Friday, August 7, 2009

Cows and Dunes

We were surprised by the welcome center (or lack of one) coming into Indiana on I70. Most states have elaborate places staffed with friendly people ready to advise you on where to spend your money in their state. We can only assume that Indiana doesn't care about tourists. The info center had a couple of racks of pamphlets and no staff. Luckily I had an AAA book and perused it for any attractions along our route - I70 to Indianapolis, then north on I65. Well, I realize my interests are not the same as everyone else's, but I only found one roadside attraction that drew me in. And it was fantastic!

Fair Oaks Farms! Conveniently located at exit 220 of I65, the dairy farm is home to 30,000 cows! And the main attraction for me was the rotary turntable where 72 cows are milked simultaneously. I got a kick out of watching the cows happily move onto the turntable, contentedly chew their cud as they rotate while being milked, then back out when done. This last was done more gracefully by some than others. We thought one was going to lose her nose.

Here's the turntable - it operates 24 hours a day and each cow is milked three times a day. If you blow it up, you can see all the cows waiting their turn on the ride.

How now, brown cow. . .

They also had a birthing barn where you could watch a calf being born. With that many cows, it's a constant happening. I actually missed this blessed event, but here's the little guy before he can even stand.

And here's one that was born a few hours earlier. Imagine a baby weighing 80-90 pounds. Yikes!

Then it was on to our planned two-night stop at Indiana Dunes National Seashore. Indiana boasts 26 miles of lovely beach along Lake Michigan. We stayed at the National Seashore campground and were glad we arrived mid-week. Even with the small selection of available campsites, we managed to find one in some sun (for the solar and satellite TV.)

The next day we worked hard to see it all. First we stopped at Mount Baldy - a 126 foot dune that moves south about 4 feet a year. In about 10 years, it will hit the parking lot.

We hiked up to the top. They're trying to stabilize the dune by closing the trail up the south face (good luck with that,) but have a new trail up the west side through the woods. Yes, there are woods on the dunes here. Now hiking up a 126 foot hill doesn't sound like much, but the trail is mostly deep sand and your progress reminds me of the 'two steps forward and one step back' saying.

Here we are at the top where you can see there are grasses growing to help stabilize it. The view was definitely worth the climb.

But the main part of the dune shows why Mount Baldy is so named. The sand blows unrestricted up the northern slope, then falls down the other side. I'm sure those trees will be smothered soon.

Then we hit a couple of trails at the west end of the lakeshore. It's great to see all these people out enjoying nature. If you look closely, you can see the Chicago skyline in the distance. I calculated it must be at least 30 miles away.

We thought the water would be really cold, but Ron said it wasn't too bad.

We took a couple other short hikes. This one also climbed a dune, but had nice steps.

And this one traveled along a lake which would be hard to kayak with all those plants.

On the way back to the parking lot, I couldn't resist this prickly pear cactus bloom.


  1. Cactus in Indiana? Who knew! Loved the farm. The WINs went to one near Chicago last year and it wasn't nearly as nice.

  2. Nice blog and I really enjoyed the pictures.

  3. Isn't "perused" a lovely word? I love the sound of it! Great pictures! I liked the cow carousel. Maybe the big fan was part of the attraction for the cows.