseph Bailly opened a tavern northwest of the homestead on the Fort Dearborn to Detroit Road (present day U.S. Hwy 12) to supplement his income.  The fur trading era in northwestern Indiana had come to an end.
--site signage
Change is the best way to describe the Bailly Homestead since 1822.  In the 1820s when the Potawatomi Indians brought their beaver pelts by canoe to trade with Joseph Bailly, the main house was yet to be built.  Made of white oak logs with weatherboard siding, it was under construction in 1835 when Joseph Bailly died.  The structure was completed after his death and has been altered on a number of occasions by the Bailly heirs.  The exterior of the house has been restored to look as it did in 1917, the earliest year for which an accurate appearance could be documented.
--site signage
The brick house, built for Bailly's grandaughter, Rose Howe, was constructed in the late 1870s.
--site signage
We especially liked the back porch on the main house.

Next time I'll talk about the rest of the hike and the farm that we saw.


Thursday, July 24, 2014

A Taste of the Lakeshore

We visited the Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore yesterday. I hope to blog more when we get home, but this is a sample of some of the sights we experienced on our short hike.

We also visited the beach (it was very windy) and I got some good pictures at the waterfront.


Sunday, July 13, 2014

William Howard Taft

On Saturday we visited the William Howard Taft National Historic Site.  It is actually the closest National Park Site to where we live, but I haven't been there since 2005 when I visited with one of my nephews.

Interestingly on that trip I couldn't find my old passport book so I bought one and stamped it--then on my next visit to a National Park site I had forgotten it, so I bought a third one.  Of course all three of those books have been supplanted by my large explorer edition passport book.
High atop one of Cincinnati's most prominent hilltops stands the two-story Greek Revival house where William Howard Taft was born and grew up. Hard work, a good education, and an interest in civic duty are attributes that made the Taft family outstanding leaders over the years. The environment that shaped Taft's character and philosophy  is highlighted  on a visit to the site.
When we arrived the small parking lot in front of the visitor center was full (this picture was from later in the afternoon), and not having fully researched parking ahead of time I was debating pulling into a barely legal parking spot when a ranger hollered that there was another parking lot around the corner.

The other parking lot was quite large and quite empty.  We walked towards the visitor center (red brick building on right) and the house (yellow building on the left).

The first exhibit inside the visitor center is an animatronic representing Charles Taft, the president's son and a former mayor of Cincinnati.

There are several topics upon which he'll talk, one of them is recorded below--specifically an account of his rich aunt and uncle and the ways in which they impacted the city of Cincinnati for the better.

Further inside is a temporary photography exhibit featuring pictures from Harry Fowler Woods, who accompanied Taft's on his 1905 Far East Diplomatic Mission.
 Abigail wasn't too sure about Taft, but she enjoyed riding in the backpack.
 This was one of the pictures from China.
As we were wrapping up looking around a ranger told us that the latest tour of the house had just started--but that we could still join it.  We hurried over to the house and joined the ranger who was leading the tour and several other guests in one of the downstairs rooms.

The ranger really seemed to enjoy what he was doing.  Here he explained how the tiles around the fireplace could be used as memory aids when teaching about various stories that often weren't available as children's books due to expense.
This crib would have held WH Taft and then his younger siblings.
This was the desk of Alphonso Taft, William Howard's father.  The desk was modeled after the design of Solomon's temple.
The temple resemblance can truly be seen inside the desk with miniature stairs, the pillars, and mirrors.
When he started trying to build his library Alphonso Taft (William Howard Taft's father) spent about two-months salary on books.
The gas lights wouldn't have produced sufficient light for reading all the time, so an "extension cord" ran down to a lamp on the table.

This beautiful lamp featured interchangeable panels.
This box featured a number of pictures which could be advanced by turning the knobs on the front.
The portrait on the right is actually William Howard Taft. According to the ranger there were subtle differences in hairstyle to help identify the different genders in portraits and pictures since all young children were dressed in dresses.  

This wood isn't as "nice" as it looks--the lines were painted on so that this piece would look like more expensive wood
The tour concluded in the front room.

The Tafts weren't quite well-off enough to buy expensive drapes, instead they bought the appropriate expensive fabric and converted it to drapes.

The carpet was rather bright, which signified wealth--and it wasn't considered necessary that it match the style of drapes or other decorations.

The Taft daughters played the piano, but William Howard and his brothers never learned to play.

The rooms on the main level are the only ones covered in the guided tour--the rest of the house is available to explore.  I started upstairs with the exhibits up there.  All of the rooms upstairs contained exhibits laid out like a museum.
 This porch was off one side of the house and I imagine would be quite nice on a warm day.

Taft was involved in the Philippines for many years, both as head of a special commission and governor general.  He turned down at least two potential appointments to the Supreme Court to keep working in the islands.  He remained there until named as Roosevelt's Secretary of War--a position that eventually led to his anointing as Roosevelt's successor.
Orders of Catholic friars owned great tracts of land in the Philippines.  This was one of the causes of the Philippine revolt against Spanish rule before the United States occupied the islands. 
At President Roosevelt's request, Governor Taft went to the Vatican to negotiate with Pope Leo XIII for the purchase of 400,000 acres.  In November 1903, the transaction was completed.  This pen was presented to commemorate the occasion.
--exhibit signage
 Taft is the only person in American history to serve as both president and Supreme Court Justice, therefor it was appropriate to have both seals in the exhibits area.
 Taft used this Bible when he was sworn in as President and on the Supreme Court.
Did you know Taft was the first president to throw out an opening baseball pitch?  This picture is of that first pitch in 1910.
Taft campaigned for the Supreme Court to finally get its own building.
This cistern was located in the basement level (in a later addition at the back of the house).  After the house had water pumped in these turned into garbage pits that proved to be treasure troves for archaeologists.
This diagram shows how huge the original backyard was--with area for growing quite a bit.  The current property only includes a fraction of this property.
This is the current view out of the back door.

You can view all of the pictures in this album by clicking on the following slideshow:


PS Admission to the Taft House is free as is parking, so check it out the next time you're in the area--the visit is well worth it.