We were really looking forward to having more than a week in one spot to just enjoy a bit of summer, experience Lake Michigan, and do some biking. This stay at Illinois Beach State Park was our ONLY stay in Illinois slated for this summer, and most likely our longest stay in any spot to make up for that. The pictures on the website looked amazing.. the electric campsites were not terribly expensive and they did not require an additional permit for just entering the park like both Minnesota and Wisconsin did. (fancy windshield decor)
The site was lovely, and we were immediately feeling like home.
We were excited to hop on our bikes and explore the surroundings and a bit shocked to find that the bike path loop down along the beach and back through the campground was not just a little damaged or deteriorated… in places it’s just .. well.. GONE. There are some bathhouses along the path that are falling to ruin along the path, and giving ample opportunity for budding artists to practice their craft.
We have LOVED seeing a more diverse population of people enjoying this park and the lake’s ready accessibility to the public. Every variety of camping experience has been visible in the fairly large campground, and the issues we’ve had? Well.. None.
The water is good, there are multiple dump stations to alleviate any waiting, there is ample shade, and crews keep the campground damn near pristine as the squirrels endeavor to pull all garbage from the bins.
This State Park boasts 4 different areas. I’ve already touched on the campground and the beach. There is also the Northern sections of dunes and bike path containing the Hosiah Park, and the Illinois Beach Resort.
We struck out on bikes to see what this “Resort” property was all about and found ourselves feeling like we were a bit lost in time. At the beginning of the month the contract for the popular “laid back” Illinois Beach Hotel ended for the company managing the property and hotel… the state did not renew it, and the hotel just.. Closed. There have been a few news articles about people trying to get deposits back and gift cards unused. The property, now empty through the windows, feels like the ghost of a different era. It appears that the state will consider bids for the property, but I can see how this might be a bit of an undertaking after 7 million was spent in updates and renovations as recently as the early 1990s.
Very interesting googling if you’re curious about this very retro and oddball property with a great view of the lake.
From there we took a bike path past the Park Administration office building, along the section of the public beach area.. back through the campground to avoid where the path is washed out.. and out to some city streets leading us to the northern section of the park.
We spend a good portion of our time in the suburbs of Chicago where we live, and are very well in tune to the sheer numbers of people that are constantly near us.. in cars, in homes, in stores… over 9 million people in the Chicagoland area make the population density, even in the burbs, something a bit oppressive.
Imagine our shock and finding ourselves entirely ALONE.
The road to the dunes was heading straight to lake.. wide.. empty.. barren. A construction sign and barricade at the end. Turn left to enter the park through another set of barricades.. bike into nothingness…turn a corner.. bike into more nothingness.
Even the birds seemed REALLY confused to see us.
It was thick and muggy hot, this image is probably fogged from me sweating.
The path is filled with sand from the storms that swept the coastline this summer, so we turned back to backtrack to the Hosiah Park. Here we found some boardwalks along the dunes… some filling in with sand, some standing proud giving amazing views of the lake and surrounding areas.
I think we’ll make our way back to this space again in the future. There is something incredibly powerful about seeing the damage and beauty all wrapped up in the shores of Lake Michigan. Like playing tug of war when you have no chance of long term success.
As it turns out, I’m a person who likes to bike for fun, and my infinite optimism sometimes leaves us out in the rain. Cooking in the rain, biking in the rain, dancing in the rain. This is our life. Jim needs a better rain jacket.
Tomorrow we’ll power clean the rig, and lock down to head north about 70 miles to our final stay in this section of travel. Another Lake Michigan Dunes location from the Wisconsin perspective. More then.