Tibbs Trails and Tastes--Door County, Wisconsin


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    Gentle adventure in beautiful settings works for me. 

    Sports requiring skill and stamina, speed and dexterity? Not so much so. That's why I immersed in late summer activities in the peninsula Wisconsin named Door County to see what might be right for me. 

    A bingo for sure! Door County calls most of what I did Silent Sports. 

    Skilled athletes  can choose different routes in the same forested state parks and extensive Lake Michigan shoreline where I found outdoor pleasures just right for my abilities as an elder. 

    Setting The Stage 

    Think of Door County an hour north of Green Bay as the shape of a thumb, 70 miles long. The attached part is 28 miles wide but the tip only four. That means seeing water often and easily, with getting to the other side a breeze. 

    I flew in to Appleton but Green Bay's airport is an option too. Rent a car and head north. Family farms with red barns and silos offer the first hint of changing landscapes, some with quilts painted on the peak under each roof. 

    Entering forests so dense the play of light iss limited gives a fairytale mood to the drive the closer I got. Little did I know I'd discover pleasures within those woods in five state parks. 

    Isn't that a record for one county? I feel the same way about Door's 11 lighthouses. 

    Those forests helped rebuild Chicago after the great fire. They've certainly filled in again. 

    The people of Door County are a romantic sort, in love with their communities. Translate community to mean villages and townships with delightful names. Sturgeon Bay is the single city. Egg Harbor, Sister Bay, Fish Creek and Ephraim are some of the beloved communities. 

    It's clear people live here specifically because they want to.  

    "We like to enjoy ourselves," says Randy Morrow of the Door County Coffee & Tea Company. ""We're not like anywhere else; Door County infuses into your body." 

    Food Before Sports (and After!) 

    Gotta eat, right?  

    Cherry season is a grand time to be in Door County where the low-end harvest is a whopping eight million pounds with often many more. Tart, these cherries, served abundantly by all the chefs and mom-and-pop eateries. 

    In August, I devoured cherry cobbler, cherry pie, cherry milkshakes, dried cherries on beds of fresh, crisp greens and cherries as snacks. 

    Whitefish swim here and tradition dictates they should be boiled in enormous, outdoor kettles. 

    That's a spectacle because boiling over is an on-purpose drama, forcing a burst of flames from the fire underneath. Plan to arrive early and watch, not just show up in time to eat. 

    I recommend Rowley's Bay Resort for the fish boil because it's theater too. Peter Rowley is the early settler encountering Potawatomi Indians, portrayed by master storyteller Charlie Dickson, age 91.  A retired drama professor, he walks visitors through Door's County timeline with insight and humor.  

    His backdrop----lake waters and dense forest plus the kettle and fire with copious amounts of salt, onions, red potatoes and whitefish. 

    Scandinavian pioneer settlers influence Door County to this day so for starters try Swedish limpa bread and a side of pickled beets at the Rowley's fish boil. Then seek cardomon bread from the Icelandic bakery in the village of Ephraim. 

    Hillside Inn for Year-Round Luxury 

    Ephraim is also the home of the waterfront, five-suite Inn named Hillside. Families might like the adjacent two and three-bedroom cottages even more than the luxury rooms.  

    I found the expansive back lawn as engaging as the first and second story porches filling the length of the Inn, facing the water. That lawn is the scene of snow croquet each winter! 

    "The people draw you in," says prorietor Diane Taillon," in Ephraim and all of Door County. "This is a satisfying, low-key life for residents and for visitors."  

    One way to experience just that is sharing conversations or a good book in the many sunny sitting areas at Hillside Inn. Taillon suggests that sun is a key to year-round good cheer. 

    "Sunshine triggers good moods," she says, "and even in the wintor when our cold is invigorating, sunshine is plentiful." 

    Little details at Hillside Inn add to the luxurious down bedding, featherbeds, personal fireplaces, soaking tubs and tiled showers. Find Door County cherries served as melting moments sweet treats on a silver tray. 

    In winter, preserve a snowflake on black velvet to keep forever. 

    Water, Water Everywhere 

    Walking on water is out of my league, and one windy morning looking at choppy Lake Michigan I feared kayaking might be too. 

    Seemed even less wise when the outfitter at Nicolet Beach in Peninsula State Park suggested I pedal a pontoon bike instead!  If I was afraid of tipping my low-to-the waves kayak, how on earth would I maintain myself sitting on a bicycle? 

    Worked like a charm; I rode around for an hour, never a skin-tingling moment. Do believe this is my new favorite sport. (Full disclosure: I balanced much better on this bike than I do on a stand-up paddleboard.) 

    The only ability I needed for an afternoon with Door County Adventure Rafting was a good grip: holding on to the handles of the rubber raft with a high-speed engine felt essential. 

    Admiring the skill of captain/owner Matt Olson in the speeding times, and absorbing his stories of history and folklore in the quiet pauses are my other recommendations. 

    He knows where to look for the 200 shipwrecks from earlier eras – and where to find the lighthouses that protect ships today. 

    Many more pleasures to try another Door County vacation with 300 miles of lake shoreline, 53 public beaches and 34 outlying islands.

    Forests, State Parks, Lighthouses 

    Wisconsin's dense forests are mystical, so I entered the deep woods of Door County state parks in as many ways as time allowed.  

    Peninsula is the park with Northern Lights Theater – outdoor acting excellence telling local stories with clear references to a wealth of Rogers and Hammerstein Broadway tunes. This is professional theater under the stars, requiring a paved walk in the woods to reach the stage. 

    Potawatomi is the park I saw from up above, after climbing 100 steps of a wooden tower for big views of water and woods. The stairs are wide with handrails and landings so catching your breath, and feeling secure, is possible. 

    Newport is on my must-do list on a return for two stellar reasons:

    ·         Dark Sky Park designation granted summer of 2017, one of only 54 in the world

    ·         Mink River considered a Wetland of International Importance, one of 38 in the US.

    Designation awarded by the Ramsar Convention which includes UNESCO, WWF International, Wildfowl and Wetlands Trust, Birdlife International and other international conservation organizations. 

    Cana Island is the lighthouse I climbed, but my benefits were far greater than the cardio exercise.  

    The waters of Bailey's Harbor lap up to plentiful boulders just below the base of the keeper's house and exhibits about the history since 1869. Soothing sounds these waters deliver. 

    Rest awhile on those rocks, musing about the seafaring captains and crews, and the lives of the keepers and their families. In the early days, lugging a five-gallon bucket of melted lard was required every four hours to keep the lamp lighted. 

    Same 97 steps I climbed but my only goal was gazing afar and rejoicing at the Door County beauty. 



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    I recently learned of a FTC law requiring web sites to let their readers know if any of the stories are "sponsored" or compensated.  American Roads and Global Highways' feature writers are professional travel writers. As such we are frequently invited on press trips, also called fam trips. Most of the articles here are results of these trips. On these trips most of our lodging, dining, admissions fees and often plane fare are covered by the city or firm hosting the trip. It is an opportunity to visit places we might not otherwise be able to visit and bring you a great story. However, no one tells us what to write about those places. All opinions are 100% those of the author of that feature column.  

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