Tuesday, September 25, 2007


I'm not sure why people favor white sandy beaches over all other textures. For that matter, why people crowd beaches at the hottest possible time of day, only to leave when the Sun sinks toward the horizon. Or why beaches tend to be empty on cloudy days.

I thought about these things on Sunday at Illinois Beach State Park. Though I'm not a beach person, I've visited beaches in various parts of the world, and those I've liked best were cool, cloudy and nearly deserted; the color of the sand isn't very important (though I was once amazed by the black sand beach I saw in Hawaii); and in fact rocks, driftwood and other bits of texture are important to the experience.

I wasn't looking forward to Sunday's visit, not completely, because it was a very warm, sunny day, a little unusual for late September, and I was sure the beach would be jammed. Hard to find a place to walk, hard to find a place to park to get to a place to walk. I was imagining nuisance from beginning to end. Crowded beaches are just that.

Amazingly, Illinois Beach SP, the south unit anyway, while not exactly empty on Sunday afternoon, sported only a scattering of people. Maybe it was because it was September. Or maybe because it's a little far from Chicago, though you could hardly call the area rural. Or maybe it was because the beach at the south unit is an off-white, part sandy, part pebbly beach. In any case, the low population density suited me just fine.

I would have waited until about 4 to sit down on this beach, but our children would not have waited so long, so we went after our large lunch at Green Tomato in Zion (see Sunday's post) at about 2. It was too hot as far as the adults were concerned, but not the kids, who ran along the water's edge, splashed themselves, collected piles of rocks and threw them in the water, and built sand castles. We had no beach umbrella as such, but a large blue and yellow Ikea umbrella did duty as one, and Yuriko and I hid under it as much as possible. I think I even drifted off to sleep at one point, soothed by the sound of the waves. Though not ocean waves, the lake waves came regularly, and made that distinctive crashing. Sometimes life is an afternoon at the beach.


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