Nature Trek: Hiking the Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore

Local Adventures, Our Explorations

wpid-imag4460.jpgSaturday was one of those days crammed to the brim with new experiences + new places, and we ran from morning to night. Happily, I might add.

Saturday morning it was cool and slightly overcast, which seemed like perfect weather for an early morning hike. After breakfast and delish butter coffee, we threw our gear for the day in the back of the 4Runner and headed out.

The Indiana Dunes State Park is a forested swath of dunes nestled against the Lake Michigan shoreline. There are 10 or so trails that crisscross the dunes, many of which have amazing views of the water and the Chicago skyline.

wpid-imag4454.jpgWe started at the Nature Center where the girls looked at some of the displays and watched a racoon eat its breakfast through a viewing window. It’s funny how watching a racoon at a nature center seems so cute; not so cute when that racoon is digging through the garbage when you live in the city.

So after a potty break, dousing with some natural insect repellant (all essential oils and works marvelously!) we set out on trail #7, a 1.1 mile “moderate” hike that ends on the beach. Kirk wore the littlest one in the Ergo, and we talked about how we should probably invest in a hiking baby carrier. They tend to be sturdier and hold the child away from the hiker’s sweaty body. And by sweaty body, I’m referring to Kirk’s. Ha. V and I trudged along behind Kirk (he has a long gait, even with a kid on the back.)

wpid-imag4466.jpgIt was a pretty awesome hike: dense forest, wildflowers, and a pretty spectacular view at the end. I’m still building up endurance and trying to strengthen my heart, so I took it nice and slow. Kids make it pretty easy to pace yourself.

wpid-imag4479.jpgWhen we reached the summit of the small dune, we were rewarded with a clear view of the lake. V perched herself on a sand dune and looked out over the water. Moments like that remind me that I need to be more intentional about giving her some (safe) freedom and space to think. We all need that, right?

wpid-imag4493.jpgWe ran down to the water’s edge and played for a few minutes before heading back toward the campground on trail #4. We didn’t realize that trail #4 has about 150 stairs leading to the top of Mt. Tom. Oops! Once we reached the top, we had a breathtaking view over the top of the state park and out toward the lake.

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wpid-imag4497.jpgI think Mt. Tom is the tallest dune at the Indiana Dunes State Park, so we were fairly proud of ourselves. Once we reached the top, Kirk and I switched baby-carrying duty, and I wore little C in the Ergo.

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wpid-imag4504.jpgWe finished with a meander through the campground, with V asking if she “could please go inside some of the Airstreams here?” Uh-oh. Apparently, she confused campground with RV dealer. We broke it to her gently that people don’t usually appreciate strangers coming into their homes, trailer, tent, or otherwise. Our girl has a bad case of aluminitis.

wpid-imag4509.jpgWe headed toward the swimming beach, and spent about 45 minutes playing in the water and sand before heading out for some lunch. Digging around on my phone, I realized there was a pretty cool local hotdog joint that is nearly entirely carbon neutral. The dogs were great, and the homemade sodas were interesting: espresso and ginger.

Driving back, the clouds had cleared and it was bright blue out. Windows down, music up. It was only 1:30pm and there was still more to do! We spent the afternoon watching my nephews’ belt tests for martial arts, then went to a festival/benefit downtown. Live music, food trucks, and ice cream were the perfect ending to the jam packed day.

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wpid-imag4519.jpgHere’s hoping the rest of the summer is full of exploring new places and having little family adventures!

Simple Beach Living | A Short Recap of Our First Week

Local Adventures, Our Explorations

Hello dear friends!

As I mentioned in my last post, I’m super excited to share with you all of the fun we’ve been having over the past week. image

A few days after we arrived, we headed to the local beach to make sandcastles and hang out for a bit. The weather was absolutely perfect, and the beach was packed.

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Later that night we left the girls with my mom and went to the next town over, a slightly larger university town, for a little date night. This picture definitely doesn’t do it justice; the place was hopping! Lots of sidewalk cafes and a Thursday night town dining special meant everyone was out and about.

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We got coffees at a little cafe and then strolled hand in hand through the historic neighborhood directly adjacent. Sidewalks everywhere, people! OKC doesn’t have a clue what a sidewalk is, so we were thrilled to see them. We soaked in the ambience of the older homes and the streetlights dotting the blocks. IF (and obviously this is a big if) we stay put longer term, we will live in this area, without a doubt. It is so walkable and really family friendly.

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The next night we took the girls back to that town’s square to walk around. We had hoped to pick up some stuff for dinner al fresco at a cheese shop, but it closed at 6pm, and we missed it by minutes. So we did what any wonderfully smart parents do, we got our kids ice cream instead (in our defense, they had a really late lunch, lunner, if you will.)

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Followed up by running around the splash pad downtown while the sun made its downward trek across the sky. Lots of kids were running around, and the girls had a blast splashing in the water.

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The farmer’s market Saturday was packed, and I picked up some homemade olive relish (amazing, by the way), freshly ground locally roasted coffee, and garlic dill cheese curds.

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We even picked up a homemade vanilla marshmallow, which V and I devoured off to the side. It was absolutely delicious!

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Later that day we headed to the marina where my brothers and my parents dock their boats. My brothers were both on their boats for Coast Guard inspection day, but thankfully were done.

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We hung out on the boats for a few and then headed over to the marina restaurant to have lunch with my brother and his wife. V was so excited because the Coast Guard had set up a children’s area with princess and pirate stuff. She was very thrilled to get her very first princess fake tattoo. Hopefully she doesn’t follow this up when any real princess tattoos.

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It was an absolutely gorgeous day to walk around the marina. Hope you enjoyed having a little glimpse into the past week here for us. It’s been raining a ton the last 24 hours, so we haven’t gotten out as much. Kirk picked up a new to me road bike in Chicago, so I’m really looking forward to testing it on the trail that runs behind the house. More to come!