Here at Hidden Beach, the water is fine — and the mud's not half bad, either. Way over on the east side of Cedar Lake, it's like the sixties never ended. Follow a winding path through the brush to find a hippie paradise, complete with cheerful nudity, unleashed dogs, and late-night jam sessions. The swimming is excellent (an underwater spring keeps things clean), especially after a fight in the mud pit.
Hidden Beach has been sheltering weirdos for a long time — its location near the rail yards made it a perfect haven for hobos during the Depression. But things really took off in the 60s — some of the beach's regulars have been coming there since before the Summer of Love. That includes the "mud man," an old-timer who greets folks and encourages them to get dirty. He also picks the sticks and rocks out of the mud, to make sure the puddle is ultra-smooth.
But here's the catch: Hidden Beach is located in one of the city's wealthiest neighborhoods. And the rich folks weren't amused by the local color. In 2007, the beach got "official regonition" from the city — which meant picnic tables, brush clearing, and a lifeguard on the weekends. The freaks weren't amused — in fact, the first lifeguard stand was promptly burnt down.
But the eccentrics haven't disbanded. They've adopted one of the new picnic tables (re-named the "family table") and still flock to the beach in warm weather. And the mood on the beach suggests that plenty of beer cans and doobies are making it past the lifeguard.
Debauchery aside, the beach will always be a place where all of the city's tribes — from skate punks to Rastafarians — can peacefully coexist.