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Indiana Dunes National Park -- Road Trip Day 2


Indiana Dunes was the second National Park stop on our road trip from Pennsylvania to Washington state. The first stop was a brief trail at Cuyahoga Valley National Park in Ohio. We got a late start leaving Pennsylvania so we didn't really get to do much there, but that's okay. You gotta roll with the punches on trips like these!

We woke up in the morning after after Cuyahoga at the KOA and made some coffee on the propane stove with our French Press. Now that's fancy. We needed it. We didn't sleep at all. We were told the campsites were sand. But were gravel. That can't be the same thing can it? There were no sand sites there! There was a dog barking half the night AND there was construction going on nearby on a road, even overnight! I think there was even a train every now and then too.

Marsh Wetlands on the Cowles Bog Trail
Hey look! Some wetlands on the Cowles Bog Trail -- Indiana Dunes NP


We didn't have anything to cook for breakfast so we packed everything up and left for Indiana Dunes. We ended up just eating snacks from from Blue Heron Service Plaza in Ohio, haha. Nothing wrong with that.

Indiana Dunes National Park, situated along the southern tip of Lake Michigan in the state of Indiana, stands as a testament to the beauty and ecological diversity of the American Midwest. Covering around 15,000 acres, the park is a fascinating blend of dunes, forests, wetlands, and prairies, serving as a sanctuary for an array of wildlife and plant species. I was a little freaked out coming here, because it's right near Gary, Indiana, which has often been named the worst city in the country. Actually, part of the park is in Gary, Indiana I believe. Yes, Gary has a National Park...

 Interestingly, it is one of the newest additions to the U.S. National Park system, officially designated as a National Park on February 15, 2019 due to then President Trump signing an omnibus spending bill.  Prior to that, it was known as the Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore, a name it held since its original designation in 1966! Locals are split on whether this designation is good for the park or not. Does it matter? Does the park receive additional funding? Better funding? All I know is we had a good time!

The park's most iconic features are, undoubtedly, the dunes themselves. These sandy hills, formed over thousands of years by the winds blowing across Lake Michigan, can reach heights of nearly 200 feet. As someone who used to visit beaches like Ocean City, Maryland, the Outer Banks, and Delaware beaches, these dunes definitely surprised me. They're huge! Nothing like the ones I was used to. They must get some good winds out here! (Windy City across the lake, cough cough)

Mushroom at Indiana Dunes NP
They've got fungus!

We had a few hours to spare at Indiana Dunes so we tried a trail, Cowles Bog trail, that covered a lot of what makes Indiana Dunes unique. Dunes. Beaches. Woods. Marshes. Etc! We did it all! And paid for it! We forgot bug spray and got eaten. ALIVE. By mosquitos. Worth it! Very beautiful place. It was a very hot day though. Once we climbed down the dunes all of us, including the dogs we're hot and exhausted. I was actually a bit worried about having to climb back up the dunes to get back we were so hot and tired. We were under prepared on water as well, and were giving most of it to the dogs while we suffered. We're new to the trail hiking game, we'll learn. We'll learn.

I've heard people complain about its transformation from a National Seashore to a National Park. I'm not sure what all changed in that switch, but as long as its being preserved, that works for me! What is strikingly odd is the industrial factory in the middle of the park that sort of cuts the park in half. While on the trail we could hear noises and horns coming from it. Nothing like the natural sound of an industrial horn!

The Dogs just walked down the big dunes at Indiana Dunes
Pups taking a break after climbing down those big dunes to the beach!

Off the giant dune down by the shore @ Indiana Dunes
We made it down the giant dunes! Now to climb back up...

Chicago from Indiana Dunes National Park
Hey look, I can see Chicago from here! Right across the lake!

After suffering through the heat of the dunes we headed to our hotel for the night at the Hilton Garden Inn in Chesterson, IN. After the previous night of horrible sleep in a tent, it was a welcome reprieve. 

In the morning we will drive through Chicago. It turned out to be an uneventful day so check out Day 4 of the road trip when we visited Great River Bluffs State Park in Minnesota!


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