With the sounds from the speedway still ringing in our ears, it was time for us to say goodbye to Chicago and head to our next state, number 19, Indiana. We’d decided it was time to do some camping again and spend some time in the great outdoors, so we headed straight for the Dunes National Park. We managed to find Duneswood Campsite, another State run site, so we pitched up for just $18/£11 per night. We had a secluded spot surrounded by the woodland, with our own fire pit, so once we’d put the tent up (we were real pro’s at this now) we headed to the shop to buy some firewood. Barry had made it his personal mission to create a fire for us and was determined that we would cook on it at some point in this camping trip. Tonight was the trial run for the fire and then we would attempt to cook jacket potatoes on it the following night. Whilst I prepared our dinner of pork chops and fruity couscous, Barry made fire.
Dinner came and went and Barry still hadn’t managed to keep the fire going. For some reason, even with all the kinder and accelerate he kept pouring on it, it just wouldn’t stay lit. We sat there for hours, keeping it topped up but it would just burn out. Maybe we wouldn’t be cooking our jackets on there after all. Whilst we’d been sat there, eyes glued to the fire, we noticed little flashes of light around us in the forest. It was a just a flash of orange and then it would be gone. We discovered that they were fireflies. I had never seen them before, so was fascinated by them. You couldn’t see the actual fly, just the light. When I went for a walk to the toilet block, I noticed one hovering over the path in front of me. I was able to get a good look at it. It looked like a giant wasp with a long whispy tail, which every now and then would just flash orange. It was something special to see.
Later on, as we sat by the fire, I kept hearing a rustling in the bushes. I decided to shine the torch out to see what it was. As I swept the torch round the trees, it suddenly fell upon some bright green eyes staring back at me about 6 feet away. It was a raccoon! It just stared. I quickly turned the torch off. I didn’t want to blind the poor thing. After a few hours of playing with fire, we decided to call it a night and retire to the tent.
The next morning we awoke after what was probably the most comfortable nights sleep we’d had in the tent so far (apart from the rustling of what we suspect was the racoon around the tent). We got ready and went to explore the dunes. After stopping at the visitor lodge to pick up a map, we decided on the Cowles Bog Trail that would take us through some forested marshlands, down a sand dune and onto a secluded beach by Lake Michigan.
We drove about 15 minutes to a little car park at the start of the trail. We parked up and got busy smothering ourselves in sun cream and bug spray. I couldn’t bear the thought of being bitten like I was the last time we’d camped, so I been keeping myself covered in a constant layer of mossy spray since we’d arrived. Another car pulled up next to us and out jumped another couple. They were quick to spot our blog details on the back of the car and began to ask us about our journey. They too, were busy topping on the old spray and cream so it’s not just us Brits that get eaten and burnt alive! As we were all walking the same trail we decided to walk together. As the conversation started to flow, it turned out that this couple – Josh and Kate, were avid hikers. Barry and I looked at each other with concern. We liked to go on walks and did it regularly, but we would always slow down and stop to take pictures. These two made it quite clear that they were going to power on through so they could get to the beach. We were worried that we wouldn’t be able to keep up. We surprised ourselves though and did it with ease. The conversation flowed easily and made a nice change to have some different company. It’s great to meet new people and we always love talking about our travels and hearing about others.
As we walked, we found ourselves on some woods, where the ground was all sand. It reminded me a lot of Fraser Island in Australia, which was an island completely made up of sand. After we’d been walking for maybe 30-40 minutes, we came to an opening. The first thing that hit us was the heat. We’d had the pleasure of being in the shade, but now the 90-degree sun was beating down on us. The second thing was the amazing view. We were standing at the top of a sand dune and directly in front of us was Lake Michigan. If you didn’t know it was a lake, you could be fooled into thinking it was the sea as it was huge and all you could see was water for miles. Far out on the horizon, we could see a bright gold diamond shape. Either side of it you could just about make out some buildings. Josh told us that it was the Chicago skyline. It was amazing that you could see it so far away. The gold diamond was the reflection of the sun off of one of the buildings. It truly was a sight to behold.
After spending a few minutes taking in the amazing view, we made our way down the dune. This was a task in itself as you just kept sinking into the deep sand – it wasnt sand surfing – more like sand sinking! Once we reached the bottom, we found ourselves in a lovely beach where there were just a handful of other people. After going for a paddle in the brilliantly clear water, we took a seat on the sand and tucked into our lunch. We hadn’t prepared ourselves for such a lovely beach. We had no towels and weren’t wearing our swimmers, otherwise it would’ve been great to go for a swim in the lake. The water was so lovely and cool compared to being in the ridiculously hot sun.
Soon after finishing our lunch, we just couldn’t take the heat anymore and decided to continue on with our walk. We said goodbye to Josh and Kate and started walking across the sand to the path, which would lead us back onto our trail. After a minute or two of walking barefoot on the sand, my feet were on fire. The sand was so hot; I thought my skin was going to blister up and start peeling off. I had to sit down and put my trainers back on. Barry was trying to act all hard, saying man up as he continued on shoeless, but within a minute of me stopping, he too was putting his trainers back on. Once we found the path back into the forest, we soon remembered the steep decent we’d made to get on to the beach. This meant that the only way back into the forest from the beach as an equally as steep ascent. Great, heat and a majorly steep climb don’t mix well for me. Add to that deep sand and this was a tough climb to get to the top. It was so tough and I had to stop to catch my breath a few times, but we eventually made it.
The rest of the walk back through the woods was relatively easy, but we were very happy to see the car at the end none the less. It may only have been a 3.5-mile walk, but we were hot, sweaty and in desperate need of a nice cold drink. Our water was now very warm and not doing much to quench our thirst. We felt we deserved a treat, so we headed for the nearest Burger King where I bought a giant coke and Barry got a very large Mango Smoothie. They went down a treat!
As we headed back to camp, we thought we’d try out the new case we’d bought for the Go Pro and do some road filming again. Barry fixed the GoPro to the top of the car and off we drove. We’d only been driving a few minutes when yet again, the camera slipped and went smashing off the roof onto the road. We quickly pulled over and Barry started to walk back to where the camera had fallen in the middle of the road. Suddenly over the hill behind us, we could see a big 18-wheel lorry tearing down the road towards us. Barry started running faster than I’d ever seen him run before. As the lorry got closer, Barry started frantically waving his arms around. He just managed to reach the camera and get out of the road before the lorry him them both. Needless to say we didn’t bother to put the camera back on after this close shave. I only regret not filming Barry running like a nutcase down the road after it. I can’t imagine what the lorry driver must have thought.
After taking full advantage of the air con in Burger King, we headed back to camp to start work on the fire. We’d decided that just using the big logs we’d purchased weren’t cutting in, so Barry and I ran round the camp collecting lots of smaller twigs to help keep the heat going long enough to really set the big logs on fire. It worked, and before we knew it we had a raging fire going. We threw on the potatoes and having been told they would take about 45 minutes on the fire, we sat back and watched them cook.
45 minutes came and went…an hour…an hour and half…an hour and 45 minutes and still the potatoes weren’t ready. By now we’d lowered the grill so that it was sitting in the fire, and eventually after 2 HOURS, our jacket potatoes were soft enough to serve. Luckily we’d started cooking early so by now it was only half 6 and not midnight before we could eat our dinner. They were well worth the wait though after we covered them in butter, cheese and bar-be-que flavour beans.
With our stomachs full to bursting (Barry had originally wanted to cook us two potatoes each but one each was more than enough) we settled into the tent to watch a film before having a much needed sleep.