The 1,000-Mile Great Lakes Adventures

Friday, March 20, 2009

Segment 1, Day 2 Hyde Park>East Chicago, IN 12 miles

High of 71 degrees!

This day began in Jackson Park. This park was designed by Frederick Law Olmsted (who also designed New York's Central Park). This park was also the site of the 1893 World Exposition. The first two photos are from this grand (though in need of some care) park. The first is in the Japanese garden, a beautiful spot to watch the sunrise. The second are the first flowers in bloom along my Trek. If anyone knows the name of this flower, please post a comment. It's been driving me crazy! OKAY: My mom came through with the flower ID. She writes: "The flower is called the Snowdrop ( Galanthus) a native of Turkey and Eastern Europe. It is one of the first harbingers of spring and is in the amaryllis family. Mom" Thanks, Mom!

The Lakefront Trail kind of dies on the southside, so then I walked along major roads until I came upon the next park or other lake access. I went through Rainbow Park (which was deserted except for me), and then skirted the former site of the U.S. Steel South Works Plant. The plant operated from the mid 1800s to the 1990s before shutting down completely. The plant has since been scrubbed from the land (except for a lone power plant). It is now a fenced off scrubby plot of hundreds of acres. There is a trash-heaped berm of dirt blocking the street view of the site and I would have had to climb the fence to get a photo. This was not the sort of neighborhood to go shooting photos anyway, so I didn't do more than pick my way through the rubble of a neighborhood left behind when the mill and all the jobs left. The grand church pictured here stands in the middle of this devastated place.

I cut a few blocks inland to try to find some breakfast, and came across a delightful Mexican bakery on Commercial Avenue called Marzeya. The lobby area of the bakery is filled with glass cases stuffed with delightful pasteries (see photo). You merely pick up an aluminum tray and a pair of tongs and help yourself from the cases. Everything is made on site and fifty pound sacks of flour are stacked behind the counter.

From this point until I stopped for the night, I'd be passing through Calumet Park, then crossing into Indiana, then walking through a lot of industry only broken up by Whiting, IN.

The day warmed up (as they said it would) and it was rather hot when I passed through the BP refinery (formerly Standard Oil, then Amoco), one of the largest in the world. It isn't the most pedestrian-friendly walk (as you might imagine--actually it's probably even worse than you can imagine). I hustled through there. BP security tailed me at one point, but then lost interest. I then crossed over the drawbridge on the Indiana Harbor Canal and into the area between East Chicago and Gary.

As I got closer and closer to my hotel (the Ameristar which is situated on Lake Michigan), I realized that I could not approach it on foot. This was after crossing two on/off ramps to the layers of highway. You had to get ON, then OFF the highway in order to get to the hotel that was less than a half mile away. I started to backtrack to a bar I had passed to call a cab to take me there, when a man just getting off his shift at the mill pulled over and gave me a lift in his yellow Jeep. The day was so lovely that he had peeled back the soft top of the Jeep and it was great to feel the air rushing through the vehicle. The gentleman's name was Dwayne and he'd just returned from a trip to Hawaii. So, for that short ride through industrial horrorscape, we talked about the beaches of the islands so far removed from where we were.

I'm still thankful for Dwayne and his yellow Jeep with the top rolled back.


  1. Yellow Jeep! He had to be great. Thought about you all week. It just sounds awesome! I am glad you are home, safe and well. Can't wait to join you!


  2. You are a brave soul to walk this area of Whiting and East Chicago. As a child this is where I grew up. My family worked both the steel mills and Standard Oil. This is a hard and gray place...however it still holds the spirt of those who lived and raised their families there, it holds a harsh beauty...thank you for taking the time to experience it.