In Wisconsin, summer doesn’t last long, about just enough time to garner an impressive farmer’s tan. Here, we take full advantage of those comfortable, well sometimes oppressive, temps. Festivals, water parks, camping, boating, baseball games and-I’m sure you get the picture.
Even long walks on the beach are within reach, for those wishing to partake in a little sand and surf. A great place for said activity is Point Beach State Forest, set along the Lake Michigan shoreline.
The 3,000 acre forest really has quite a few attractions-Rawley’s Point Lighthouse, grassy sand dunes which stretch inland, an evergreen forest that is perfect for camping, a concession stand selling Ice Cream, over seventeen miles of hiking trails, geological features known as swales, and a narrow cream colored beach that follows the contours of Lake Michigan for miles.
My reason for going? Simple-I bought a State Park Sticker and want to take full advantage of the purchase. So, I did a search of State Parks in the vicinity. Technically Point Beach is a State Forest, but its facilities and upkeep is definitely on the same level as any State Park I’ve visited.
We drive from Green Bay, its about forty-five minutes away. As we enter the forest, a young lady glances at our State Park sticker and waves us through. We find a small parking lot at the entrance, along the beach rest larger parking areas.
The first thing I do is ask about the Rawley’s Point Lighthouse, which really isn’t hard to find. Simply hike a boardwalk trail, near the entrance parking area. It takes you through a short wooded stretch and grassy sand dunes, the beacon being set off to the right. One small problem, its owned by the Coast Guard, so entrance to this operational lighthouse is out of the question. This steel octagonal skeletal structure was built in 1894 and is the tallest of its kind on the great lakes. A house, built in 1853, from an earlier tower remains on the property as well.
We take selfies and then descend to the beach. The Lake Michigan water level has risen lately, leaving a narrower beach than what was once here. Also they’ve added rocks, to this natural sand beach, to prevent erosion, it’s still rather picturesque and worth a stroll. Naturally, we spend about an hour just talking and enjoying the late evening.
We leave as it’s nearing sunset and I’m not satisfied. The beach walk was all well and good and the lighthouse was enormous. However, as I drive around in the late evening, the diminishing sunlight shines on points of interest I have yet to explore.
So, we return in a few days. This time we hit the concession stand and nature center, which looks like some wealthy gentleman’s stone cabin. It offers sixteen different flavors of Cedar Crest Ice Cream. Also, the concession stand rents bicycles at six dollars an hour for trail riding .
After, we do a little hiking, following a small loop. The head of the trail is located at the parking lot of the concession stand. Warning for those attempting the trail at this time of year-it is located near a swale full of stagnant water…mosquito heaven. We don our Mosquito repellant and venture onward.
I’m not miserable but I’m not content either. Despite our repellant, the mosquitos swarm us. The path’s scenery is gorgeous however, and little frogs litter the trail hopping from the falls of my unwary feet. Despite the scenery and wildlife, I’m relieved when we reach the head, as I scratch at a few bites.
As we return to the parking lot, we’re thinking of grabbing an ice cream cone, as Heidi offers to pay. That leads to the discovery that her phone, which has a case holding her debit card, is missing. I know she had it while we were hiking, because I saw her taking a photo. I really don’t want to brave the mosquito infested woods again, tempted to wish her luck finding it. Yet, even if she insists that I don’t have to help, I feel I should man up and search with her.
Luckily, we find the phone in the spot she suspected she would. We head back for Ice Cream, enjoying the cones on a stone set of steps, leading to the beach. Now I’m content. We nibble at our cake cones as we watch the surf lap the sandy shore, discussing life experiences as we do.
After that, we leave. I’m tempted to return for a camping excursion one weekend, as there is said to be great spots with enough privacy, yet access to amenities, available. I know I’ll return this winter, provided there is enough snow, to do some cross country skiing, as there is a 3, 5.5 and a 7.25 mike loops to choose from.
Also, the park is part of what is known as the Lake Michigan Water Trail for kayakers. The trail is a continuous stretch, over 523 miles long, starting at the Wisconsin-Illinois border and wrapping around Door County. It is hoped that every ten miles a campground will be available for the kayakers, Of course, one needs a seafaring kayak for the tumultuous waves of the lake. It would not be for the novice kayaker.
It is also a great place for birding, as it is considered a great restoration area for a rare bird known as the piping plover. Of course there are other migrating birds to see at various times of the year.
So, if you’re looking for a long walk on the beach, try Point Beach State Forest. Also nearby, we enjoyed a german beer and great food at Kurtz pub in Two Rivers, the nearest community to the forest.