Early Season Camping at Indiana Dunes National Park – A Hudson Bay Start

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On Easter Sunday, we woke up to the usual shenanigans involving baskets, plastic eggs, and candy. We have yet to attend church in person since PCSing to Fort Sheridan so we watched an Easter service from an Episcopal Church in a city where we wouldn’t mind living after our Army adventure is behind us. After church, we packed our bags and took one last inventory of our camping gear before loading up our car. The majority of campgrounds that we’ve been interested in visiting do not open until May so when we discovered that the campground at Indiana Dunes National Park opened Easter weekend, we quickly booked a site for one night for $25.

Not to be confused with Indiana Dunes State Park (located in the middle of the national park and has its own campground), Indiana Dunes National Park became our country’s 61st National Park in 2019. During our brief visit, we stayed overnight at Dunewood Campground, which technically is down the street from the national park, despite being the campground for the Indiana Dunes National Park. All of the walk-in tent sites were already booked (our preference) so we opted for a traditional site with a parking pad.

The campground is quite wooded but due to it being so early in the season, the campsites didn’t feel terribly private. We’re not social campers and prefer to feel like we’re alone in the woods – hence our preference for hike-in tent camping. But because it was our Labrador retriever puppy’s first time camping, we didn’t mind having close access to our car and made the best of the experience. If anything, we were treating it as a trial run because we have a few more-intense camping trips planned for later this summer.

Once we set up camp, we set off for a hike down to Lake Michigan through marshland. We mistakenly followed directions to the closest swim location rather than into the national park itself, which was a bit of a bummer. Once we realized the error of our ways, we’d already hiked about 4 miles and the kids really wanted to have a couple daylight hours to enjoy the campsite so we opted to forgo a hike into Indian Dunes National Park and save it for another overnight trip. Womp womp.

The bathhouses were very well-maintained and sparkling clean. Because we only camped overnight, we opted to shower at home but the shower stalls were quite nice looking. There was a water-bottle filling station with filtered water and a camp sink available for use, which came in handy to rinse off our dishes without dipping into our drinking water supply.

Teddy Girl is almost 6 months old and thoroughly enjoyed her first camping experience. She had no issue sleeping in the tent with us and while the occasional sound caused her to bark once or twice, she proved herself to be worthy camping companion.

Each campsite had a parking pad, a picnic table, a fire pit, and a grill, which is much more than we’re used to when primitive camping. The Dunewood Campground at Indiana Dunes National Park does not have electric hook-ups for RVs or water at the campsites, which is a plus in our book. While this certainly wasn’t primitive camping, it didn’t feel luxurious by any means so there was a small element of ‘roughing it‘, which we quite enjoy.

While there were a few things we would’ve done differently, our night at the Dunewood Campground at Indiana Dunes National Park was a good first trial run for the season. When we were chatting with Clay’s dad on our way home, he said, “You did a Hudson Bay Start!” A Hudson Bay Start is when trappers working for the Hudson Bay Company in the 17th century would set up camp the first night only a short distance from their starting point. This ensured them to make sure that didn’t forget anything or take too much. If any changes needed to be made, it wasn’t a big deal to return to home base and readjust. We’ll make a few adjustments prior to our next overnight camping excursion planned for the first week in May but overall, I’d consider our Hudson Bay Start a success!

2 comments on “Early Season Camping at Indiana Dunes National Park – A Hudson Bay Start”

  1. Yay for first camping trips of the season! I just did one last week although it was still too snowy to do it in my tent. I love the idea of a Hudson Bay Start – I really like testing things out before going somewhere remote and finding out I have the wrong gear!

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