Tag Archive | Lake Michigan

Circus Trip 2018: Indiana Dunes NP

Day 73, Wednesday, September 26, 2018
Indiana Dunes National Park
Author’s Note: At the time of my visit in 2018, Indiana Dunes was designated as a National Lakeshore.  To avoid confusion, I am using the National Park designation it currently holds.

From my family in Galesburg, Michigan, I drove about an hour and 40 minutes to Indiana Dunes National Park.  I was back in Indiana and had a chance to do some state sign posing!  It is located along about 20 miles of Lake Michigan, with the western part of the park located in Gary, Indiana.

Indiana State Sign

Indiana Dunes protects the sand dunes along the southern shore of Lake Michigan, located about an hour from Chicago.  This area of the lakeshore had many steel mills, and glass companies at the turn of the 20th century found the sand ideal for their glassmaking.  As a result, the dunes were shrinking from all the sand that was being trucked away, and pollution was a huge problem.

Indiana Dunes was authorized by Congress as a National Lakeshore in 1966, and its designation upgraded to National Park status on February 15, 2019 by President Donald Trump.  In 2020, annual visitation was approximately 2,293,000 people.  As it is only about an hour from Chicago, it makes for an easy day trip.

Indiana Dunes National Park

I checked out the Century of Progress Architectural District, a collection of five homes that were relocated to this area after the 1933 Chicago World’s Fair.  These homes are privately owned, so you can’t see inside, but it is interesting to see the outside!  The architectural style of the time was very unique and these are good examples!

Indiana Dunes has several trails to the lake, and is a well known spot for birdwatching.  So I wanted to check it out!  I hiked the Dune Succession Trail, a one mile trail that included some dune habitat, grasslands, deciduous forest and of course, the beach and excellent views of the lake.  There were also quite a few mosquitos – YUCK!

I didn’t do too much exploring that day, as I was getting acclimated to traveling again, but there is lots more to see at the park, including more historic homes and farms and many more trails.  I will have to go back there sometime to check it out!  After my visit I got back on the road and headed south to the KOA campground in Springfield, Illinois.  I was going to be heading west along I-70 and was making my way south to do that!

MI Road Trip: The Dune Climb!

Have you ever hiked over 4 miles of sand dune?  We did, and I tell you, it was a really great workout!  After visiting historic Glen Haven and the Life Saving Station at Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore, we were itching to get more physical with nature.

The Dune Climb starts off with just that – a climb up a very large sand dune. It is huge – the people near the top look like little ants. We heard you could hike all the way to the lake – a round trip of 3.8 miles (we took a little detour, so we went more than 4), but we weren’t really sure what to expect. So we started climbing, in the soft, fine sand – perfect sand for a beach! It was tough to climb in – I started feeling it almost right away!

The beginning of The Dune Climb

The beginning of The Dune Climb

We stopped a couple of times on the way up the hill to look back at the view – a gorgeous view of the forest and a nearby lake – picture perfect. I could have stood there for hours just looking at that view (you will see this is a theme for this hike)…

The view of Glen Lake from the top of the first dune

The view of Glen Lake from the top of the first dune

When we got to the top of the hill, the dune flattened out and did a couple of gradual ups and downs. So we kept going.  Peaks and valleys of sand, one after another; we were only able to see the hill immediately coming up in our path. We started finding wooden markers with numbers; we hadn’t noticed them before. The crowd thinned out, and we found ourselves hiking through the loose sand with almost no one else around.

We had been hiking about 45 minutes and had just passed a marker with the number 11 on it when we came upon a group coming back from the other direction. A young lady explained that we just had to get to marker 27 and we’d be at the lake. My heart sank – we were less than halfway – which seemed to mean at least another hour to get there. I thought about turning back, but Jon really wanted to go all the way… What we didn’t know then is that I’m positive that the markers are NOT equidistant (do I get bonus points for using the word equidistant in this blog?).

Up one hill, down another… This is a very strenuous hike, due to the fact that you are always on a hill, and you are hiking in soft sand. But we made it to the lake, with the most fabulous pebble beach, and only 5 other souls… We sat on the beach for a little while, and I took some photos, and posed in some too.  I took the opportunity to pour the sand out of my shoes too!

I loved just listening to the waves lapping the shore, and seeing the gorgeous reflection of the sunshine on the water.  But before too long, we had to turn back, because the sun was already sinking lower in the sky, and we didn’t want to get caught after dark.

Me – Posing with splendid Lake Michigan

Me – Posing with splendid Lake Michigan

The sun over the water on Lake Michigan

The sun over the water on Lake Michigan

We hiked back – and of course it seemed like it went on forever, because now we knew we had to make it to marker 1.  Jon of course powers along, and I bring up the rear. It was peaceful – just me and my heavy breathing…

Me on the way back to the beginning…

Me on the way back to the beginning…

After we made it back from The Dune Climb – and poured the sand out of our shoes – again… we decided to do the scenic drive.  I’ll post about that next!

Have you hiked The Dune Climb at Sleeping Bear Dunes? 

 

MI Road Trip: Lighthouses and Lakes

What kind of houses does Michigan have more of than any other state?  Lighthouses!  Michigan has more than 150 past and present lighthouses, and we were on our way to see one!

After leaving Muskegon, we headed to Ludington, because there was a lighthouse I wanted to see there. We drove through a cute, touristy town – the lighthouse is dead ahead on the main road. The Ludington North Breakwater Light is not technically a lighthouse, because there was never a house attached to it, but I am going to call it one anyway.

The Ludington North Breakwater Light is maintained by the Sable Point Lighthouse Keeper’s Association (I’m not sure if they require you to be a lighthouse keeper to join, but I hope not, because that might be a pretty small group…). It is open for tours between late May and Labor Day, but once again, we were shut down by the fact that it was the off season.

The Ludington North Breakwater Light

The Ludington North Breakwater Light

The first light was constructed in 1871 with federal funds, but getting the funding for a light keeper’s house proved more difficult. Granted, one can just walk out the pier from the town of Ludington to the light, so that probably had something to do with it, but in bad weather the walk along the pier was very precarious.

Even on a sunny day in October, the winds were high enough that we didn’t want to brave the walk along the pier, because waves were crashing over the concrete pier. Imagine trying to make the walk in the dead of winter, during a storm, with a wooden pier! It wasn’t until 1900 that a light keeper’s house was built.

Eventually the wooden pier and the breakwater began to break down and a decision was made to construct the current concrete pier and a new light. The current pyramidal shaped light was constructed in 1924; the unique shape is to deflect the high winds and waves from the lake. It is made with steel plates, and is 57 feet tall.

It was originally lit with a Fourth Order Fresnel lens (for more info on Fresnel lenses see this post), constructed in the United States rather than France, but the lens was removed several years after the light was automated in 1972.  It is currently on display at the Historic White Pine Village, a tourist village that sounded interesting, but with the timing of our trip and other things we wanted to do, it just wasn’t in the cards for us.

And just so you know, that tilt on the lighthouse isn’t my terrible camera angle.  The lighthouse actually is tilted!  In 1994, the crib that the light sits on settled and it tilted 4 degrees to the northeast.  Repairs were considered, but abandoned due to the cost after it was determined that the lighthouse was still safe (don’t worry, I know you are going to scroll back up and look at the photo again – that’s perfectly fine).

Next we drove down the road that runs near the water towards Silver Lake State Park. Before going into the park, we parked and were able to check out the lake and the sand dunes; Jon got his first look at Michigan sand dunes and loved them! But the weather that day was too cold and windy to enjoy the beach for long.  Silver Lake State Park actually has a lighthouse too, but vacations are all about choices, and we decided not to visit this one – but I do wish we had the time for everything.

An interestingly positioned chunk of driftwood on Lake Michigan

An interestingly positioned chunk of driftwood on Lake Michigan

The sun sinks lower over Lake Michigan

The sun sinks lower over Lake Michigan

We made our way to our last stop in Ludington; dinner at the Jamesport Brewing Co. I ordered the beer sampler, with the following beers:

  • Blueberry Wheat – YUM! I loved this. A nice light wheat beer with just a hint of blueberry, and I loved that they served it with some fresh blueberries floating in it.
  • Apricot Wheat – Very light; I didn’t like it when tried it alone, but liked it with food.
  • Hefeweizen – This was a German style Hefeweizen (well yes, they are all German style, but you know what I mean right? Some brewers stick more to the traditional style). It wasn’t my favorite; despite usually being really fond of Hefeweizens.
  • Nitro Stout – Creamy and smooth, with caramel and coffee. Yum!
  • Smoky Porter – Lot of caramel and very smoky. I liked it, but probably wouldn’t want a whole pint.
Jamesport Brewing Co. Beer Sampler

Jamesport Brewing Co. Beer Sampler

I ordered the Lake Perch, a specialty for this restaurant, and I don’t think I have ever had perch, so I wanted to try something new! It was lightly breaded and fried with homemade seasoned French fries. The side salad was delicious too.  Jon had the IPA (he’s getting very predictable) with the Citrus Salmon; it was served on a bed of rice. He had a side salad too. We were both very happy with our choices.

The downtown area of Ludington was quite cute, with several neat shops that I would have loved to poke around in. But they were closed when we finished with dinner (most were closed before we even started dinner). As it were, we continued on to our home for the night in Manistee.

On a country road as the light was fading, we saw a flock of turkeys crossing the road. Turkeys! I had never seen wild turkeys before, so that was pretty neat, but the fading light (and the fact that Jon wouldn’t stop the car) meant that my pictures of them were blurry. As we were getting into Manistee, we were just seeing the last light of the day and enjoyed a lovely view of the lake.

Blurry Turkeys…

Blurry Turkeys…