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Meet your Neighbors: Mary Catterlin and Amy Lukas

Meet Mary Catterlin (left) and Amy Lukas (right)! Amy graduated from Valparaiso University in 2011 with a BS in Biology, minors in Chemistry and Humanities. Mary graduated from Indiana University in 2011 with a BA in Fine Art, minoring in Art History. The summer of 2012 found them doing other things… When Mary started hand carving a cottonwood tree into a dugout canoe, Amy knew they were in for an adventure. Spurred by their love of Lake Michigan and a desire for a challenge, they dreamed big. Both Amy and Mary were relatively (okay, completely) new to long distance expeditions when they set off on their 1200 mile journey around Lake Michigan aboard their handmade dugout sailing canoe in the summer of 2012.

When asked what is currently taking up their time as 27 year olds, frequent answers include speaking, writing, creating, and adventuring on the southern shoreline of Lake Michigan. Side jobs include non profit work, surf instructing, traveling, design work, and ice cream scooping. They have also decided on their next adventure: to finish what they started by circling the remaining four Great Lakes in one nonstop multi-modal journey. They will be taking Makeba, the dugout sailing canoe, for a small portion of the trip. A very small portion. This journey will take them over thousands of miles of freshwater shoreline through seasons as they travel by dugout, sea kayak, SUP, bike, snowshoe, ski, and sail. Needless to say, they have a lot of planning to do.

What brought you to the dunes?

Amy: I’ve always been here! I think I was probably born with Lake Michigan sand between my toes and in my hair.

Mary: Amy did! Honestly, I can’t say that I knew where the dunes were until high school. The southern shore is home base for a lot of my closest friends.

How long have you lived here?

Mary: Born and raised in Michigan City/Trail Creek. Going on 27 years now.

Amy: I was born and raised in Beverly Shores and still find myself here today. Twenty seven years and counting. Even if I move away from the southern shoreline someday, I know this place will remain a constant in my life. The area has shifted and shaped my life just as the wind sculpts the dunes.

What is your favorite thing to do in the area?

Amy: My favorite pastime is walking along the beach in Beverly Shores, but I love exploring all of the natural areas around Northwest Indiana. The biological diversity of the Indiana Dunes makes it a perfect location for constantly discovering and learning about new geological features, new birds, and new plants. Basically I like collecting rocks, pointing out birds to Mary, and touching and dissecting all of the interesting plants I come across. Luckily, I’ve only suffered from poison ivy twice.

Mary: Anything that gets me near the water. I love surfing, sailing, and paddling on my favorite Great Lake. For as long as I’ve lived here, I’m still always learning and finding something new.

Tell us a secret about the dunes.

Mary: At high noon, find and climb the tallest dune. Walk to the cottonwood tree that doesn’t belong. Knock on it three times and turn to face the lake. Wait for a bird to fly overhead before hooting two times. Listen and you will hear your secret.

Amy: What Mary said. But also: Lake Michigan is beautiful at all times of the year, not just from Memorial Day to Labor Day. From the warm glassy water in July, to the wild waves of November, to the quiet moonscape shelf ice of February, to the thawing and greening dune ridges in April, you can find beauty and a sense of wonder in the dunes regardless of the season. Finding yourself on top of a monstrous dune or on a completely empty stretch of Lake Michigan shoreline is something magical.

Give us your top three “hidden treasures” (restaurant, shop, trail, beach, event…really anything!)

a) Beach Glass Cafe at Stop 24 in Long Beach. Intelligentsia coffee, Sherman’s Ice Cream, and homemade pastries all in one place! On the beach.

b) Through the Indiana DNR, you can sign up to receive email or text “Bird Alerts.” These alerts include location information for seeing a variety of unique bird species that migrate through our area. From Saw Whet Owls, to Snowy Owls, to Sandhill Cranes, we love having these opportunities to put our amateur bird watching skills to work. 

c) The canopy walk at the Galien River County Park in New Buffalo. After a short walk through the woods, you find yourself walking on a boardwalk 60 feet up in the tree canopy. The platform at the end of the boardwalk opens up to a beautiful aerial view of the Galien River and the surrounding marshland. You can usually spot a few blue herons, deer, or a paddle boarder or two down by the water’s edge. 

What would you like to teach people about the dunes?

Mary: That we all own the dunes. We should all do our part to protect them.

Amy: I’m passionate about educating people of all ages about the importance of appreciating and protecting the precious area we call home. The Indiana Dunes is one of the most biologically diverse ecosystems in the world and Lake Michigan is part of the largest freshwater system in the world, and to think that these things are right in our backyard to explore is…amazing! I think it’s important for as many people as possible to see Lake Michigan and experience hiking along some of the trails in our area. If people are exposed to the dunes, they will inevitably fall in love with them (how could they not?) and will have a stake in protecting them for future generations.

Anything else?

Mary: Does anyone else think we should hold movie screenings on the beach in the summer?

Amy: Let’s get this started, people! I know the perfect documentary to screen to start things off…

Amy and Mary are also completely new to the realm of book & film, but they thoroughly enjoy the process of telling a story they love. Their 93 day adventure has recently taken the form of a published illustrated journal and a full length documentary film detailing the ins and outs of their dream coming to life. They hope to inspire others to follow their dreams, no matter how big, small, or ridiculous. For more information on their journey around our backyard lake, or to pre-order their book,  check out their blog right here! 

bon voyage from tim

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