July 20, 2008

The Tribune’s 4 Reasons to Go

By Lauren Viera, Chicago Tribune

Jul. 20--1. BIRDING

Loons, vultures, sandpipers, herons, cranes, hawks, grebes ... they all make their home in various pockets of the Lakeshore. Some are here by accident; others come to breed and fly south for the winter. For serious ornithophiles, there's a thorough Birds of the Indiana Dunes checklist on hand at the Dorothy Buell Memorial Visitor Center, located in the center of the Lakeshore, which is worth a visit anyhow.


There are eight total, and, because they're in Indiana, they're bound to be half as crowded as the ones you'll find not far away in Michigan's touristy Harbor Country. Porter Beach, in the heart of the Lakeshore, is one of the most accessible, with a bathhouse and snack-food provisions; West Beach boasts 3 miles of open sand, a bathhouse and picnicking areas. Both are clean, barren and have plenty of hills for ...


Beyond the dunes, whose soft sand begs to be walked up, down and over (and it's tougher than it looks), there are dozens of trails of varying difficulties and lengths strewn throughout the region. Many are conducive to cross-country skiing come wintertime, when the snow-capped dunes make for eerie, otherworldly landmarks.


Mountain bikers will be disappointed (the only "mountain" here is Mt. Baldy, a 126-foot-high sand dune), but the Lakeshore and State Park's paved roads make for easy, scenic cycling. There are two bike trails: The 12-mile, off-road Calumet Bike Trail, which spans 10 miles between Mt. Baldy and the Cowles Bog area, and the 2-mile multi-use Marquette Trail on the far western corner of the Lakeshore.


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