A new trail - mostly open and best on a sunny, but cooler day, i.e., 70 degree's F is the Portage Lakefront trail along the Burns Waterway. One half is through dune blowouts and the other is on a boardwalk along the Burns Waterway. It's a view of any boats going to and from the lake and the side of the Burns Harbor Steel Coating Plant of US Steel.
Each beach along the Indiana coast line has a unique flavor. West Beach, with a picnic ground, bathhouse, vending machine, and beach assistants makes this a great place for families and many do visit. Busiet by mid-day, you'll find late afternoons and early evenings best if you want fewer people. You'll hear Spanish as well as English on this and other beaches.
For more images, see my West Beach travelogue.
The last stop of the day. This is a trail which gives you a few options - either you can do about a half mile loop, which cuts across a pond on a raised boardwalk, or you can circumnavigate the whole pond, tacking on another half mile. The trail was flat and easy to follow. We decided to cut it short, as we were running on empty, and I am satisfied with that choice, as the views off the boardwalk were nice. Most of this half of the trail is shaded by the woods. Note that you park on the east side of Lake Street, then cross over the pedestrian bridge to the trailhead.
I'm including this stop for posterity, as there isn't that much to do. There's a very small parking lot, adjacent to a short raised boardwalk, which ends on an overlook above the marsh area with a few placards describing the scene. You can take a walk through the marsh via the Inland Marsh Trail, which has a trailhead about a half mile east of here.
Across the way from our stop at the Calumet Dune Trail, we decided this was the beach we would check out. The first thing to be aware of is that the only parking to speak of is a pretty decent sized lot, but it is about a quarter mile away from the entrance to the beach...so there is a small hike ahead of you (also note there are no sidewalks, and traffic moves a little more briskly than it should. At the parking lot, you can take the short, but steep and sandy Dune Ridge Trail - with kids in tow, we skipped this and headed right to the beach. No charge for parking here, and this was not a designated swimming area (the waves looked pretty rough.) So, if you're just in the mood to lie on the sand, this is a nice spot.
This is a short (0.8 mile) hike that starts at the Calumet Dune Interpretive Center (the former Visitor Center of the park, now closed to the public.) Despite the name, the actual hike is through a serene wooded area. The trail itself is accessible - paved the whole way. Some areas are a little on the narrow side, which means you have to watch for poison ivy. The trail gets its name from the fact that it sits on the Calumet Dune ridge - thousands of years ago, this was a beach. On the trail itself, you won't run across a ton of great scenery, but you will cross over a small creek and be at peace with the quiet forest. The hike will take no more than an hour.
Since the promise of a sunny April afternoon never quite materialized, we decided to take a hike on one of the shorter trails in the Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore just in case it started raining. We had a bit of an adventure getting there, the road to the Rookery was blocked off but a helpful Hoosier said not to worry, just go around the barricades, the road is caving in but still driveable. As we didn't have a local map, we decided to go for it, sure enough the road was caving in on the bridge over the expressway but still driveable.
The adventure continued once we parked in the lot, only three other cars were parked, we spotted the 1st two people searching for something on the ground, wildflowers maybe? We spotted the 2nd set of people with binoculars heading back to their car. But where the heck were the people from the 3rd car? We kept our eyes peeled for serial killers skulking about and vowed to stop watching CSI.
I couldn't quite remember how long the trail was but it seemed like we had walked for longer than a mile, still looking for the elusive herons. I had expected to come upon a body of water of some sort where the herons were hanging out when the trail ended unceremiously in a parking lot. We were on our way back when the rain started but it stopped shortly thereafter, at least while we were dodging raindrops we had forgotten about the serial killer who turned out to be a man in khaki shorts who looked about as threatening as Mr. Rogers.
Although we didn't spot any, the Great Blue Herons return here in mid-March to repair their nests along the Little Calumet River and are visible until early May when the new leaves block the view. There were quite a few spring flowers, they should be there from late March until early June.
We were a little early for the fall colors, some of the trees had begun to change into the glorious reds, yellows and oranges but most of the trees were still sporting green leaves thanks to the mild fall we've been having.
The Bailly Homestead & Chellberg Farm Trail is an easy 2.1 mile trail that takes you by some restored historic buildings
The Little Cal (as it's locally called) trail is a great trail to walk several times a year. You can watch the seasons change. In the fall, the cool crisp air, is dry and the colors of the leaves are like a Monet painting. Winter brings cold biting air and a prelude to the spring mud. You can see through the forest and really see the bluffs and the open swamp lands long the river banks. By spring, you'll be glad for the burst of color. Some is only the green leaves of small plants, others include the wildflowers rapidly rising from the dark soils to grasp the first light of spring before the trees leaf out. Late spring will bring the light greens of the tree tops as new leaves emerge. By mid summer, the forest is darker and heavier as the canopy holds in the moist air.
Of course, part of the trail passes through Monke Prairie (Pretty Place in the Potawatomi language). Here, each season has it's own variations, not seen along the river bottom.
The Little Calumet River trail can be reached several ways. Most commonly, from the Bailly/Chellberg Visitor Center (3.3 m - 5.3 km). It can also be started from the Howe Road trailhead overlooking the Little Calumet lowlands (2.9 m - 4.6 km).
The Miller Woods Trail takes you through the inter-dunal wetlands and the Black Oak Savanna that surround them.To really enjoy the trail, you'll have to take you time and learn to sit quietly. You'll hear the birds, see small creature scurry through the undergrowth. In spring, the wild flower can carpet the rolling hills. All with a background hum of US Steel's Gary Plant just over the trees to the west. A busy railroad line to the south and traffice on Lake Street on the east is constant. After all, this is the Miller Community of the City of Gary. We're in the 'Great Chicago" Metropolitan area.
The Dune Succession trail is a loop that runs from the parking lot through the dunes on the east to the beach and then back along the bathhouse road to the parking area. While short (0.9 miles - 1.5 km), it climbs to the top of the dunes along the route.
The trail is unique in that it takes you through the changing dune environment. Beginning in the parking lot, there is rolling sand hills covered with sparse grass. It can be very hot in the summer as the sun reflects off the exposed sand and there are not trees for shade. Withing a 1/10 of a mile (0.2 km) you come to the foot of the dunes and begin the long climb. To protect the dunes from erosion by human feet, you have a staircase climbing to the top. It's a long climb, but I'd never make it without the stairs. As you climb, you enter the wood covered peaks. Here the sand is held in place by the roots of the trees. Here, you'll find a cool breeze and welcome shade on a hot day. You'll also have glimpse of the surrounding dunes and the lake.
The trail is only on top a short distance before it opens out to the north and you look down across a dunescape that reflects all the stages of dune growth. There is the lake, the open beach, the foredunes, shallow pannes and hidden coves of plant life. You'll see open seas of sand and knots of plants. The trail is all down from here, winding through the dunes, around the pannes and out onto the beach. Along the way, there are signs to explain what you're seeing.
Kids enjoy the stairs and running ahead to see whats around the next corner. Adults will enjoy the wind in the trees.
Porter Beach is located right next to the State Park Beach, but it's outside that park. The beach can be very crowded on summer afternoons. That's why, it's become a favorite for the evening.
Park is located off Waverly Road (it's name changes in the last stretch to the beach, but there are few if any road signs). On the right is the overflow parking lot. Ahead on the right is the main lot with the restrooms. Just past it is the town lot. DON't park in the town lot without a town permit. You car will be towed. Across the street on the left is a pay for parking lot.
Dorothy Buell Memorial Visitor Center is a great place to start your visit. You can obtain information about the park, what to do and where to go. It's also the county travel center, with information on lodging and restaurants throughout the county.
Currently, 2007 the special exhibit at the Dorothy Buell Memorial Visitor Center are the works of the Artist-in-Residence program. For more images and information, see my Artist travelogue
A fter the Great Chicago Fire of 1871, many Swedes moved into this area. Soon Porter had a thriving Swedish Community. Today, the center of the historic community is located in the National Lakeshore. Many of the farms still exist and can be seen from the road. Because the buildings are often in disrepair or in use for other purposes, they are best seen from the road.
Borg Home - crumbling and not accessible
Allenquist Farm - private residence across from the Chellburg Farm
Chellburg Farm - open to the public daily by the Park Service
Wahl Farm - a private Environmental Day Care Center on Howe Road
Peter Larsen Farm - Research facility for the National Lakeshore on Howe Road
Charles Nelson Farm - pending restoration. Located on US 12 by the east gate to Mittal Steel.
Visit my Swedish Farm Travelogue or my Chellberg Farmstead Travelogue
VT historic Swedish Augsburg Lutheran Church