Finally made the hike around the Indiana side of Wolf Lake today, starting from the trailhead off 129th Street, near the Indiana Toll Road. The loop is 5.5 miles and the first stretch took me past a place with a great Region history, one I didn’t fully appreciate during annual visits as a child during the 1980s.
Escaping the sound of jackhammers tearing into Interstate we were soon enough on a boardwalk over the water. Ahead of us, the Illiana Yacht Club. Or as we simply called it “The Yacht Club.”
Region people have the tendency to reduce place names to a simple definite article plus as terse a descriptor as possible. US Steel is The Mills. The Indiana Dunes National Park is The Dunes. Southlake Mall is The Mall. Therefore the Illiana Yacht Club is The Yacht Club.
This likely creates a notion of the place far fancier than fact. In fact, my wife pictured a young me mingling amongst men in ascots and sailor hats. Cut off jean shorts and tank tops with a beer can in hand was more the style here. The setting was transmission towers, trailers, and a rutted road from 112th Street that my old man dutifully told us was a dumping ground for dead bodies. I never ventured much to that end of the property.
No doubt this place formed my awe at the industrial vistas of the Calumet Region and the uncomfortable relationship between landscape and nature. The entire journey from Gary to this northwestern-most corner of Northwest Indiana brought the contrast to the forefront.
The Chicago Tribune ran a history in 2002, and more details are at the Illiana Yacht Club’s website. Dave Novak, who married my Aunt Sandi, recalled: “Ahhhhhh, the friendly confines, 1st came by that place when I was about 10, on a bike, with my cousin Ed. Didn’t know how special it would be.”
And I don’t suppose I did either at 10.
Below are a series of snapshots, many made by my grandfather Frank Roorda, from 1979-1987.
The Novak and Roorda families.
This set dates from autumn 1981, wherein I make my introduction.
Above: with my grandma Minnie. Below: chasing my cousin Amanda.My grandpa was keen enough to capture some of the flora along the road in.
Below, October 1986.
As I was the only boy in my generation my choices of playmates was limited to adults more interested in sailing and drinking beer or my sister and female cousins. Here we play some sort of fort game.
September 1987. My old man pushed my cousin Lauren a little too hard on the swings, sending her flying. They soon made up.