We were visiting family in Indiana over the Christmas holidays, and with the sunshine and warmer weather – it was in the upper 40s right before the new year & the “Chiberia” inducing snow and cold – we decided to swing by the Indiana Dunes on our way back to Chicago. We didn’t have our bikes with us, but we wanted to at least get out of the car and walk around, and check out the dune landscape in wintertime. It definitely looks a lot different in late December than in the spring or summer. The limestone beach house looked so forlorn all closed up for the season, the beach and snow blown together look dusty and rough, not at all inviting. No hikers or sliders on “Devil’s Slide” – the one dune on which you are allowed to sled. Without the crowds thought, we could wander around and look at the duneland landscape all windblown and empty.
Of course, the first things I noticed as we approached the beach pavillion, were the sets of bike racks on each side of the building. Correctly installed and spaced bike parking always makes me smile! More on how one can bike to this beach and take advantage of these bike racks in just a little further down the page..
The original gate houses
As we left the park, we had plenty of time and no other traffic or people to worry about, to stop and look around at the original gate houses at the entrance to the state park.
The original gate houses are classic examples of institutional art deco architecture thoughtfully built with inspirational quotes carved into each building. Note the the two-way bike lane on the left. This stretch of road, on land that connects the actual park with the highway and the train station was donated by Samuel Insull Jr., along with funds so that all the original electrical cables for the park buildings could be buried. Check out this nifty pamphlet from 1930 – Indiana Dunes: A History – if you interested in more background on the creation of the park in the mid 1920s.
The west and north sides of each gate house have quotes carved on them with themes of nature and the outdoors. This photo is of the quote from John Muir (1838-1914), from his book Our National Parks.
Additional quotes are these opening lines from the poem “Thanatopsis” by William Cullen Bryant (1794-1878) …
To him who in the love of nature holds communion with her visible forms. She speaks a various language.
and a quote from a masque or performance written by Milton (1608-1674) called ‘Comus’ that he later included in his Poems of 1645 and 1673.
Wherefore did nature pour her bounties forth with such a full and unwithdrawing hand covering the earth with odours, fruits, and flocks.
and just past the gate house on the west side of the entrance, we spotted the opening to one of the many hiking trails that weave through the park.
How to get to the dunes by bike
As you drive south out of the park, you’ll cross the Calumet Trail – a 9-mile long crushed limestone trail that roughly parallels highway 12 and the South Shore Line in Indiana.
It’s one route you can use to bike to the dunes as it meets up with quite a few other trails in northwest Indiana. And, if you’re wondering about getting to the dunes via bike from Chicago, you can do that too. It’s about 60 miles one-way. I’ve not bike it (yet) but others have, and if you’re looking for a supported group ride, check out the Climate Cycle Ride. They did a 2-day ride to the dunes in 2013 and are planning to do one again this year as well. Give a look at their route map too.
Your other option is to put your bike on a South Shore train out of the Millennium Park station in downtown Chicago, and ride it all the way to the Dune Park station. However, according to the policy of the Northern Indiana Commuter District, the only bikes that are currently allowed on the train are those that are folded up in a container made expressly for storing said folded bike, and that can also fit on their overhead luggage racks. Keep tabs on the news coming out of the Streets Blog -Chicago website though, as they reported last summer that the train line is looking into offering more accommodations for bikes on their trains.
So that’s my bike-parking-ish post this Friday. As winter continues here in Chicago, thinking about a bike ride or hike to the beach in warmer weather is a toasty thought.