Day 227 – Door County Byways
I survived another storm yesterday. It came and left within an hour yesterday
afternoon, but it was ominous. Dark
black clouds rolled in as the wind swirled.
I was pulled off in a roadside rest area, but I’m told the wind lifted
the water off the lake, creating a water spout.
This morning we cruised up the “thumb” of Wisconsin. Our first stop was Cave Point County Park
where Lake Michigan’s waves splash against dolomite cliffs. During rough weather, this can be a
spectacle, though today it was calm enough for locals to take a dip. I’ve heard from a handful of folks over the
last week that the water is warm. It’s
all relative I guess…I’m certain it is at least 10 degrees cooler than I
prefer. The cliffs were formed 410
million years ago through a combination of glaciation and erosion. We walked along a few of the outcroppings,
but Petey is still feeling gloomy, so we didn’t get too much exercise. I’m certain tearing into a six month supply
of Heartguard last night didn’t help. I
guess he will be worm free for August anyway!
We continued on to Baileys Harbor, home to the Ridges
Sanctuary, one of the largest wildflower preserves in America. Petey wasn’t allowed on the well-groomed,
bark trails, so I sauntered through the forest of white spruce along the Winter
Wren trail. I picked up my pace a bit as
buzzing flies would not leave the vicinity of my head despite me waving my
paper map around. I spotted a handful of
wild flowers but managed to miss the 27 species of orchids. I would say it was a very peaceful walk
except those darn flies ruined it. How
important are flies to the food chain? I
could stand to live without them!
We reached Sister Bay by lunch time. I opted for some local cuisine at Al Johnson’s. It is known for its traditional Swedish menu
and its sodded roof. I had the most unusual
lunch in a long time; Swedish pancakes with lingonberries and Swedish
After lunch we followed Highway 42 north to Gills Rock, the
tip of the thumb where we took a car ferry to Washington Island. The turbulent currents between the tip of
Wisconsin and Washington Island earned the name, place of death, from the
Indians. French explorers dubbed it
Porte des Morts, loosely translated as Death’s Door from which Door County
derived its name.
Washington Island was named for the schooner, George
Washington in 1816. The Washington, the
largest and finest vessel on the lake at the time, carried soldiers from
Mackinaw to Green Bay where they were to establish a fort. While anchored in what now is known as
Washington Harbor, the soldiers gave the harbor and island its name. Washington Island is the second oldest
Icelandic settlement in America. The
early settlers were primarily fishermen.
In time, Swedish, Danes, and Norwegians arrived bringing farming and
While on the island, we visited Schoolhouse Beach and
Washington Harbor. The Washington Harbor
is the oldest of the four harbors on the island and was popular among the tall
schooners and large steamships due to the wide entrance and deep waters. The big ships and docks are now gone and
tourists enjoy the rocky beach.
Schoolhouse beach is made up of limestone rocks that may
have traveled all the way from Niagara Falls to end here. I don’t think I’ve seen a beach quite like
We toured the island a bit more before grabbing the 5:30
ferry back to the mainland. On the ferry,
I met Ryan and a few fellow members of his amateur league baseball team. As a teenager, he used to throw a 94 mph fast
ball and had a full ride to anywhere, but he needed surgery, so opted for tech
school. He works for a utility company
in the gas area. He seems to know
everyone on the thumb…they are all his cousins…I guess so since he has 14 aunts
and uncles, 13 on one side! In his spare
time he hunts, fishes, works in the garden and makes wine. After dinner and drinks at a local pub, I
tried his raspberry wine…good…tasted like Sangria. He has a variety of fruit trees planted outside
his house that he built himself. He only
had the insulation and tile completed by contractors. He was fun. It would be nice to keep in touch…but no
internet, cell phone or cable for him…I’ll have to resort to old methods…a
house phone! ETB
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