By: Viva Yeboah
In celebration of African American National Parks Day Outdoor Afro Chicago traveled to Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore in Gary, Indiana. First stop was the Paul H. Douglas Center of Environmental Education, we meet with Park Rangers and received an introduction to the history of the park and programs offered at the center. The center includes a nature center allowing us to see animals, bugs, insects and plants found in Miller Woods.
Rangers DeAndrea Jackson and Nic Lucore along with Paul Gitau of Audubon Chicago Region and Birding Sky Holidays lead our hike. Miller Woods is a easy to moderate trail totaling 3.2 miles. The trail begins at the Douglas education center and ends at Miller Beach. The diversity of wildlife and landscape of Miller Woods is a joy for birders, hikers, ecologist and those who enjoy the beauty of nature. You will find turtles, beavers, deers, salamander, snakes, lizards, frogs and plenty of bird species. The terrain is diverse made up of wetlands, dunes and black oak savanna.
Our hike started with a cool welcome from a snapping turtle (we made sure not to get too close). We spotted bracken ferns, phragmites, baltic rush lupine, and cactus along the trail. Paul and Nic identified many bird species including red winged blackbird, common yellowthroat, ring billed gull, blue jay and barn swallow. We saw some elaborate engineering work by the local beavers and captured some activity from the aquatic life in the Grand Calumet lagoons. Adding to the beauty of this hike were the thunderous sounds of Lake Michigan waves as we arrived at Miller Beach.
Big thanks to Teresa Baker creator of African American National Parks Day and Outdoor Afro Leader. Thanks to our national sponsors REI, Kleen Kanteen, Sierra Club and Keen Footwear and local sponsors Audubon Chicago Region. Thanks to Rangers Kim Swift, Julianne Larsen, DeAndrea Jackson and Nic Lucore of Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore and Paul Gitau of Audubon Chicago Region and Birding Skye Holidays. Thanks to all Chicago Outdoor Afros that attended or were there in spirit! What a wonderful experience and looking forward to more!