Damn it has been quite some time since I had a nice little trip with my person. Covid make things so weird for so long but now that vaccines are pumping through my body I know I am safe to go out and do more exploring in this new area of the country I live. Of course National Parks have to get checked off my list so I found the closest one to me here in Saint Louis and off we went.
From where I am, Indiana Sand Dunes is about a five hour drive. This doesn’t seem so bad but after a year barely leaving the house it was a bit of a struggle to do. The drive itself was pretty easy though. Illinois has a bunch of farming through it so it was a lot of open and flat land just driving through. Also a lot about Lincoln. They really love that guy in Illinois.
Ben and I went up for three full days. Drove up Sunday, drove back Thursday. We stayed in a little Airbnb in Gary, Indiana so that we had a place to relax and make meals. I planned all the meals for the trip so that we didn’t have to go into a store while up there and could just hide at an Airbnb and hike for a few days. The place we stayed was gorgeous though. Right across the street from Lake Michigan, sun room up front to relax in and look out over the water, and literally less than 5 minute walk over the last dune down to the beach for some after dinner strolls.
Gary itself is actually a really cute place. Less than half a mile from where we stayed there was a nice public park on the beach. The beaches themselves were some of the best. The sand was soft (and made a weird sound on the dry portions) and when you reached the water there were a lot of lake stones that were smooth and so many flat ones for skipping. The water was cool since it wasn’t summer yet but it also meant there weren’t a lot of people so we could just relax.
The National Park is actually split into two parts. The small part was just down the road a little over a mile from us. First day of hiking we went there and had a lovely long 4 mile hike. The dunes are tall and going up a sand hill is tough on the legs but it was so nice to get outside, the weather was calm and comfy, and the trails were almost completely dead (saw maybe 5 people the first day) and the cleanest I have ever seen. Ben and I like to take compostable waste bags not only for our trash but to pick up trash on the trails and there was very little we actually found that day. We also learned more about the local history of the area, specifically a woman nicknamed Diana. She rejected the city life of Chicago and fled to the Dunes in the early 1900’s, living off the land as much as possible and advocating to protect the local ecosystems. Honestly who can blame her? Who hasn’t wanted to say fuck the world and hide in the woods or mountains?
The second day we went for the longest hike through some bogs and over the dunes. It was really interesting to see the various ecosystems that exist in this small area. With the dunes collecting water and allowing things to flourish there are bogs and ponds throughout that I have never really experienced before. We packed a lunch this day so that we could picnic on the beach halfway through. It was a great spot with so few people, just us and the lake, and Chicago off in the distance. We also checked into the visitor center this day to get our postcard and magnet for the collection. Best part is we didn’t have any park fees since they only collect Memorial Day to Labor Day! Instead just left a donation to still support the park system.
The last day we did a simple little hike further from the water. Learned more about some of the first white settlers in the area. It was great to learn some of the rich history of the area. Not many think about what happened in this area of the country but like all part there is history and many people existed there.
Overall the trip was great to just get away. Haven’t had that in a while. Indiana Sand Dunes really is a great park. It’s one of the new ones people don’t think about and it’s only 30 minutes from Chicago so it’s easy to get to if you are visiting that city. Take the time to explore our country. It really is beautiful and it’s not all about the parks out West. There’s plenty to offer everywhere. Just please make sure to think about the wildlife and leave only footprints and take only memories.