A great place to relax under the shrubbery. Photo used under Creative Commons from Kevin Dooley
America's Fourth Coast?
Sometimes referred to as America's fourth Coast (a rude patron of an Indiana bar informed me of this with much indignation at my ignorance), the third being the Gulf of Mexico, Lake Michigan offers a long, clean coastline largely free from the more crowded beaches of the proper coasts. In Indiana a particular stretch of this coast line belongs to the National Parks service and is home to the famous Indiana Dunes.
Indiana Dunes National Park is over 15,000 plus acres, small in comparison to many other national parks. Despite its size it contains an amazing diversity of plant species (ranking 7th in the nation) and natural features. Perhaps the best known of these is the monstrosity known as Mount Baldy.
The monstrous Mount Baldy of Indiana Dunes National Park. Photo used under Creative Commons from Fisherga
This king of the dunes sits at over 120 plus feet above the shore line. I accustomed to sand dunes and beaches growing up on Long Island New York, but not on this scale. If the notion of climbing up the southern facing slope of this big guy enters your mind after an afternoon on the nearby lake shore, I urge you to think again.
Thanks to the liberal Indiana law allowing alcohol on their shores (screw you Illinois) my treks uphill and laughing attempts to race my friends to the top, were often followed by a spill or two. Followed of course, by a free ride (courtesy of gravity) to the base.
Combating Erosion - Stay Off the Damn Dunes
Since those days many years ago extra precautions have been taken to preserve the severely eroding state of Mount Baldy. Fences have been installed at the base to prevent people from scaling the to the top. In part due to its fame, part due to the fabulous sun bathing to be had on its southern facing slope over looking the water (where many locals and would be sun bathers can be found in the summer months) the much needed dune grass atop has been dying off.
This lack of erosion preventing fauna accelerates the movement of the dune north. A movement of 5 to 7 feet a year north, depending on the source of the estimates, towards the trail leading from the parking lot. A parking lot I might add that has showers and year round bathroom facilities. Though you won't find me braving an Indiana winter on one of those cold metal toilets!
To combat this problem that has been occurring since a nearby break was made at Michigan City for their dock, the Army Core of Engineers has been dumping sand on the dune to make up for this lack of replenishment by the lake itself. An all too familiar process as each passing hurricane carries away the barrier beaches to the great Atlantic on Long Island.
There are several miles of trails and Cowles Bog close by, where bird watching appears to be popular (if that is your thing). I did that once in boy scouts and have never gone down that path again.