Kristin and I have always subscribed to the philosophy that if you are going camping, you should sleep in a tent and cook over a fire. That said those things are a lot better to do in the sunshine rather than in the rain.
Sunday night when we were able to check into our campsite at the Indiana Dunes State Park, it began to rain, hard. We are veteran campers and had the tent up in ten minutes and everything else in camp-shape in less than an hour. We got wet, but being wet is not the most terrible thing that can happen to us because our extra clothes and sleeping gear are in waterproof bags and our tent is relatively leak proof. What it is not is mud proof. Trying to keep everything away from the central muddy walkway is a thankless task and continues until the sun comes out.
I took this photo after we were unpacked and tucked away. It is raining and you can see that some of the campers had more deluxe accommodations. Kristin and I both think recreational vehicles are cheating when you want to go into the great outdoors, but if anyone wants to exchange our tent for one of those I don’t think we would turn you down.
We love our electronics. Kristin is reading a novel. Because the phone has its own light, you don’t have to hold a battery operated lantern 2 inches from a page to read. Light is something that we don’t think about much anymore since the invention of the lightbulb. Not much can be done without the sun if you do not have electric light. You can adjust lanterns all you want, but in the end you just end up going to sleep when the sun sets and getting up when the sun rises.
An electric hookup allowed us to take the electronics. We didn’t have wifi, but we took a lot of pictures and having a computer to empty the camera card onto let us shoot as many photos and videos as we wanted.
The following photos are of the inside of the tent. It seems to be getting smaller and smaller, but I suppose that’s because we are getting more and more camping “bling.” With the cots we added this year, the slope of the tent became a problem. It’s not that hitting the ceiling will hurt your head, but that if it is raining touching the tent wall can start a leak that cannot be stopped.
We use the coolers for side tables and stuff all the rest of the gear under our cots. We have found all sorts of uses for the dense foam that is a yoga mat. When it is raining, throwing them on top of the tent provides extra protection from leaks and after the rain they can cover the mud in the walkway.
Back on the road after the great time in Chesterton, we went to the campground hoping our campsite would be open early. It wasn’t. It didn’t help that we were an hour earlier than we thought. The northwestern counties of Indiana are on central time and we just a hundred miles away are on eastern time. Time is not a constant in Indiana.
The gatekeeper sent us to the Nature Center to occupy our time, no doubt wondering about our clock reading skills. The best exhibit was a glass-walled room looking out onto a bird-feeding station complete with a microphone to pipe in the sound of running water and bird peeps. It was quite lovely and peaceful until I remembered the hummingbirds were trying to kill each other.
Unfortunately, the Nature Center did not entertain us for very long and we were at a little bit of a loss about what to do when I thought: “Silly, you are at Lake Michigan. Go see it!” And we did. We went around a roundabout to a sign marked “beach” and there it was. Awesome, breathtaking, and blue.
The photo above is one of the first of many I took. I just cannot get over the juxtaposition of the blue with the sand. And since it was raining there were people walking the beach with black umbrellas over their heads. I thought for a moment that we had exited the roundabout into a Victorian time warp. If you enlarge the photo by clicking on it you can just see them in the far right corner.
The blue, the sandy brown, the rainy atmosphere and the Victorian umbrellas were a perfect introduction to Lake Michigan.
During our drive to the Dunes, I was kept busy searching the internet for things to do and places to eat lunch. Most of the restaurants with good reviews were either too far out of our way or closed; but I did find that the town of Chesterton was having a Wizard of Oz festival.
Kristin and I spent some time speculating on why Chesterton had a Wizard of Oz festival. Perhaps Frank Baum was born there? The home of a Munchkin? A retired movie star had relatives there? We gave up on the guessing and found this history of the festival. I know there are a lot of advantages to collecting, but I didn’t know you could use a collection to start a festival.
Since we had almost reached our destination and it was still early, we decided that a stop in Chesterton would be fun. We were curious and a festival always has food booths.
Chesterton is small and parking was scarce, but we found a family near the center of things willing to offer their yard for $5.00. That seemed reasonable since the Subaru was packed to the gills and it was less worrisome to park it in a private driveway than on a public street.
After finding our way past the trains (long and noisy) into the Chesterton downtown, we discovered a big bonus. Most of the top-rated restaurants in the area had booths at the festival. What was to prevent us from sampling a little something from all of them?
After grabbing the obligatory lemon shake-ups (why don’t we ever make these at home?), we proceeded to walk from one end to the other ogling everything from jewelry to collectibles to fair knick-knacks plus a spattering of Tin Men, Dorothys and Wicked Witches willing to pose and even sign autographs. I’m thinking of adding a parade of little girls in blue-checked gingham dresses, ruby-red slippers and braids to my bucket list and then crossing it off, because who knew?
Walking was a nice change of pace after riding in the car, but by the time we came back to the start we were foot weary and stomach empty. We looked at and sampled a lot of different foods, but the best was the short ribs from Wagner’s Ribs. They were so good I am contemplating a two-hour drive just to eat those ribs one more time. After that we were beginning to feel a little stuffed, but there were still the baked goods from Tonya’s Patisserie. Negotiating a quick compromise between our eyes and our stomachs, we had a pumpkin pie tart and cinnamon rolls packed to go. (They were good, even cold, but I am a severe judge of desserts. I grew up eating my mother’s homemade cream puffs fresh from the oven and my standards are high.)
With our desserts and the whirligig we bought for our campsite safely tucked away, it was time to leave and continue our adventure in the Dunes Country.
Lynne: The drive to the dunes was much easier than I thought it would be. The roads are mostly two-lane highways through wilder countryside than we normally have here. Photos did not seem to do the roads justice, so I did this drawing to indicate the crowding of the trees and the narrowness of the road. There were few other cars and we were in no hurry. The miles just slid by in good conversation and interesting countryside.
Lynne: Kristin and I spent a week camping at the Indiana Dunes State Park. I will try to chronicle our trip in the most interesting way possible. I am never bored camping with Kristin or talking about camping with Kristin, so others will have to let me know when they have had enough.
The photo above is the accumulation of things that we feel we must have with us to both survive our trip and make us feel cool camping. As Kristin says: “We love our camping bling.” Give us a Coleman catalog and we both go giddy.
Much of the stuff has accumulated over time. The yellow bags are waterproof as usually we have to float the river to a campsite. The bags take easily to being packed in nooks and crannies; and your clothes and bedding stay dry no matter how hard it is raining when you set up camp. The coolers are super cool and keep ice for 5 days. We use the 5 gallon buckets for dry goods and there is the new lantern and well, I could go on, but I won’t.
Well, just a little more. We were able to add cots to the bling and my knees are very thankful. The cot puts us at seat height off of the tent floor and I no longer have to be embarrassed; as I have to roll off an air mattress to make it to my knees so I can begin to stand up.
We usually camp on the river with no amenities like water and electricity. We rely on a large number of batteries and carry our own water. There is little human distraction and you gradually adjust to living a little more wild. Time is not meaningless, but it has less significance. You eat when you are hungry and you rise and sleep with the sun. And while that has a magic all its own, we were willing, this year, to be wooed by showers and an electrical outlet. I mentioned the Dunes and Kristin made it happen.
But can she make everything fit into her Subaru? Well, of course she can. Those are special packing genes that my daughters have inherited and the photo below proves it. The Subaru is full and we are on our way.