Dune It Up! Visiting Mt. Baldy

✍️ 🕑 September 8 & 9, 2021 • Series: Go West, Young Lad • Tags: dunesNational ParksIndiana Dunes National Park • Places: Carlson's Drive In Mt. Baldy

When my tour of Warren G. Harding’s home ended at about 2PM, I knew what I was in for. I purchased a postcard from the gift shop, used the bathroom, and hit the road.

Although I would have loved to pay his mausoleum a visit as well, I felt a bit Warren G. Harding-ed out. I was ready for the day to be over, perhaps not unlike someone who just had their first bite of chipped beef & gravy waffles…

Alas, my journey was not over. I had about 255 miles of straight, flat U.S. Highways between Harding’s house and the campsite I booked for the night. Within those miles lay a seemingly infinite number of cornfields, an occasional stop sign, and not too much else.

Image On Where-Is-Steve

Eventually, I would need to get dinner for the night.

And eventually, I would need to put up my tent and catch a good night’s sleep.

My next stop would be the Indiana Dunes National Park, and boy, was I excited.

Drive-In Wednesday

I held off on stopping for food for a while, mainly because I was hoping I could still setup my tent in daylight. Eventually though, hunger and a billboard for Carlson’s Drive-In, very near to the Indiana Dunes National Park, got the better of me.

I pulled in, put my flashers on, and ordered a burger.

And then immediately was wondering why on earth I thought a drive-in was a good idea. I had just spent so many hours sitting in my driver’s seat, and I was eager to… stretch my legs. So, I spent half of the short wait for my food standing around outside my car and stretching, like a crazed idiot.

Eventually, my food arrived I settled back into my driver’s seat, struggled with the little table that attached to my window to hold my food tray/soda cup, and scarfed down my fast food burger so quickly that its flavor needn’t have registered on my taste buds.

A vintage Cutlass pulls out of Carlson's
A vintage Cutlass pulls out of Carlson's

Dunewood Campground

Not too long after dinner, I arrived at the Dunewood Campground, the first of many “primitive” government-run campgrounds where I would stay on my trip.

It was in a forested area, relatively secluded, but not far from the main roads. Certainly, you could hear the interstate, and the occasional train. No surprise to me in either case, as I had read the reviews and knew what I was in for.

Image On Where-Is-Steve

Image On Where-Is-Steve

But, I was exhausted enough from my drive to sink into a deep sleep… and awaken early.

Early in the morning, the air was cool, and the campground was almost silent. (Not really, I wasn’t the first one up, and the noise pollution never stopped… but anyway.)

My sister had given me some coffee inside of tea bags, which is a really nifty invention. I was determined to brew myself some hot joe with my little camp stove (a Monoprice knock-off of a PocketRocket.)

Unfortunately, I realized that the little sparking device was not catching the gas on fire. So I emptied my pot of cold water back into my water bottle, dumped a quantity of instant coffee, and gave it a few shakes.

The resulting beverage was vile, ice cold, and with a nice grainy texture from some unincorporated coffee flakes. I realized that the cold Nescafe I had enjoyed in the past had been mixed with milk and not water, and with a lower instant coffee:water ratio than I threw in my bottle.

Thus, I depleted a small portion of my water supply, and in return received a bottle of coffee that I could only describe as “For Emergency Use Only.”

Of course, I probably still wound up drinking half of it…

Indiana Dunes National Park

See how the vegetation keeps some of the sand in place, though wind & erosion want to have their way.
See how the vegetation keeps some of the sand in place, though wind & erosion want to have their way. open_in_full   info

The Indiana Dunes are a real cool little spot. Administratively, the region is split between a State Park, and a national park (formerly a National Lakeshore.) Ideally, I would have liked to have spent time in the State Park as well, but it has a daily admission fee, unlike the National Park, which is free. So, I visited the National Park, which is made up of various patches of duney lakeshore.

The dunes themselves were once underwater, but are a complex living organism, anchored by beachgrass.

Beaches and sand dunes formed along the shores of the lake over 10,000 years ago, as sediments carried by rivers and weathered from the shore by wave action were deposited along the coast. Remnants of these early phases of dune-building, now forested over, are found inland of the modern coastline (purple on the map below). The modern dunes and beaches (blue) began forming about 5,900 years ago.

I’d suggest reading some more about them via the official USGS page.

Mt. Baldy

Mt. Baldy is the tallest of the Indiana Dunes at 126 feet. It is quite near the parking lot, as erosion from visitors has led the dune to move southwards. And, as you can imagine, it’s pretty much fenced off as a result, though visitors were formerly able to climb it for a view of Chicago.

There’s a trail that leads from nearby the dune to a section of lakefront.

Image On Where-Is-Steve
open_in_full   info
Trail Information
Name Mt. Baldy Beach Trail
Type point-to-point
Location Indiana Dunes National Park
State IN
Country USA
Miles 0.8
Check out the trails index for information on more trails!

As far as trails go, Mt. Baldy’s trail is nothing special. It’s a short, sandy trail leading past the titular dune to a nice section of lakeshore, which I had to myself at 7 or so in the morning. One needn’t tax oneself unnecessarily in order to reap the rewards of these views.

An abundance of shade and leafery on this trail.
An abundance of shade and leafery on this trail. open_in_full   info

A lovely beach -- your reward for climbing a sandy hill.
A lovely beach -- your reward for climbing a sandy hill. open_in_full   info
A bird! Spotted in the wooded section of the trail.
A bird! Spotted in the wooded section of the trail. open_in_full   info

Departing this section of the National Park, I continued westward.

My coffee was vile, but my heart remained full of hope. I was looking forward to my next stop, where I hoped to do some more bird photography.