It’s a transformation of sorts. I’m referring to a population swell on Wisconsin’s largest peninsula. This tapered bit of land, known as Door county, which is 18 miles across at its widest point and 70 miles long, sees a population boom mostly every summer. Of course, the pandemic threw a wrench in the analytics. Yet, it’s safe to say that this county, consisting of roughly 28,000 souls, will host 250,000 inhabitants on any given weekend-at least from now through Labor Day. So, I decided I’d visit a few sights. My main goal was to check out a recently opened tower, which surveyed blue waters and scenic shoreline. I also visited a town I had yet to include in my writings. Join me, if only for a few minutes….
I’ll start off by saying this; this post’s title is slightly misleading. I only spent a day in Door County, and we arrived at our destination around noon. But, to avoid a lengthy heading, and to mention the time of year this visit took place, it’s titled like it is.
Secondly, this is a bit of a mish-mash, having no real center of focus. Basically, it’s a sample of a few Door County attractions. Yet, considering that the County boasts five state parks, several quaint towns and nearly twenty county parks, these are fun highlights of a typical Door Peninsula visit.
I’ll start off with our Peninsula State Park endeavor. Through word of mouth and various media outlets, I had heard about the park’s new tower, known as Eagle Tower. Immediately, I craved to stand perched atop it’s observation deck. It lived up to the hype, and many people shared my desire; finding a parking spot was a little tough.
The new Eagle Tower, which replaced its decrepit predecessor, stands sixty feet above the surrounding terrain. The forest floor at the tower’s base, all alone, is an elevated chunk of landmass. What really piqued my interest, being that it’s a very unique feature, was an eight-hundred and fifty foot wooden ramp, which serpentines towards the tower’s viewing platform. And the wooden path is an easy incline, allowing one to avoid an onerous stair climb. But most importantly, it allows those confined to a wheelchair access to the tower’s top.
My favorite portion of the ramp’s ascent was nearing the top. There, as the royal blue waters spread before me, meshing with a sky of a similar shade, I felt as if I was on a path to the heavens. It really was that cool!
Atop the viewing platform, you have an excellent panoramic view. As I made mention, the bay spreads before you. But you can also witness Horseshoe Island, Michigan’s Upper Peninsula and the green of Peninsula State Park.
Eagle Tower is located near the Ephraim entrance of the park. There is no charge to climb the tower, as long as you have purchased a park pass. Annual State park passes are $28 dollars and give you free access to Wisconsin’s 66 State parks. I believe a daily pass is ten dollars.
So, we came for the tower, but we weren’t finished. Dare I say, “We stayed for the hiking?” Actually that wouldn’t be a lie, no matter how you put it.
And Peninsula State Park, with twenty miles of hiking trails, and the same amount of biking trails, allows for some scenic outdoor excursions. Not to mention, the park boasts eight miles of Green Bay shoreline.
I bring that last portion up because our trek began at Nicolet Beach. People weren’t braving the water quite yet, being that it was actually a pretty cool day. But many visitors were engaged in yard games near the sands.
We coursed through a campground until we found the Minne-ha-ha trail. The simplistic trek was a shady stroll, courtesy of towering cedars. The entire mile was along the bay’s rocky shore. It was quite relaxing, yet stimulating at the same moment. The comfortable temps, the waves softly lapping the shore and the wooded path sanded my woes away.
After that, we hopped in the car and headed east, crossing over the peninsula. Our goal was a quaint and dated town, which boasted casual trendiness in an old fashioned manner. Bailey’s Harbor, set on a small inlet of Lake Michigan, is quite laid back compared to its western shore counterparts. Plus, where Sister Bay and Egg Harbor have buildings sporting the latest style, the modern hipness is absent in Bailey’s. Yet, class abounds in this relaxed setting.
After passing a corner restaurant, which played host to a folk singer, we found the Door County Brewing Company. Since it’s set in a spacious building, this gritty, historic structure can accommodate a large gathering. I can imagine a festive musical performance, late into a cool lakeshore summer night, capping off a lax but event filled day. The beer was good too!
As we grabbed our plastic cups, moseying outdoors, we discovered a refreshing expanse of grass. Dotted with tables, this spot looked like a decent place to enjoy our brews. To cap it off, Wally’s Weenie Wagon, set on this grassy lot, offered hot eats. We surveyed the menu and ordered a couple of Gyros.
After a short wait, we ate, sipped our beers and took in the peaceful setting. I should mention that Wally, and his wagon, are on this lot Wednesday through Sunday during summer.(I actually don’t know if the truck owner’s name is Wally)
Also, there’s this cool food stand situated between the brewery and the food truck.
After finishing our food and drink, we strolled the town. We came across the super rustic Blue Ox, loaded with genuine nineteenth century kitsch. Occasionally, thrown in with wood yokes, saw blades, leather horse bridles and other antiquities, more modern trinkets, like a chrome VW bus emblem, added flavor to the crammed walls and ceiling. Despite the many conversation pieces, the slightly darkened bar was a very cozy spot.
And to cap our day off right, while traveling south on highway fifty seven, we made a pit stop at Cave Point. Here, the Lake Michigan waves crash into Dolomite cliffs. You can actually hear the water thudding in the caves below. The hiking was pretty cool, but, if you choose to hike along the cliff, the county park yields to a state park.
After a little hiking…
And cliff walking…
We returned to the car and headed home.
And that was our day in Beautiful Door County. However, as the day was almost perfect, there was one glaring failure, at least on my part. I failed to remember what this weekend was for, and, as we headed south, forgot to stop by my grandfather’s grave. So I’ll remember him here, as I stroke the final words on my keypad on an early Memorial Day afternoon.
Here’s to Kenneth F. Karas, who was a D-Day veteran of the second World War. His service to our country, and his ‘tough as nails’ persona, is on the forefront of my mind today. And thanks to every man who has died serving this country, preserving our freedom and nation. I am truly grateful to all!