Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Day 5 - Indiana Dunes National Shoreline June 7, 2009

Captain’s Blog

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Arrived at the Dunewood Campground at the Indiana Dunes National Seashore around 10 AM. We were able to secure a drive through site –no hook-ups- for $7.50 per night using our Golden Age Passport card.

Lake Michigan is 1.5 miles from the campground and on the list of things to do today is walk the beach along the lake. This is a dog friendly park so except for two private beaches and a horse trail Jewel will be able to partake in the hiking and beach walking.

First stop this morning was to Mount Baldy the tallest moving sand dune in the national lakeshore. There are half buried trees that attest to the movement of the dune and since there is minimal vegetation to hold the sand Mount Baldy will continue to move inland.

Unlike forested dunes Mount Baldy is moving and wind, waves and people are thought to be the catalyst. Waves bring a continuous flow of new sand promoting movement. No one knows how the wind breached the dune’s plant cover but scientist believe massive sand blowing may have been the result of the steady drops in the level of Lake Michigan around the turn of the 20th century. Shoreline erosion and hundreds of thousands of visitors’ feet have also prevented the dune from regaining its plant cover.

Marram grass is the only vegetation that can grow on the dune. Newly planted Marram grass has had the opportunity to take root and grow because park visitors are using the designated trail to the beach and summit. If the Mount Baldy project goes well the dune will not overrun the parking lot anytime soon.

Needless to say the hike to Mount Baldy was uphill through beach sand. It was a difficult hike and tough on the legs but worth the trip except for the view of the steel mill on the shore of Lake Michigan. Jewel had no problem trekking through the beach sand and enjoyed the freedom of being outdoors after the long ride.

(This was a little gem we were not expecting to find out here- for us anyway)

Our next stop is to the view the renovation of the Century of Progress Homes that were part of the original Chicago World’s Fair of 1933-34. Real estate developer Robert Bartlett purchased five of the demonstration homes and moved four of them by barge across Lake Michigan to Beverly Shores. The fifth was moved by truck.

Mr. Barlett hoped that because these home demonstrated modern architectural technologies like dishwashers and air conditioning, new design elements and experimental materials it would entice buyers to his new Beverly Shores resort community.

Today the Century of Progress homes are part of the Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore and are listed on the National Register of Historic Places. The park now leases the houses to the Historic Landmarks Foundation of Indiana. Through this foundation private individuals are subleasing the houses and are restoring them to their original condition through private funding.

The five houses:

Cypress Log Cabin - This home is completed and is occupied. The cabin originally was built to exhibit the many uses of cypress and had a lodge atmosphere with fences, arbors, and bridges decorated with animal and fantasy creature carvings made of cypress. None of these features were replicated when the house was moved to Beverly Shores.

A three storied steel-framed home that featured prefabricated House of Tomorrow -concrete and an airplane hangar. The second and third floor walls were glass. In the summer months the heat generated from the glass walls was so intense the air conditioning system failed. When moved to Beverly Shores operable windows replaced the glass walls to allow proper circulation.

Armco-Ferro House – Made of corrugated steel this is the only Century of Progress home that met the design criteria of the World’s Fair Committee. Affordable and easily mass produced this seemingly frameless house boasted a revolutionary construction system of corrugated steel panels that are bolted together. This construction system provide the inspiration for post WWII prefab homes developed by Lustron Corporation.

Florida Tropical House - Inspired by the southern Florida tropical climate the design of this home blends indoor and outdoor living with a spacious two-story living room and large open roof terraces.

Wiebolt-Rostone House- This house was framed in steel and clad in an experimental material made from limestone, shale and alkali. This material was not as durable as expected and by 1950 had not withstood the harsh climate of Lake Michigan.

It has been interesting to view these structures and to know that there are organizations and individuals who value history and are willing to maintain that history through hard work and dedication.

At this time Ron is feeling the urge for ice cream. Of course we have to go find a place out here in the boonies. Turned on Tom-Tom and the nearest ice cream place is 12 miles. Wrong – it missed the Dairy Queen about four miles away. Great treat and Jewel had some ice cream too!Next it’s off to the beach. Ron thought it would be a great idea to go to West Beach but I told him I thought that was one of the two beaches that didn’t allow dogs. He didn’t believe me so we drove to the other end of the Lakeshore (12 miles). Again I was right – no dogs so back to Beverly Shores. We had a great walk on the beach and picked up some great stones. The weather has been perfect despite the call for severe storms and rain.

Back at the campground we settled in at the campfire (don’t do this very often) and planned our next adventure into Chicago about 40 miles away. Everyone recommended that we take the train in from the Beverly Shores Train station ½ mile away. The train ride is 90 minutes and drops you off in the heart of downtown Chicago. We will be taking the 8:15 AM train in tomorrow.

Before settling in for the night we took a walk around the campground. The campground is essentially empty with only the camp hosts, a tent site and our site occupied. It certainly is quiet and peaceful.

The tent site is occupied by what the camp hosts lovingly call the cat lady. I guess she comes to the campground with her cat, does not associate with anyone and has graduated from sleeping in her car to sleeping in her tent. No one is sure if she is homeless or just prefers spending time alone with her cat in the woods. We saw her car come and go but never did see her. She was there when we arrived and was still there when we left.

There is also a feral cat in the campground that the hosts are trying to catch to get it some vet care. They told us not to let Jewel loose because the cat will attack with her very long claws. We did as told for a change.

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