It is Fall 2016 Trip Time. YAY!!!! Lovely day for a drive – sunny, not too windy. My destination for the day is the Walmart in Rochelle Illinois. Not too long of a drive – a mere 5 hours. Easy, Peasy.
Eight hours later, I finally roll into the Walmart parking lot. I am beat. I am fried. From Mauston Wisconsin, just a little bit north of Madison to the Wisconsin border I averaged maybe about 10-15 miles an hour. Don't know if it was Labor Day traffic or just plain old road construction. All I know is that when you have planned ahead as far as rest stops and you are moving along the road at a snail's pace, the urge to find a rest room becomes rather unbearable. The good thing about going so slow is that at this point the wind had picked up quite a bit and if I had been going freeway speeds, I would have been blown all over the road. At 10 miles per hour, not a problem. This would be my longest drive of this trip – I think if I follow my planned route (no guarantees), I have a couple of three hour drives and everything else is less than three hours.
I've stayed at this Walmart last March and it was not a particular restful night back then because of all the semis staying there also. Semis tend to let their diesel engines run all night long. Since March, there are all sorts of signs posted saying No Semis. I ended up being the only RV in the lot and all was good.
Next up is the dreaded drive through Chicago. I purposely traveled south so I could miss the brunt of the Chicago traffic but I was still very worried. Don't know what I was worried about – at 10:00 a.m., it was a piece of cake. At this point, I would like to nominate Atlanta as the worst possible place to drive through. Chicago ain't got nothing on Atlanta.
I arrived at Indiana Dunes State Park in Chesterfield, Indiana. This state park is surrounded by the Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore, so tomorrow will be an opportunity add another notch to my Junior Ranger belt. I have a pretty nice site, except the tree right next to the RV has all of these creepy cobweby things in them. I learn that these are Fall Webworms. They build this web structures and then come out at night to feed. As I said, creepy. I have electricity which is important today with it being so hot.
|Fall Webworm Nest|
So, let's see:
105 degree heat index
carry no water
forget the bug spray
Yup, I think I'm ready to hit the trails.
The trail I've chosen is listed as moderate and only .75 miles. I can do that in my sleep. It starts out fairly level and shaded, for maybe a few hundred feet. Then we start to climb and climb and climb. We aren't talking little dunes like you see along the ocean. My clue should have been when I noticed on the map that they name the dunes. Names like Mt. Holden or Mt. Jackson. Mt – short for mountain. Onward we go, Miko dragging me ever upward. We finally got to the top and then it is all downhill to Lake Michigan. Sand is funny – when you are climbing up, you take a step and your foot slides a little backwards – when you go down, it is almost like being on a kid's slide – you go skidding down. It doesn't help that Miko has heard waves and as we all know – she is a wave hound – she is now in a full run – nothing is going to stop her from wave chasing.
|Start of the trail|
|Steps going up the dune|
|Finally...Lake Michigan - it's all downhill from here|
It is a lovely beach, lots of white sand and Lake Michigan is very cool and refreshing. I let Miko chase waves for quite a bit mostly because I was dreading the long climb back. I had taken my shoes off to wade in the water and because my feet were all sandy I did not put them back on. I'm here to tell you that white sand that has been baking in the sun gets hot, hot, hot.
For those keeping score – the dune I climbed was Mt. Tom – elevation 902 feet which doesn't sound like much, 902 feet almost straight up is impressive. Well, at least I'm impressed.
Ran into a couple of guys who were tent camping. I felt rather bad for them with it being so hot until they told me they had a portable air conditioner with them. They just hooked it up to the electricity, put it in their tent and it keep it pretty cool. Now that is taking glamping to a whole other level.
Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore – I walk up to the information counter and say “I'm here for the Junior Ranger Program” The excitement level on the Ranger's part is palpable. This Junior Ranger program involved going to three different sites to complete the booklet. It took me most of the afternoon to visit all the sites and to also do the necessary hikes. The hike starts down at the beach on Lake Michigan and then you climb thru the dunes noticing how Mother Nature works to convert all this sand into a forest. Lots of steps and a couple of boardwalks.
|The Bailey Homestead|
|The Succession Trail which wandered thru the dunes|
|Another stairway to heaven - notice the little person and the big stairway|
I scored big time in the Junior Ranger program. Evidently there are many different types of Junior Ranger They gave me five booklets for different aspects of Junior Ranger. They did not have the badges for them all but I am now not only a Junior Ranger for Indiana Dunes BUT also a National Park Centennial Junior Ranger AND a Historic Preservation Junior Ranger. I will be mailing in a couple of books to the NPS and they will send me badges for being a Wildland Fire Junior Ranger and a Night Sky Junior Ranger. Does life get any better?
|L to R: Indiana Dunes National Seashore; Centennial, Historic Preservation|