Tag Archives: Illinois

Great Sand Dunes National Park on the Way Home

On Saturday, November 20 [2021], I departed Taos, headed ultimately home to Chicago. By the time I reached home the following Tuesday (two days before Thanksgiving), I had passed through Denver and Kansas City. But before that, I couldn’t resist stopping for a short hike at Great Sand Dunes National Park. After all, it was only an hour and forty-five minutes from Taos. And it was on the way. Sort of. It would be the first time I ever visited a National Park by myself.

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Indiana Dunes National Park: Cowles Bog Trail and Bailly Homestead

After our lunch on August 24, Sean, Angela, Mary, and I set off on our afternoon adventures at Indiana Dunes National Park. Since the morning, we had slowly been making our way west from the easternmost point of the Park. Our next stop was the Visitor Center, and then we’d do some more hiking. It was already clear to us that we would not be able to do all the hikes on our list in one day, but we knew we’d be back to this out-our-backdoor Park time and again in the future.

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Indiana Dunes National Park: Mount Baldy, Great Marsh, and Dune Ridge

Mount Baldy

Yellow Garden Spider in Great Marsh

On August 24, exactly a month after our visit to West Beach, we were back at Indiana Dunes National Park. This time, we were again there as part of our Let’s Go Outside group of mostly Chicagoans who pick places near the city to go for day hikes six times a year. The group had last done Indiana Dunes in July 2015. Four years earlier, we’d run into some issues finding parking, so I suggested to the group via Facebook earlier that week that we try and get an early start. Our plan was to begin at the Park’s far eastern edge, Mount Baldy, and work our way west with a series of short hikes. If people wanted to join us later, they could text and find out where we were. Also, if people needed to get back to the city early, they could peel off whenever they needed to.

Ultimately, there were four of us who explored the Park that day: Sean, Angela, Mary, and me. It was our first time exploring a National Park with Mary!

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Detour: Pullman National Monument


President Barack Obama established Pullman National Monument on Chicago’s far South Side in February 2015. The site, Chicago’s only National Park unit, commemorates layers of industrial, labor, and race history that continue to the present day.

When I started working at Openlands in June 2012, I was excited that my new job would expose me to lots of places to get outside in and around Chicago. A native Detroiter, I knew precious little about Chicago’s suburbs and exurbs or about rural Illinois. Getting outside meant going up to Wisconsin or back to Michigan. In 2014, Sean and I started taking one Saturday a month between May and October to go with friends on a day hike somewhere within two hours or so of Chicago. The places we visited included Midewin National Tallgrass Prairie, Sagawau Canyon, Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore, the Openlands Lakeshore Preserve, Ryerson Woods, and others. What started with a few friends grew into a Facebook group with friends of friends of friends. In 2018 the group has over fifty members.

On Sunday, June 18, 2017, our “Let’s Go Outside” group went to Pullman National Monument and a few other South Side spots.

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