Hiking at Indiana Dunes State Park

August 3, 2013


Some families have a physical resemblance that ties them together – the same sharp chin or speckled hazel eyes.

Others have a unique shared talent – like a remarkable ability to play classical music on the kazoo.

My family, we have pie.

Lots and lots of pie.

Hence, this massive pile of pies at my father’s family reunion in Indiana in June:


There are actually four boxes of pies in this picture. FOUR. And more than a few cookies.

That’s how I knew I was with my people. Like, of course there’s a big huge pile of pies. DUH. What else would there be?

There was also an entire table of alcohol.


Also, not surprising. Like I said, THESE ARE MY PEOPLE.

Pies and booze?

That was kind of a given.

But when it was announced that my cousins were arranging a morning hike at the nearby Indiana Dunes State Park?

That was something of a surprise.

Not that my family is a totally unathletic, non-hiking bunch of people or anything. Quite a few of my cousins are the sporty types who look like they might actually hike regularly and on purpose and not totally by accident like I do.

I just can’t recall ever going on a hike together with any of my family members before. Hiking is just not one of those things we do when we get together. Probably because it’s kind of hard to go hiking when you’re so full of pie.

But I agreed to tag along.

After all, how hard could it be to hike up a few sand dunes?

I should probably mention here that I’d never actually hiked a sand dune before. In fact, I’m not entirely sure I’d ever even seen a sand dune in person before my trip to the park.

I pictured lots of gently rolling sandy slopes — the kind that you see in movies. I imagined myself strolling slowly but effortlessly up them while dressed in something white and flowy. There may or may not have been a few camels and this guy right here involved in this scenario as well.

It turns out that hiking up a sand dune is pretty much exactly like hiking up a very large hill.

It even looked like a large hill. There were walking trails and lots of trees and shrubs and twirling vines waiting to strangle unsuspecting hikers.


Totally out to get me.

The only difference between hiking up a sand dune and a really large hill is that it was about a billion times harder.

Because as the name suggests, sand dunes are made out of sand.


Sand is not one of those surfaces that’s particularly easy to walk on in the first place — even in its most horizontal form.

Trying to walk on sand in super-large-hill-form?

Almost impossible.

Errm, excuse me. Where is my camel?

Errm, excuse me. Where is my camel?

It also didn’t help that it was like a million-billion degrees out and one hundred percent crazy-pants humidity.

At some point as I was huffing and puffing up an impossible sand hill, I turned to my cousin and said, “I thought these dunes would be a lot more, you know, duney.” She just looked at me like she wasn’t entirely sure what I was talking about. (But you guys all know what I’m talking about, right? RIGHT? You know, DUNEY.)

We somehow managed to struggle our way up three of the largest dunes, including Mt. Tom, Indiana’s tallest sand dune, which is almost two hundred feet tall. In case you’re wondering, that’s a whole lot of sand dune.

At the top, we were greeted by a boardwalk and this graffiti, which we tried not to take too personally.

Are you talking to us?

Are you talking to us?

Luckily the walk down was a lot easier. Probably because it was downhill and there were actual steps involved.


Yay! Steps!

And probably because we all knew that there would be pie waiting for us upon our return.

Luckily, we were right.


Yay! Pies!

Have you ever hiked up a sand dune before? Was it duney? (And don’t tell me you don’t know what I mean by “duney.”)

I've blathered on long enough! Now it's your turn!

  1. On August 3, 2013 at 6:56 pm Kristin @ KEEN Digital Summit said:

    I’m now more convinced than ever that I need to be a part of your family!

    • On August 4, 2013 at 7:14 am Sally said:

      You’re welcome to join us. Just a word of warning: you will be made fun of for taking photos of your food. My uncles seem to think it’s hilarious that I do this.

  2. On August 3, 2013 at 10:00 pm Tom @ Waegook Tom said:

    I totally know what you mean by ‘duney’. Movies have lied to us again. Also, couldn’t you have just walked up those steps to begin with and avoided the vines and shrubs trying to strangle you? Then again, you may have felt less deserving of pie if you’d have done that.
    Tom @ Waegook Tom recently posted..Go. Eat. Weep: Pork Paradise at Sergiana’s, Brasov

    • On August 4, 2013 at 7:12 am Sally said:

      Uh, yeah, I didn’t realize we could have walked up the steps until I was writing this post, looking at that photo, thinking, “Hey, why didn’t we walk up those steps???” My cousins were in charge of the hike, so I suspect this was my sporty cousins’ scheme to work off more pie. I guess it worked.

  3. On August 3, 2013 at 11:34 pm Colleen Brynn said:

    Haha my mum and I talked about pie today. I said how I don’t really like cheesecake but then at the same time we said how we “LOVE a good piece of PIE!”… hahahaha
    I was in the desert very recently in Mongolia… and I wonder if you saw my video with a camel and its very odd hump? Have a look. You may giggle.

  4. On August 4, 2013 at 8:56 am Selly said:

    Strandhill Beach in Co. Sligo has some amazing dunes and I climbed the tallest one a couple of years ago but it’s closed off now. A sand slide. There is still a lovely duney walk though that stretches for a couple of miles, or so it feels, and all this up and down isn’t exactly what I would classify as “relaxing stroll along the beach” but it’s still wonderful, especially when you take the time to enjoy a nice cool pint of beer at the local Strandbar after — there are surfers to watch, SURFERS!!!

  5. On August 4, 2013 at 9:05 am Christy@SweetandSavoring said:

    Dunes are pretty and that’s where the deer scamper at the beaches on Long Island! But oh yes, hiking-type-dunes are a different story. I had a similar experience in the Outer Banks in NC two years ago- we were trying to get to the ‘top’ to photograph the sunset, and it just kept going! More winding paths, more sand in the way of the perfect photo. It was maddening! But somehow fun and exhilarating, too?
    (Now I just want to be at the beach…)
    Christy@SweetandSavoring recently posted..Friday Gratitude: The July High

    • On August 12, 2013 at 11:29 am Sally said:

      The problem with these dunes was that when we got to the top, there really wasn’t a good view as there were too many trees and other vegetation. You could kind of see the lake from the last dune we climbed but not really. It was kind of a bummer to climb up the whole way and not be able to take an awesome photo or two. As it was all my photos are of sand. Lame!

  6. On August 4, 2013 at 12:24 pm Brittany @ Paws for Beer said:

    I’m going to a sand dune park later this year in Utah… thanks for the warning – I’ll be sure to expect it to be duney! Also I think they can deport that dreamy guy to the United States!
    Brittany @ Paws for Beer recently posted..Photo Friday 8/2/2013: Crescent Beach California

  7. On August 4, 2013 at 1:48 pm Madhu Bhardwaj said:

    You are so right about it being a million times more difficult to walk on sand.
    I was shocked when I experienced this in the undulating terrain of Jaisalmer (India).
    But the dunes were duny and not hilly. Also there was absolutely no vegetation. Not even a blade of grass.
    Madhu Bhardwaj recently posted..15-minutes to plate: Instant Dhokla made in Microwave

  8. On August 4, 2013 at 4:13 pm Andi of My Beautiful Adventures said:

    I would so hike more if I knew there was a pie waiting for me at the end haha!
    Andi of My Beautiful Adventures recently posted..Miami, Florida: Day 3

  9. On August 4, 2013 at 11:55 pm Priya said:

    In high school it was a freshmen required trip to the Indiana Dunes State Park and if you didn’t go you had to write a paper or something. So I went. It was fun. And exhausting. I’ve actually been thinking about going again.
    Priya recently posted..How. Dare. I. (Doubt Be Damned)

  10. On August 5, 2013 at 12:09 am Nicole said:

    Have not hiked a sand dune. But I have gotten sand in my bathing suit. Which I feel is a legitimately the same as being duney.

  11. On August 5, 2013 at 3:49 pm Ceri said:

    You didn’t once feel the urge to just get on the ground and roll all the way back down? 😉

    Never mind, I’m clearly still a child.
    Ceri recently posted..NY Bucket List: #10 – Visit the Empire State Building

  12. On August 6, 2013 at 12:42 pm Carmel said:

    I haven’t hiked a dune, but I’ve climbed up a veeeeeerrrrry steep one in Pacific City, OR. The sand was so hot, I had to stop just to pull my feet out every once in awhile to keep them from burning. It was spectacular when I got to the top. I was really hoping it would be a little more exciting on the way down, like I could just tumble or slide, but no…just had to run.
    Carmel recently posted..SAYING GOODBYE TOO SOON

    • On August 12, 2013 at 11:25 am Sally said:

      Yeah, there should be a more exciting way to get down the dunes once you’ve taken the trouble of climbing up them. Walking down is kind of anti-climactic. Like dune-tobogganing or something super fun.

  13. On August 6, 2013 at 8:22 pm Kate Convissor said:

    Kelso Dunes. Middle of the Mojave desert. 750 feet. Yup. Heart-attack kind of duney.

    And Crazy Harry was camped at the very top.

    Here’s the backstory: http://www.wanderingnotlost.org/2011/03/harry-on-the-dunes/
    Kate Convissor recently posted..Peace Pilgrim–extraordinary wanderer

  14. On August 7, 2013 at 6:36 am Roxanne Rockett said:

    UNBRAVE GIRL STRIKES AGAIN! Yet again, you have turned a grumpy / tired moment for me into a laughing / happy one for me. THANK YOU! I happen to know a fair bit about sand dunes. My family likes to launch quads – with us attached – off the top of them. Which inevitably leads to falling off & then having to trudge back up them. Proud of you for keeping your sense of humor (love the vine & fools pics) despite the heat. P.S. Can you write about pie again soon? It just makes me happy.

  15. On August 14, 2013 at 11:29 am Montecristo Travels (Sonja) said:

    I have actually hiked and walked a MASSIVE sand dune. In factTHE sand dune in France is not Europe. Near Archachon (sort of Bordeau area ish… 60 km away) The great sand Dune of Pyla. Measuring 500 meter in width, 3 km in length and rising to a height of 107 meter above sea level. Go hear for pics and more info: http://www.amusingplanet.com/2012/02/great-dune-of-pyla-moving-desert-in.html VERY duney!
    Montecristo Travels (Sonja) recently posted..What Dog Owners Should know about the Island of Santorini – Greece

  16. On September 20, 2013 at 10:47 pm Uncle Ed said:

    You can blame your discomfort on the conservation groups of Indiana and Illinois, “Save the Dunes Council” and march, 1963. I&M guards pointed a machine gun at me, I’d wondered away from the park lodge a few hundred feet but they shouldn’t have done that. We buried the U.S. Senate in mail. Sen. Douglas from Illinois headed the fight and the rest is history “Indiana Dunes National Lake Shore”. Can you say “eminent domain”, no more Mr. machine gun guy, yea!


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