Monday, May 24th - Yogi Bear Jellystone Park Campground, Sturgeon Bay
I arrived at Yogi Bear's Jellystone Park Camp-Resort Monday, May 24th. Yup, that's right, anyone who knows me well knows that I'm a kid at heart, and when I stumbed upon this campground during my google search I had to go! Turns out, Jellystone has locations all over the place, but this one I stayed at in Sturgeon Bay is the oldest - they celebrated their 40th anniversary last year! This place was quite enticing - general store, two heated pools plus kiddie pool, game machines and pool tables, goodie shop (pizza and ice cream), theater stage, playgrounds, tetherball, ping pong, arts and crafts, volleyball, miniature golf, horseshoes, funnelball, football, softball, shuffleboard, and soccer, PHEW!
Yes, this all sounds fantastic and it certainly would have been had I not been the ONLY person on the entire campground! Yes I learned a lesson when I arrived that before Memorial Day weekend it is DESOLATE! I met my need for human contact speaking with Megan the staff person a few times, and she was nice enough to take a picture of me in the Yopi Bear cut out, lol. She said there was another person staying at the campground too, but I sure didn't see em. Anyway, I stayed there for a night and then I had to get out, LOL.
Tuesday, May 25th-Sunday, May 30 - Fish Creek
Tuesday, May 25th
After work at the Sturgeon Bay Public Library I drove up Hwy 42 into through some of the little towns that dot the map of Door County, but when I arrived in Fish Creek I knew I picked the right location to lay my hat for a few days. Fish Creek is a tiny little town where you can't get lost, because it's Main Street that has the cute little eateries, it's Main Steet that as the charming little shops, and it's Main Street that gets you where you want to go next. And these little shops and eateries make Main Steet one of my favorite streets, and Fish Creek one of my favorite places. I can't wait to go back with family or friends someday. It's the perfect get-away-from-it-all gem of a town.
I arrived at Peninsula State Park - off of Main Street of course, lol - and walked through the charming blue door of the Park Office to find FOUR friendly Park staff happy to answer my endless questions about what site to take, what to see, and the most important question of em all - how far from my campsite are the restrooms, lol. Well right off the bat, right inside beautiful Peninsula State Park is 20 miles of bike trails (you can rent bikes at Nicolet Beach), Eagle Tower (offering a bird's eye view of the park and surrounding area from 75 feet off the ground - great views!), a par-71 6200 yard golf course, a theater stage with musical folklore performances, 20 miles of hiking trails, nature center, Nicolet Beach (a natural sand swimming beach), and horseshoe island. Lots to see and do - and since the park is set on a peninsula, every drive to and from your campsite offers breathtaking views of Lake Michigan, and nearby islands.
After setting up camp, I took a little evening stroll down quaint, quiet Main Street. The custard shop that lights up the sky, the stone Library/Post Office/Visitor Center, the two-story shop with blue paint and white trim, the yummy Wild Tomato pizza shop, the pubs, the little local gourmet market, and all the rest...this place has that little feeling of magic, of familiarity, that makes me feel at home away from home. Come Thursday and Friday this quiet town will be packed with visitors; this lovely little street with be filled with families enjoying their long Memorial Day weekend. And Fish Creek will be ready!
Wednesday, May 26th
I spent the day working at the village-like, stone-faced Library, which has to be the smallest library in the world, lol, but it serves it's purpose - for me, the purpose is Wi-Fi! The library is a little larger than a living room, and for the most part orders a book from the other county libraries when when a resident has a request. The library is in the same building as the Post Office and Visitor Center. At lunchtime I went down the street to Bayside Tavern for a burger - a veggie burger, yay! You know you're in a tourist town when the population is 200 and they offer a veggie burger, lol. Loved it, and the bartender was kind and entertaining his patrons. I think he owned the bar; I know he worked there for decades, and took a wonderful joy in his work. I hope to have a longer conversation with him the next time I'm in Fish Creek.
I climbed Eagle Tower and took in the wonderful views of the area. I snapped pictures of Fish Creek. I checked out Eagle Bluff Lighthouse, and Nicolet Beach. I ate a yummy cup of custard from the custard shop. And as I was finding out - Door County is all about cherries. Lots of cherry orchards, and in this yummy custard was yummy, juicy cherries :)
Thursday, May 27th
Due to the limited hours of Fish Creek library, I made my way down Hwy 42 to Sturgeon Bay to start my day. On the way, in a field close to the highway was something cool I had to turn around for - tractors made out of hay! See the pictures! Very cool and creative. Great way to start a day :)
Thanks to the camp staff, I visited Cave Point County Park, along with Whitefish Dunes State Park that's adjoined - and it was awesome! "Cave point is a popular site seeing stop for tourist who know the area well. It is known for its underwater caves and wave-worn limestone cliffs by fisherman, scuba divers, photographers and nature observers." And the white sand beaches, and beaches of sea shells...it was the perfect place for me to take a load off, take in the view, explore, and have my dinner (tuna, how appropriate!).
Friday, May 28th
I visited Cana Island U.S. Lighthouse this evening! It was totally your picturesque, ideal-looking lighthouse. Surrounded by Lake Michigan and lilac bushes (even next to the outhouses for a laundry-like scent while doing the deed, lol) it was a great spot to have my dinner.
Saturday, May 29th
Today I set out for Washington Island and Rock Island - and had a blast! I arrived at the ferry around 8am. It was full by only two cars, so I along with the rest of us in line waited for the next one, and while doing so I got to talking with a local (he has a vacation place on Washington Island and has been coming here for years). He told me what to see and what was a waste of money, and while he scoffed at a couple of my ideas, he was saving me time and helping me out. I drive my car onto the ferry (the first time I've ever done this) and only 25-30 minutes later I was driving onto Washington Island. I drove half the perimeter and got out to explore as desired. I walked around Sand Dunes Beach, saw a couple beautiful sailboats being made on the Marina, and arrived at Jackson Harbor, where I stuffed my backpack and boarded a ferry to Rock Island State Park. It was small ferry and I happened to luck out be there for an unscheduled ride that allowed me to see more stuff today. As I approached Rock Island I was swept away by the views of the Viking Hall (built in the 20's) and the long sand beach peninsula, rising up just barely above the water.
It's a primitive island off the tip of the Door County peninsula in Lake Michigan. It features stone buildings (with his original Icelandic carved oak furniture, and exhibits of Indian artifacts that date back to 1678) built by a wealthy inventor who owned the island between 1910 and 1945, the Potawatomi Lighthouse (the oldest light in Wisconsin - 1836!), stone water tower, site of a former fishing village, a half mile of beautiful sand dunes, 3 old cemeteries (two of which have marked stones), and rocky shoreline with rock carvings.
I explored the island for a couple hours, snapped some photos, and upon departing Rock Island heading back to Washington Island I met Paul. I 25 year old guy who biked from Wassau, WI, quite a ways! We got to talking about our adventures, and we went out exploring for while when we got to back to Washington Island. We first grabbed something to eat at a little restaurant where a black lab growled and barked at us (yet wagged it's tail) when we entered. Gee, nice welcome!
Then we went to Nelson's Hall for a real meal, where more than 10,000 people each year join the Bitter’s Club, by drinking a shot of bitters and receiving a membership card. Built in 1899, by Danish immigrant Tom Nelsen, The hall has served as a social center for Island residents and visitors. The custom of drinking Angostura Bitters as a stomach tonic was established at Nelsen’s Hall by Tom Nelsen. Throughout most of his 90 years, Tom drank nearly a pint a day. He credited his long and healthy life to this habit. Tom would be proud to know that today, because of him, Nelsen’s Hall is the single largest purveyor of Angostura Bitters in the world according to the Guiness Book of World Records. During prohibition, Tom applied for and was granted a pharmacist’s license and dispensed his stomach tonic to the local residents. Even though Angostura Bitters is 90 proof, Tom was allowed to serve his tonic, so his saloon remained open. This make Nelsen’s Hall the oldest legally continuous operated saloon in the state of Wisconsin.
Next, Paul and I scoped out some great views of the area from the tower (lots of steps, lol) at Mountain Park, then lastly we checked out Schoolhouse beach. A rocky beach, but that didn't stop the campers from swimming there. The rocky shore is beautiful - the rocks are pure white, real pretty.
I bid Paul farewell and stopped into The Red Cup (the local from the ferry recommended it) for a delicious peach smoothie. It really hit the spot! Then I took the ferry from Washington Island back to the mainland, making for a nice evening and sunset on the water.
Fish Creek was bustling when I got back into town. The visitors were here for the weekend and taking a load off, strolling the shops and eateries along Main Street. I meandered all the little shops and checked out a fish boil - another Door County "thing." The meal consists of Lake Michigan or Lake Superior whitefish (though lake trout can be used), with other ingredients. The fish is typically caught by local fishermen, cut into small chunks and cooked in boiling water with red potatoes. Some boilers add onions as well. Salt is the only seasoning used. The cooking of the fish is an elaborate presentation. Restaurants typically ask that patrons arrive a half hour early to witness the boiling. The fish and potatoes are placed in a cast-iron kettle. When the water comes to a boil the potatoes, kept in a wire basket, are lowered in. The fish are then placed in another wire basket and lowered in. When the fish oils rise to the top of the pot, the boiler will add a small amount of kerosene to the flames. The whole kettle becomes engulfed in flames, which causes a boilover - you see the fish oils spill over the side of the pot, and the fish is done.
After witnessing the Fish Boil I made my way down to The Wild Tomato pizza shop, where I might have comsumed the best pizza I've ever eaten. They use the best fresh, local ingredients and use sustainable products. I tried "the fun guy" pizza - 5 kinds of fresh mushrooms, cheese, red onion, it was incredible.
Sunday, May 30th
I took down the tent, packed up my car, said my goodbyes to Peninsula State Park (which by the way, did I mention they have the best showers I've ever experienced in a campground?! The showers are are completely separate enclosed rooms with separate door/access to each one! And there's water pressure! In fact one of the showers almost took my head off!) and beloved Door County, and made my way to Wisconsin Dells.
See the view from Eagle's Bluff Tower, Peninsula State Park:
See the beach at Cave Point County Park:
Watch the ferry ride from Washington Island to Rock Island:
See the Viking Hall and boathouse on Rock Island:
See Rock Island:
See the view from the Tower at Mountain Park on Washington Island:
See what a Door County Fish Boil looks like: