Have you ever had one of those days where everything just seems to go wrong? And not because you woke up on the wrong side of the bed. In fact, you wake up in a great mood, ready to take on the day, and then…. You spill your coffee on the way to work, get stuck in a traffic jam and arrive late to work where chaos has erupted.
Everyone has been there, and sometimes it can be really hard to pull yourself out of the bad mood and remind yourself a bad day does not mean a bad life. The same thing can be said for trips that don’t necessarily go your way. When we learned of the 61st National Park opening up in the USA, we were beyond excited. Finally, another National Park added to the Midwest! It was perfect timing to visit the park and add to our 2019 monthly adventures. Since I had the weekend off for Fourth of July, we decided to head up on July 4th and stay for two nights.
America's Newest National Park!
Before, during and after every trip we are always reminding ourselves how blessed and lucky we are to get to do something we both love. Each adventure throughout 2019 was no different, and honestly, we were sometimes shocked at how amazing a simple weekend in Muskegon could be in the middle of winter. We have so much fun exploring new places, even if the local photographer said things like, “You choose to visit Muskegon, why?”
So, coming to Indiana Dunes National Park was no exception to our blessings, even after all of our complications. To start, deciding to go when I had a long weekend, also meant half (or more) of the working population had a long weekend. While we realized we were heading to Lake Michigan, it didn’t fully occur to us how busy the area would be. We are talking at least a two hour wait just to get into the State Park (Indiana Dunes State Park is actually located inside of the National Park). After visiting the Dorothy Buell Visitor Center, we made a quick right turn into what appeared to be over a mile of stopped traffic, waiting to get into the State Park. So, we made a quick turn around to go do some exploring away from this area.
Year 1 Of National Park Designation
Driving through the park has some amazing views, and we were able to make a quick stop and take some photographs. We also came across these homes that were mass produced and transported across the lake. You may notice them due to the bright color homes located right on the water. The Century of Progress Homes were produced for the 1933 Chicago World Fair and barged across Lake Michigan by developer Robert Bartlett. It was interesting to pull-off and read the history of each of these homes.
Unfortunately, the wait time to get into the State Park was not our only occurrence with the busy weekend. We couldn’t find parking ANYWHERE; even to just walk down to the beach and hang out for a bit. We drove around for over an hour trying to find any place to park. Feeling a little defeated we decided to try one of the hiking trails we picked before arriving, Cowles Bog. Mind you, at this point we are also frustrated because we haven’t seen any dunes. REALITY CHECK: we were expecting SAND dunes, Indiana DUNES National Park is full of rugged dunes full of vegetation. Why had we pictured the Sleeping Bear Sand Dunes? We aren’t entirely sure, but here we were after hours of being at the park with only a few photographs and not feeling like we had our “experience.”
Beautiful Lake Michigan
So, mind over matter, we wanted to enjoy the rest of our day and go on this hike. We made it to the area and were able to find a parking spot. The parking lot is located across the street from the trail head. HOWEVER, we didn’t realize this when we started hiking and there is a trail head for a different trail directly behind the lot. So, we started walking in the wrong direction. It was hot and humid, and we kept wondering when we were going to get to the shore. We weren’t the only ones who made this mistake. We ran across a family on the trail who told us there was nothing to look at in the end of the trail, but they had a stroller, and we thought we would be able to make it up the dunes and see the water.
False Cowles Bog
We kept moving and walking along the path that seemed to match the map we kept pulling up of Cowles Bog. In the end, we ended up on a street with no view of the water and a really low amount of patience. We decided to head back to the car and evaluate what to do with the rest of our day. We were both exhausted, hot and hungry, which is never a good combination (can we all admit that ‘hangry’ is the worst mood). Given this, we decided to head back to the hotel and shower and get ready for dinner and fireworks.
4th Of July Fireworks
The firework show was okay, however, to add to our stressful day, Colin was getting a really bad toothache during the show. We later found out this was due to needing a root canal, but the pain was enough to make us leave and go to the store for some tooth numbing medicine. For dinner, we ended up eating Wendy’s because, well everything was closed for the fourth of July. By this point, we are laughing because there is no other way to handle days like this. We laughed at ourselves while we sat in Wendy’s on the Fourth of July eating our Frosty’s and talking about how to make tomorrow better.
Baby, You're A Firework!
Day Two: We wanted to start off this day with the Cowles Bog hike. The REAL one. We planned this for two reasons. 1) to make sure we could do what we came here to see and 2) show the trail who was boss. Our mistake, because the trail felt the competition and decided to beat us at our own game. On this trail, I didn’t feel my usual sense of peace and serenity, finding happiness in being outdoors with the person I love most, with beautiful views. Instead, I found myself in one of the most miserable moments I have ever been in, thanks to the biting flies!
Cowles Bog Trail
The REAL Cowles Bog
One thing about me is, I have what can only be described as a temper tantrum, when I am inconvenienced (not my greatest trait, but I am working on improving). So, to say I was not having a good time is an understatement. Had it not been for Colin, I would have turned around two minutes into the hike and sat back in my air-conditioned car.
Finally Found The Lake!
However, I am happy he decided to push on, and by doing this, push me outside of my cozy comfort zone. I ended up using my tank top to at least prevent the flies from flying in my eyes and nose. This helped a lot and from there I simply followed Colin’s steps and kept moving (a little life lesson there I would say).
Attack Of The Flies - Part 1
We made it to the end, and the view was definitely wonderful. For anyone wondering if it was all worth it, that is a difficult question to answer. Both yes and no. Once we were able to walk down to the sand and swim, with a Lake Michigan beach entirely to ourselves, we did say it was all worth the hassle.
Overlooking Lake Michigan
Once we made it down to the beach, the flies weren’t as bad, but still very active. We had to stay in the water in order to not be bitten. We did love being able to swim with no one else around and cool off after the long, hot hike. We used the GoPro to get some fun pictures, and of course took our obligatory flag shot.
FIRE UP CHIPS!
A Much Needed Break
I wish I could say the hike back was better, but the flies didn’t stop until the very end. It was rather funny though, because we didn’t realize the flies had stopped swarming us and we both had our shirts over our head and later realized the hikers passing by probably thought we were crazy.
We finally made it back to our car after successfully hiking the trail. Finishing the hike was both a relief and an overwhelming feeling of accomplishment. Afterwards, we cooled off in the car and drove back to the hotel to shower.
Eventually we made our way down to Valparaiso for lunch and coffee. We enjoyed the rest of our trip doing our favorite things; eating and maintaining full caffeine capacity. Once back into Porter, we were able to get dinner at the Mexican restaurant we wanted to eat at the night before. It was delicious!
While we faced many challenges during this adventure, we are so happy we were able to experience a new National Park in its inaugural season. It was a lesson and adventure all in one and something we both will never forget.