It was roughly ten years ago that Michigan’s Warren Dunes won my heart. A friend recommended that we go and, despite the wrong-turn trip we took through a worn down and bullet-proof-glass covered Gary, IN, the day was picture-perfect. Nearly the only ones on the beach, we spent our time resting, climbing the sand dunes to take in the scenic views and playing in the naturally occurring mud fountains back in a forest. The lake welcomed us at a perfect temperature, the stars all flipped their on-switch in the sky and I vowed, repeatedly, to return.
The following summer I went again with a small group. We had a similar experience, defined in my mind by the peace and quiet. And, again, the mud baths. What a unique and unexpected feature in the middle of gigantic mounds of sand.
With the Michigan Dunes on a pedestal in my mind, I’ve only made it as far as the Indiana Dunes since, always hoping to have time to make it back to Michigan. And yesterday, I did.
I was devestated.
Greeted at the entrance to the State Park by a man demanding $8.00 for a “day pass”, I couldn’t believe that people can be so bold as to fence in and charge for places that clearly belong untouched, unscathed by the human element. But I paid, as a restful day on the beach was high on my list of priorities. I wanted nothing more than to stare out at the water, take some deep breaths and just write to my heart’s content.
I made it to the beach. But not my beach.
The first thing I noticed is that the parking lot had taken crazy pills, now three tremendously expanded lots covering what used to be sand beds and trees. Each lot was framed by buildings housing vending machines, bathrooms and showers. I swallowed hard, wondering what else I would encounter.
It took a mere turn-of-the-head to see the giant inflatable water park now parked on the beach, the park made up of several kiddie-water slides and emitting several squeals and screams.
And, finally, the people. I stepped from my car and looked towards the water, forced to focus, instead, on the 1,000+ people that acted as beached whales as far up the shore as I could see. A father and son made their way towards the parking lot, yelling at one another about who would carry what. “Will you give me some help for once!?” exclaimed the kid, angrily at his dad. The dad argued back as if he were also ten years old. And I sighed.
If you’re like me and long for a day at the the Dunes, hoping to take in their rustic and wilderness ways, save yourself the trip. Save yourself the memory. Unfortunately, those days are gone.
In less than fifteen minutes, I was back in my car and on my way home… thoroughly bummed.