The weekend crush of people on the Chicago lakefront overwhelm the facilities, the space and the parking; and ultimately alter the ambiance or experience.
I was given a stark reminder of that again last weekend. And as much as I tried to sort through it over the past few days, I can't get a good handle on it.
Other than maybe suspecting the sheer greatness and appeal of the lakefront almost suffocates under all the love. I think that particularly applies to the experience of Chicago outdoors and Chicago fishing.
This is sort of thinking out loud on lakefront use, take it in that regard.
On Saturday, I caught the end of the Chicago Carp Classic in the afternoon. As I turned off Lake Shore Drive to reach Montrose Harbor, I thought, "Oh, crap, I am never going to find parking."
I thought a friend would be there, too. But he gave up and turned around before trying to fight traffic earlier in the day.
There was a usual crush of youth soccer and adult soccer games, plus there was some sort of fundraising walk or run. There is a walk or run almost every weekend based at Montrose.
Montrose is also the epicenter of fishing in Chicago. In its glory days, Montrose was the biggest fishing spot on the Great Lakes.
Saturday afternoon, for a change, my timing was right. The run/walk or whatever was wrapping up, so I found parking exactly where I wanted along the drive back toward the mouth of the harbor.
Even watching the carp fishermen, I had stark reminders of the multiple uses of the lakefront. Bikers maneuvered around fishing gear. A wedding party shot their photos with Lake Michigan as a back drop. There were dog walkers, lovers, strollers, food venders with carts or bikes and those simply soaking up a wonderful afternoon on the lakefront.
I consider the south side of Montrose Harbor the premium view of downtown Chicago, and I understand those who stroll along it and savor the view.
On the way out, I took the long way just to see all the activities. Cars were backed up at the exits with drivers waiting to get out. The overlap with the bike/running path make for stop and go exodus, even at the north end at Foster.
That was Saturday.
On Sunday, the draw of the lakefront was driven home by the 100,000 or so people clustered around the running of the Chicago Half Marathon. There were nearly 20,000 running and I figured there was roughly four people connected to each runner.
At any rate, there were a helluva lot of people packed on the South Side lakefront.
I was covered the event for Sun-Times sports. When I finished, I had n hour or so until my Metra went. When events pack the lakefront, taking Metra or CTA is the only way to go. And this was a day with a Bears home opener at Soldier Field.
With my hour, I wandered around Jackson Park, including stopping by one of my favorite wild spots in Chicago: Wooded Island. At one lagoon, I saw a couple people fishing, but I saw dozens biking, many just strolling and I saw nearly as many birders as fishermen.
I considered walking out to Jackson Harbor to see how many fishermen were out and if they were catching anything.
In the end, it seemed too much to fight the pedestrian and vehicular traffic.
Ultimately, that's the determining factor on much lakefront usage.