Indiana Dunes National Park


Despite our short setback in Virginia we still made it to our original destination for the night, Xenia, Ohio. Granted we drove until 11 PM, but that particular Walmart was the most welcoming per our app AllStays (user feedback in the app tells where the quietest, safest, and most welcoming Walmart lots around the country are located).  Xenia also gave us the shortest drive next morning to the park. I wasn’t super thrilled to be staying at a Walmart outside Dayton, OH though as both a Walmart in Texas and a nightclub in Dayton were the scene of two mass shootings resulting in 30 dead just the day before. While the two are unrelated it still felt very eerie.


 We set out early the next morning and hit the road by 6:15 AM to beat the Dayton morning rush. We were successful and made it to the Dunewoods Campgrounds at Indiana Dunes National Park in Beverly Shores at noon, exactly as planned! 🙌

Our first trip with the trailer fully packed and stocked was most certainly a learning lesson. We learned to open cabinets carefully as items have shifted, hence spaghetti all over the floor above. 😄 We also learned that we are terrible at packing!! LOL! It honestly looked as though someone had broken into the trailer and ransacked it. 
These .97 bins from Walmart and sticky grip tape have recently become my new favorite trailer trick. 

After setting up camp we made our way to the visitor center, which appeared to house both the State and National Park staff, to get our passports stamped. They told us about the three dunes challenge of hiking the three highest dunes in a 1.5 miles round-trip hike. I always love a good outdoor challenge, but that’s in the state park which cost $12 to enter, so we went with the $6 entry fee at the National Park's West Beach location. Y'all know I'm cheap! 😉 Driving down to West Beach though we passed huge factories on the lake, smoke billowing out of their stacks. This made us second guess our decision, considering Duncan had mentioned that the water was not safe to swim in when he and Mom were there back in 2016. So we bit the bullet and headed to the state park. It was the farthest away from any industrial buildings.

Walking up stunned us all, it was crystal clear for as far as the eye can see quietly lapping into mounds of golden dunes higher than houses.

 It was a busy day at the beach for a Monday, but there was still plenty of space in the water to not feel packed one on top of the other. It was quite a funny sight to see people 20 feet out in the water and yet your still only up to your thighs and the fact that it was waveless was weird. My eyes were convinced it was the Ocean, but my brain knew better.
Panorama of Lake Michigan
After swimming & wading for a bit I was able to convince everyone to go for a "short" hike to the sand dune up ahead. I may have lied just a bit about the distance to the girls, but promised a good run down the other side, called Devil's Slide. We grabbed water bottles & flip-flops and headed up. I quickly realized that flip-flops were a terrible idea. Our toes were on fire from the blazing hot sand. Teagan couldn't handle it and was falling behind so Mike put her on his shoulder and up he went.

 He's such a good Daddy! When it comes to our hikes he never hesitates to put her on his shoulders and trek on.

I was certain that I was going to coerce them all into the 3-Dune Challenge once we are at the top, but after that foot burning climb to the top of Devil's Slide (the name is making much more sense now 🔥) I quickly caved and we just took in the beauty from the top of that dune.

I always looked forward to visiting the Great Lakes after seeing friends' Andrea and Kim‘s pictures of their family trips to Michigan. The view did not disappoint!
The girls decided that instead of running down the slide, they were going to crawl down, cause burnt arms and legs is much more fun than just toes! 😳

After swimming a little bit longer (my toes thanked me) we devised a game plan of heading back to the trailer for dinner and then a walk to the beach to see the sunset. What we didn’t tell the girls right away is that there would also be a marsh hike along the way. Hehe!
I'm sure by now you are seeing a theme here, but I must explain. It is necessary to lie, fib, or stretch the truth a bit when it comes to hikes with Teagan. She always gets overwhelmed by the thought of a hike, but I guarantee you when she's out there, and after she gets over the initial whine of starting it, she always has fun. She starts exploring and being fascinated by the world around her and she enjoys it. It's just that initial hump we have to get over first. Ha!

Our first real meal in the camper was grilled cheese and steamed broccoli, very sophisticated! Washing dishes is quite the ordeal in such a small space. We haven’t quite figured out a rhythm yet, but I'm sure we will.


40 minutes till sunset and we started for the beach. Mike thought we should take the car, but being only a little over a mile away I suggested we walk. Just over the train tracks on the right was the Great Marsh Trail. A gorgeous one-mile trail that winds through wildflowers and little ponds. It reminded me so much of South Carolina.
Heron's and Egrets abounded while bees and flies buzzed all around. Speaking of flies, these big suckers kept swarming our heads. We weren’t sure if it was because we hadn't bathed in two days or not. Ha! Teagan couldn't handle it any longer, she hates bugs, so we cut the hike short to break free of them.
Much to our dismay, they followed us. Now both girls are whining and I regret making as walk as my thighs are chafing. LOL! I suggest we catch an Uber for the way home but after seeing it was $13 to go one mile Mike decides he'll be our Uber. As soon as we get to the beach he turns around to head back. Poor guy, we should’ve driven from the get-go.

Only moments after he leaves I remember my phone died on the walk there and run back to the street to switch phones with him so I can get a sunset picture, but he is fast and long gone.

The girls head into the water to swim and I lay down, soaking in that our journey has finally begun. We are now at our first national park and this moment that I have only seen in dreams is real and I'm touching it. Toes in the sand, sun on my face, laughing in my ear real. I know not all moments will be like this one, but I am letting this one sink deep into my memory. All while still swiping flies and sand gnats from my head. Haha!!

Comments

  1. I love hearing all the "real" details of your trip. When you just see the posts on Instagram, you imagine that everything is magical and perfect. Reading these posts, shows how you can overcome all the challenges and obstacles of real life and still manage to find the magic and beauty in your surroundings!

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    1. Thank you, Christy! I really appreciate that comment. That's exactly what we want to show through the blog. The ups and downs, the highs and lows, and the silver linings. ☺️

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