Sometimes we get caught up sitting in our RV staring at laptops and tablets and watching TV too many hours of the day. This is exacerbated when we're in RV parks where there is nothing in the area we are interested in doing. We don't run our air conditioner often, but when we do (usually in an RV park as opposed to a public campground), we're even worse.
Fortunately, we're back on our latest exercise kick, so at least we're getting outside long enough to do that. But we've got to do better. It'll be easier after we leave here, but for another week we have to force ourselves to get off our tails and do something. Sometimes we get a little too comfortable.
When we started full-timing, we felt guilty if we let a beautiful day pass without getting outside and taking advantage of it. It took a long time, but we eventually got over that. Now, we probably let far too many days get away from us, so I would like to swing the pendulum back to a more reasonable balance.
Today, we decided to drive the hour and a half west to the Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore for a little hiking in the dunes.
Once we located the Visitors Center, we looked at maps of trails. They had maps of both the National Lakeshore trails and the Indiana Dunes State Park trails. Indiana Dunes State Park is a separate park within the National Lakeshore area, and we decided to go there.
We paid our $12 entrance fee and drove past the campground (which, by the way, looked very nice) to the Nature Center where there are a few different trailheads. We chose to do the 3.75-mile "Trail 9".
After a quick visit to the Nature Center, we walked down the trail to the beginning of Trails 9 and 10 where they go in different directions.
You can combine sections of the 5.5-mile Trail 10 with Trail 9 for several variations of hikes. We stuck with our original plan and headed left down Trail 9. Trail 10 makes a big loop and runs along the beach.
The first three quarters of a mile went through the forest where we saw a few birds, squirrels, and lizards. However, none of them were in a photogenic mood today. We even startled a whitetail deer. She still had leaves in her mouth as she bounded away.
Then we came to an intersection where the trail loops.
We took a left to head up and out onto the dunes .....
Suddenly, our little stroll became more difficult.
Okay, so we haven't hiked for a long time, and we really didn't think this through very well. We didn't bring our Camelbak backpacks with built-in hydration packs, and we were hiking in our Keen hiking sandals. It was the heat of the day and about 85 degrees. We should have brought more water. And once we got into the deep sand of the dunes, our Keens filled up with scorching sand. We hadn't considered how hot the sand would be where it was fully exposed to the sun.
There were some lovely views of Lake Michigan from the top of the dunes .....
but we didn't want to stay fully exposed on the ridge any longer than necessary.
I snapped a few photos of wildflowers and the view ....
before the trail ducked back into the trees.
Fortunately, most of the trail was in the shade.
This part of the loop allowed us to listen to the waves down below, and we had views of the lake along the way.
We learned that we could shake sand out of our Keens by loosening them. That way we didn't have to stop and remove them every few yards. We'll have to remember that.
Once the trail turned away from the lake, we were back in the forest where the terrain went back and forth between sand and dirt. Hiking in deep sand is taxing, but we came out mostly for the exercise, so mission accomplished.
We saw very few people on the trail, so that was nice. On the way back, a backpacker passed us.
I struck up a conversation and learned that he likes to do "section hikes" on the Appalachian Trail (AT). As an educator, he has the summers off to do parts of the AT. He has completed the whole trail and he's done a few sections twice. Today, he was just out training for this summer's section hike.
Eventually, I stopped peppering him with questions and let him carry on at his quicker pace.
We rationed what little water we had just enough to get us back to the trailhead and the water fountain at the Nature Center. The total hike was a little over four miles.
The part of the trail that went out on the dunes through the deep sand took a bit out of us. It didn't help me that I had run a mile and half and biked three miles around the RV park this morning.
Back in the Jeep, we drove through the rest of the park. There were a couple of beach areas that had lots of people although the parking lots were less than half full.
We considered checking out a little more of the National Lakeshore, but dark clouds were moving in from the west. So we headed on back to Elkhart. We're just glad we got out of the rig and did a little hiking. Now we just have to keep getting out and finding more nature things to do. It'll be easier in about a week. :)