I know what you’re thinking: Indiana has mountains? And, in a way, it does. Lake Michigan’s southern shore features dunes that rise steeply from the water, and voila, Midwest mountains.
Part of the Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore, Mt Baldy is 126 above the water level of Lake Michigan and moving around 4 feet a year, pushed by the winds. Swimming and hiking are the primary activities here, though the dune is closed now for public safety and dune protection.
Mt Baldy is a popular site to visit, and for many years people climbed the steep dune to enjoy running pell-mell down the face. Four years ago, an accident closed the dune and has stumped scientists ever since.
A 6-year-old boy ran down the dune and was swallowed by the sand, either falling into a hole or entering it to explore (stories vary). Rescuers found him 3 1/2 hours later, a dozen feet below the surface. Amazingly, he survived.
More holes were discovered as scientists studied the dune, unexpected since sand should fill any voids as it shifts. Various explanations have been put forth, from groundwater seeping down and creating tubes to buried trees rotting from the inside. Nobody knows. Ongoing investigation has kept the dune closed except for guided ranger walks.
Even without the ability to hike the dune’s summit trail, the beach alone is worth the short hike. The erosion of the dune is easily seen from the shore, as steep walls of sand slough off due to a combination of wind and water.
The parking lot at Mt Baldy is paved and restrooms and a potable water source are available during open hours. If you’re walking to the beach, pets are permitted on a leash (6′ or shorter), and alcohol is okay, but glass containers are prohibited, as are bicycles and motorized vehicles.
This is close to Michigan City, where I jumped out of a perfectly good airplane.