Natural lakes and streams offer a variety of recreational opportunties. But they all come with a risk Surface waters like Lake Michigan are the home of many varities of fish. It's a great place (apparently) to go fishing. But it's also the place where the fish leave their body waste, including dead bodies when they die. But the visible stuff is not the real problem. It's the invisible stuff.
Here along Lake Michigan, there are numerous inland swamps. Here the deer, raccoons and many other birds and animals leave their waste. It remains trapped in the wetlands. Slowly decaying and adding nutrients to the soil for plant life. Here also are many large and small towns. Each has a complex sanitary system to treat human waste from the homes, business' and factories along the shore. Again. it remains out of the lake.
It remains, mostly, out of the lake until it rains. Then the swamps overflow and the excrement is swept out into the lake. Town sewer systems are unable to handle the waste and rain water and there is a 'combined sewage overflow', CSO for short. In both cases, the waste is sent out into the lake. Here it is pushed back in along the shore.
If you're healthy and the lake looks okay, swimming is not a big risk, possible rash, ichy and sore eyes. If you have a open wound/cut or have low resistence to disease, you might want to stay away.
It looks so inviting, hills of crushed ice, mounded high. Peaks to conquer and crevasses to plunge down into. What a place for kids to play. DON't Let THEM. While it looks inviting and the peaks are only a few feet up and the crevasses look to be a foot or two deep. This is a treacherous landscape.
Hidden beneath the frozen surface are caves and plunge holes. As a rule, Lake Michigan does not form a hard and fast ice surface during the winter. When the wind kicks up from off-shore, the ice cracks and gets driven into huge ridges that continue to grow all winter long. Think of it as thousands of quarters (you've seen those gambling machines with the quarters stacked in them) being pushed against the shore. Some are flat, other flip up on edge. Gaps develop through out and they can slip on one another. Now add warm (34-35 degrees vs ice at 30-32) water sloshing up from beneath. Melting holes and refreezing the blocks together. It becomes a maze of pits and falls.
As you climb higher on a ridge, the pits are deeper and the water level lower. If you go through, you can be over your head in cold (34-35 degrees vs your body at 98.6) water the you find up to your ears. You may have a fractured pit of 4' above your head or just 1'. But you'll not climb out alone and your friends will have to dig you out as quick as they can. You have less than 30 minutes in freezing water before you body begins to shut down and you go under. Even if your feet hit the bottom and you're standing with your head out of the water, you body will get heavy as the cold saps your energy. So--------------------
DON"T GO ON THE ICE. It's for your own safety.
For the beauty of shelf ice, see my Shelf Ice travelogue.
'Rhus radicans', better known as Poison Ivy can be a low growing leafy plant, a vine growing up a tree or a fence post of a taller, large leafed plant in field grass or along the edges of wetlands.
It's characteristic 3 leaf grouping is cause for staying away. Whether the leaves are jagged edged or smooth edge. The leaf wil often be shiny, but may be a dull green. When autumn/fall arrives, they become a scarlet red, very beautiful.
DON't TOUGCH - you'll have a rash. The rash will spread whenever you scratch-it and get the oils in your finger nails. Then, where else you touch youself, the rash will appear. It will boil up. There have been times when my fingers were 1/4 inch (1-2 cm) apart, but still touching from the boils. The rubbing of the rash/boils against each other produces more toxins, which spread across your hands and then to whoever and where ever you touch yourself.
I've heard of people who are not allergic to the toxin. That's less than 1 in a 100. Even then, I've met individuals who 'had' been non-allergic for years, suddenly becoming allergic.
Each summer there is one or more deaths along the shores of Lake Michigan. These drownings usually occur when there is a strong rip current. STAY OUT OF THE WATER when rip currents might be present.
What is a RIP CURRENT? A rip current is a strong rush of water from the shore, directly out into the lake. It can be running at only 2 or 3 miles per hour, but that is faster than a person can swim. Even the strongest swimmer will become exhausted working against such a current.
How to RECOGNIZE the potential for a Rip current! Commonly, rip currents set up when there is a strong north wind. Along other shorelines, look to see if the wind is blowing directly on-shore.
Sandy beaches usually have a sand bar out from the shoreline. It can be 20' out or 100' out. Regardless, this sand bar creates a 'lagoon' of water between it and the beach. normally, water is pushed into the beach by the wind on the surface. It returns from the 'lagoon' by flowing under the surface, but over the top of the sand bar. When the wind is blowing directly on-shore, water accumulates int he 'lagoon' faster than it can rush over the top of the sand bar. When the pressure in the lagoon builts up, the weakest spot along the sand bar will collapse and the water forms a strong 'rip' current flowing back out into the lake. It's very difficult to see these breaks or to know when it may occur under your feet.