Chicago and the beginning of a Great Lake adventure.

5 Jun

Over the course of our travels Michigan has popped up time after time, from  chance meetings with people who then tell us they originate from that State, to idle wonder of ‘where does this come from then’ and discover its made in Michigan. At one point Michigan was popping up almost every day. I am therefore curious to explore it, to discover why it has been calling us to visit.

Of course we were aware that the Great Lakes start here (coming from the direction we were that is) and our first port of call was Indiana Dunes State Park near Chicago. We arrived in a torrential thunder storm – not the best start, but later, when the clouds passed by and the sun came out once more we set off to view Lake Michigan for the first time.

Now I am not sure what I was expecting; a large expanse of water, a pretty view… what we got was the remnants of Holiday Monday washed out picnics, fog on the water and great views of the industry to either side!

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The dunes here are protected by National and State Parks, we inadvertently climbed P1130445one of the highest next day as we returned from a long walk on the beach and missed our ‘exit’ . Walking on sand dunes is never easy but when they are also very steep and its 80+ degrees…phew!

But the view was better, the fog lifted a little and the beaches really are lovely and sandy, so its hard to believe you are so close to a city of 7 million people.

 

 

 

 

 

Another reason for heading in this direction was to meet up with relatives. My second cousin Garry lives and works in Chicago and we have not seen each other for many years. It happened that his parents (my cousin and husband Dorothy and Ken) were over from England for concerts of Garry’s Baroque Orchestra – a long way to travel to spend a day together. We met outside the Art Institute between two huge green lions, who were resplendent in their black ice hockey helmets to celebrate the success the local team is having in major games at present.

 

After coffee and a catch up we set off for a whistle stop tour of some of the Chicago sights with Dorothy and Ken as wonderful ambassadors and guides.

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At lunch time we met Garry who was hard at work with rehearsals. We were all able to sit and chat in the lovely sanctuary of the gardens which surround the little church in the heart of the city where they were practising. All too soon these days come to an end and we departed on the 4pm train back to the campground, with definite intention to come back and spend more time in this huge city.

Indiana must have the shortest bit of coastline of any state, Chicago is in Illinois, right at the very base of the lake the dunes are in Indiana and just a few miles to the east you are in Michigan.

 

Map picture

 

 

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After collecting a pile of information leaflets from the Welcome Centre at the Michigan State border we spent the night at Van Buren State Park. A trail from the campground led us once more to the shores of Lake Michigan, this time it did not disappoint, maybe my expectations were not so high.

 

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Of course the fact that the sun was shining helps too.

 

From Van Buren we drove a few miles into the small town of South Haven. Quaint shops line the centre of the town, the road leading down to the waterfront and marina, then on to the pier complete with lighthouse at its end point.

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An enjoyable walk to the end of the pier found us taking photographs for a couple on a getaway anniversary weekend and chatting to a gentleman and his wife and sister down from Canada but originally from Ireland. I am never sure how we get into these conversations and meeting people, maybe its because time is of no real importance, the pace is slow allowing time for the unexpected to evolve.

Our intention was to stay in the State park in Holland just a short way up the coast, (we actually stayed at Oak Grove RV resort). En route we stopped off at one of the many farms selling produce. Unfortunately we are a little early for the main harvest season but asparagus and strawberries are plentiful. I can confirm that they are not only plentiful but very tasty! Strawberries so full of juice their flesh was like biting into a nectarine, is your mouth watering yet?

From here we head up the west side of Michigan (east shore of the lake) and intend to use State parks most of the way, so, it may be a while before we get internet again and another blog comes your way, and then again…..

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