Nature Trek: Hiking the Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore
Saturday was one of those days crammed to the brim with new experiences + new places, and we ran from morning to night. Happily, I might add. Saturday morning it was cool and slightly overcast, which seemed like perfect weather for an early morning hike. After breakfast and delish butter coffee, we threw our gear for the day in the back of the 4Runner and headed out.
The Indiana Dunes State Park is a forested swath of dunes nestled against the Lake Michigan shoreline. There are 10 or so trails that crisscross the dunes, many of which have amazing views of the water and the Chicago skyline.
We started at the Nature Center where the girls looked at some of the displays and watched a racoon eat its breakfast through a viewing window. It's funny how watching a racoon at a nature center seems so cute; not so cute when that racoon is digging through the garbage when you live in the city.
So after a potty break, dousing with some natural insect repellant (all essential oils and works marvelously!) we set out on trail #7, a 1.1 mile "moderate" hike that ends on the beach. Kirk wore the littlest one in the Ergo, and we talked about how we should probably invest in a hiking baby carrier. They tend to be sturdier and hold the child away from the hiker's sweaty body. And by sweaty body, I'm referring to Kirk's. Ha. V and I trudged along behind Kirk (he has a long gait, even with a kid on the back.)
It was a pretty awesome hike: dense forest, wildflowers, and a pretty spectacular view at the end. I'm still building up endurance and trying to strengthen my heart, so I took it nice and slow. Kids make it pretty easy to pace yourself.
When we reached the summit of the small dune, we were rewarded with a clear view of the lake. V perched herself on a sand dune and looked out over the water. Moments like that remind me that I need to be more intentional about giving her some (safe) freedom and space to think. We all need that, right?
We ran down to the water's edge and played for a few minutes before heading back toward the campground on trail #4. We didn't realize that trail #4 has about 150 stairs leading to the top of Mt. Tom. Oops! Once we reached the top, we had a breathtaking view over the top of the state park and out toward the lake.
I think Mt. Tom is the tallest dune at the Indiana Dunes State Park, so we were fairly proud of ourselves. Once we reached the top, Kirk and I switched baby-carrying duty, and I wore little C in the Ergo.
We finished with a meander through the campground, with V asking if she "could please go inside some of the Airstreams here?" Uh-oh. Apparently, she confused campground with RV dealer. We broke it to her gently that people don't usually appreciate strangers coming into their homes, trailer, tent, or otherwise. Our girl has a bad case of aluminitis.
We headed toward the swimming beach, and spent about 45 minutes playing in the water and sand before heading out for some lunch. Digging around on my phone, I realized there was a pretty cool local hotdog joint that is nearly entirely carbon neutral. The dogs were great, and the homemade sodas were interesting: espresso and ginger.
Driving back, the clouds had cleared and it was bright blue out. Windows down, music up. It was only 1:30pm and there was still more to do! We spent the afternoon watching my nephews' belt tests for martial arts, then went to a festival/benefit downtown. Live music, food trucks, and ice cream were the perfect ending to the jam packed day.