July 20, 2014
That's a dangerous invitation, isn't it? To encourage questions about a place for which I'm not an expert, and where I've simply vacationed. I don't live in Door County. But I've visited many times since the age of nine, and I'm happy to report it has not lost its charm and is still one of my favorite summertime destinations.
If you ask me a factual question, I'll answer with what I know (or I'll find the answer if I don't). If you ask about my impressions, I'll be happy to share those, too.
About a month ago, the fishman and I vacationed in Door County. We decided to stay in Ephraim, because of its quaint presence and its central location in the Door Peninsula. Anderson's Dock and pier (above), which houses non-profit The Hardy Gallery and is on the National Register of Historic Places, is a must-see for anyone who visits. Norwegian immigrant Aslag Anderson started the pier and was an influential early Ephraim settler.
Door County has been called the "Cape Cod of the Midwest," and if you visit both places, you'll understand why. A simple blog post can't cover it all. But here are some of the highlights:
The sunrises over Lake Michigan and the sunsets over Green Bay (shown here) are spectacular. If you're in the right place at the right time, even a camera phone can adequately capture the beauty. This sunset greeted us on our first evening in Door County, at Peninsula State Park.
Ephraim sits at the edge of Eagle Harbor. There are historical sites throughout Ephraim, as well as shops, galleries, restaurants, and plentiful water and outdoor activities. Anywhere you walk or rest along the bay, you'll see sights like this.
The beaches are clean, accessible, and lovely.
But Ephraim is just one of several great destinations in Door County. Another place you have to see--most recommend the breakfast pancakes--is Al Johnson's restaurant in Sister Bay. Yes, those are goats on the roof! You can read more about them, and see the "goat cam" at this link.
Ephraim and Sister Bay are on the bay side of Door County. Bailey's Harbor--another favorite, with a slightly different personality--has more restaurants, shops, great views, activities ... and, of course, seagulls. (At one point, there were seagulls on every post of this pier.)
Those are just a few of the great towns along the peninsula, and I have to say I love them all. Others will be featured in future posts. You can see a map of Door County destinations here.
But back to Ephraim, because that's where we stayed during this particular vacation. Wilson's Restaurant has some of the best ice cream in Door County, and they're generous with the scoops!
We were fortunate during this vacation to witness the 50th anniversary of Ephraim's Fyr Bal Festival. I'm told the Norwegian "fyr bal" roughly translates to fire (bal) beacon (fyr), or bonfire. (I didn't realize until later that this photo was taken at the corner of Cherry and Water Streets--two of the things Door County is famous for.)
For the annual Fyr Bal Festival in early summer, bonfires are lit at dusk to signify the burning of the "winter witch" and the welcoming of summer. You don't have to be of Norwegian heritage (I'm not) to attend--it's a fun event for people of all backgrounds and ages.
This series shows the progression of the flames, ending with a view of numerous bonfires along the coast of Eagle Harbor:
It was truly a magical event--viewing all the people and numerous bonfires, close and in the distance, around the edges of Eagle Harbor.
Another exceptional experience was our hike from Cave Point County Park, and then through the woods along the Lake Michigan shoreline, ending at Whitefish Dunes State Park. The photo above shows where we started, and yes--it's common practice to walk on the flat rocks out into the lake around that large limestone ledge. (Water shoes or waterproof hiking gear recommended.) It's not as scary as it looks, and the views around the corner are spectacular.
The rock formations, including the ridges and kettles, are fascinating to study. This is part of the Niagara Escarpment, which stretches from New York State, up and over Lakes Huron and Michigan, through Door County and eastern Wisconsin.
I'm always amazed at how plants, like this Columbine (Aquilegia canadensis), cling to crevices and find a way to survive.
With forest on one side, Lake Michigan on the other, and rock formations down the middle, the views are stunning.
Some of the freshwater next to the limestone: I think it's blue/green because the water is so clean and clear that the color is vibrant as it reflects the sun.
Speaking of sun, it was in and out of the mist and fog, the day we took this hike. As we left Cave Point County Park, we meandered to and fro as we walked toward our destination. We ventured out toward the lake along the way.
And back into the forest to see blooming plants like this Wood Betony (Pedicularis canadensis).
More stunning views of the land ... meeting the water ... meeting the sky.
This particular view took my breath away. You can see the cave formations under the limestone bluffs.
And our destination: Whitefish Dunes State Park--one of my all-time favorite places in Door County! On a warm summer day, this three-mile-long natural sand shoreline is covered with people. But on this particular unseasonably cool June day, we had the beach to ourselves!
The entire vacation was a great getaway. And now, after reliving it through photos, I can't wait to get back!