Mother’s Day Wildflowers | Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore

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It is Mother’s Day today, and especially after messing up Joan’s visit to the Science Museum, I felt a need to make a nice day for her. So we started by sleeping in a bit. Even without an alarm, though, I’ve become used to getting up at six regularly for so long that I now do that even when I don’t want to. But writing these posts every morning does take at least an hour so I have to get that done early or it will impact the day’s plans.

By the time I finished and published the post, Joan was stirring and, as part of the Mother’s Day celebration, we had a big breakfast. She made pancakes, and I fried up the bacon and eggs for pancake sandwiches. In what I believe was a good omen for the day, when I broke her egg open, out popped two yolks. I’ve only seen that a couple times in my life, so that was a cool enough experience that I took a picture of it.

After breakfast we cleaned up the house (trailer) a bit, walked the dogs, and took showers down at the campground bath house. At that point it was around noon, and since our planned, ranger-guided hike for the day started at 1:00, we decided to head out so we would be there in plenty of time. Of course, my luck being what it is this weekend, it took longer to get to the trailhead than I expected, and then, another stroke of bad luck.

To celebrate Mother’s Day, the park had planned a hike in what the call the Heron Rookery. A Rookery is a place birds like to nest and a heron, is, well, a bird. I think herons like water a lot, but I’m not a bird person, so I don’t really know. The Heron Rookery is a patch of the park separate from the rest of the Lakeshore and inland several miles south and east of the campground. Using the park service map there is only one road to get there but when the road approaches the rookery, it forks into an eastern branch and a western branch. There are two trailheads for the path through the rookery, one at each end of the trail and one on each branch of the road.

When I had read about the planned hike, I carefully found where it was and determined that we shouldn’t have any trouble getting there. There was no mention, though, of which end of the trail the ranger was going to be at – the eastern, or the western. And when I called Sunday morning to find out if the hike had been canceled due to rain (it hadn’t), they didn’t say which end of the trail we were starting from.

So as I’m driving out to the trailhead I fully expect there to be some kind of sign saying which way to go. We get to the fork, already running a tad late for the hike starting time, and there is no sign. Great! Which way do I turn, east or west! Quickly, because we are running late, I turn right based on the assumption that, in the U.S., people tend to favor the right side of any fork (that’s a documented fact, although no-one knows for sure why.). So I turned right, and headed for the west trailhead.

Mother’s Day walk through spring wildflowers at the Rookery, Indiana Dunes NL.

Yep, that’s right – we got there and no-one is there. Joan, once again, is not a happy camper and vows to never go on an organized anything ever again. I decide to make sour grapes out of lemons, and suggest that we can hike the trail and see the wildflowers anyway – we just won’t know what we are looking at.

Eventually, that’s what we did, mostly because at that point, we didn’t have much choice. And, of course, we met up with the ranger and the hikers after about an hour who were headed in the opposite direction. The ranger was accommodating in explaining to us what some of the flowers and plants were, and so we did learn a few things. He ended the hike shortly after we met up with him, but offered to walk back with us which we did for part of the way. It partly made up for the disaster. I’m still not sure how I was supposed to know the meet-up spot was the Eastern trailhead. None of the literature said that.

But the wildflowers were terrific. Mostly blues and violets, we also saw white and yellow flowers, and a curious little red flower consisting of three tightly packed leaves, called Trillium. The ranger also identified a plant we had seen and didn’t know, a Mayapple that lives for two years and on the second year, produces a small flower under its two big leaves. It was a good display of spring wildflowers and I highly recommend this hike in the spring, with or without a ranger.

Back home, it was moving day. Although we liked the State Park Campground, we prefer camping in National Parks because there is more exposure to the park itself. Typically, though, national park campgrounds don’t have much in the way of amenities – in other words, no electrical power. That means dry-camping where we rely entirely on the trailer’s resources. I’ve beefed up the battery life by adding a solar panel on the roof that keeps the batteries charged (when the sun is out). But, still, we can only dry-camp for four or five nights. Since our stay here was intended to be about two weeks (to include Chicago), we knew we couldn’t stay in the Lakeshore campground the whole time. But, after ten days in the state park, with an electrical hookup, we can complete our stay here in the ‘dry’ campground at the National Lakeshore. So we hitched up and moved to Dunewood Campground. I think we must be the only campers here – It is gorgeous here and very quiet. Perfectly soothing way to spend our last few days at Indiana Dunes. Maybe it will make-up for the screwed up weekend!

After making camp and getting everything set up, I cooked up a frozen pizza for dinner and gave Joan a couple glasses of wine.