Saturday, August 27, 2016

Door County - Take Two

From August 24th through August 26th I took my Guy to Door County, Wisconsin.  I had been there previously, in 2007, and enjoyed the visit very much, even though at the time I was a single gal, and a little sad about that.  This time I was able to "Do the Door" a second time, and with company.

On Wednesday, after getting up and getting the rest of the camping gear packed and saying farewell to our house sitter, we got on the road for the approximate 5.5 hour drive. Our destination this first night was Peninsula State Park, just outside of Fish Creek. We would camp the first night. My plan was also to partake in a fish boil. It is a unique Door County "thing", and I wanted to share it with Rich. I had initially scheduled a boil with the Old Post Office in Ephraim, but as we got closer to Door County I realized we just simply would not make it in time, and also get our camping site set up. A quick phone call to one of the other locations that offer fish boils, the White Gull Inn, and we were able to snag someone else's cancellation for later in the evening.  This one was at 8:15, we would be able to make that, no problem.  The White Gull Inn is actually where I experienced my first (and up to this point only) fish boil on my previous visit.

We got to the park, registered, found our camp site, set up our tent, admired the view (right next to the water), then got off to our dinner date.  On the way over we caught the sunset. Close-up pictures by Rich and his better camera, and the panorama by me and my iPhone.

OK, what is a Fish Boil?  I explained this before on my previous trip, but I'll do it again for this blog post.  Door County has a history of logging.  A fish boil was a way to feed large groups of people quickly. It started out to be practical, then was adopted for church socials, and eventually was presented to the general public by places like the White Gull Inn.

A large pot of water is brought to a boil, outside. Small red potatoes are placed in first to cook, in their own basket, along with a lot of salt, which brings the boil temperature of the water up, and also seasons the potatoes. Once the potatoes are done, and the "boil master" checks this, another basket is placed above the potatoes, and the fish is put in.  The fish is white fish, caught in Green Bay, or over in Lake Michigan.  The fish cooks for about 9 minutes, or until judged done by the boil master.  Then the show has a dramatic finale! 

Fats and oils from the fish rise to the top. In order to get rid of those, a final splash of kerosene is poured onto the fire, and the flames burst up into a tower of fire, instant flash boiling the water, overflowing the brim and draining off the fats.  The flame dies down quickly, and a large plank is passed through the handles of the nested baskets in the water pot to remove the fish and potatoes. This is immediately taken inside, and an all-you-can-eat fish meal is served.

On my last visit, our meal was accompanied by an accordion player. There was not one this time.

The picture below was snagged from the White Gull Inn's page, as I did not take a picture of my own meal. As soon as it was sitting in front of me, I dove into it.  I love fish!!  This is a really great meal!! If you go to Door County, you simply MUST go to a fish boil.  Along with the fish and potatoes you get coleslaw, a basket of breads, and a slice of Door County cherry pie with ice cream.  Yummy!

If you'd like to experience a little more about a Fish Boil, check out this video made to highlight some of the cool things to do in Door County:

Fish Boil

After our meal we went back to our camp, and took our chairs down to the shore of Nicolet Bay and watched the stars come out.  Horseshoe Island was directly in front of us, with some kind of light beacon.  Off to the right Door County disappeared off into the horizon.  It was a very pleasant, non-buggy night, and end of our first day of our trip.

I found this very nice little map of Door County out on the Internet.  I contacted the artist, and she has allowed me to keep her drawing here.  If you like the work, or would like to see more like it, or buy some nice postcards, go visit her Etsy page and show her some love:

Door County Map

Thank You Terri!

The next day dawned beautiful and bright.  We would have an excellent, mostly 70s kind of day for driving the Door.  We started the morning as we had ended it, sitting next to the water and watching the Bay come to life.  A few early fishermen were out in their boats.  Several early fisher-birds were out as well, mostly pelicans.  After striking our tent and leaving the park, we made our way into Fish Creek and found a little doughnut shop serving a Door County favorite, apple cider fry doughnuts, but with a twist.  These had lots of specialty toppings drizzled over the top, maple, chocolate or vanilla frosting, nuts, bits of bacon, butter crackers and raspberry syrup, making a box of 6 cost $9. A bit steep, but they were very tasty, and a terribly filling start to a day of over-eating.

Door County consists of several small towns, disbursed along County Road 42 to the West, and 57 to the East. The distance is not great, and you can easily drive it all in one day, depending on how much time you spend at each stop.  There are lots of antique shops and high-end clothing boutiques, as well as lots of places dedicated to all things cherry and apple.  We focused mostly on the latter.  The soil and landscape make the growing of cherries and apples something unique in Door County.  We missed fresh cherry season, and apple season had yet to start, but there are still many things to sample without being fresh off the tree.

Our first orchard stop was at Seaquist Orchards.  I bought some jams to share and fresh cherry juice, with more of those apple cider doughnuts, only this time just plain with sugar sprinkle.  Rich and I took a quick little break to eat some of them.  Very Tasty!  Here, and everywhere, the late summer flowers are in full bloom.  Fall has not yet started, so no colored leaves yet.

After our orchard stop we made our way up to the tip, to Gills Rock.  On this trip I did not park my car and walk out to the shore and look over to Washington Island.  We did find a marine museum that Rich thought looked interesting, so we stopped in there for a look.  We posed in front of several items outside of the building.  Below is an air scoop that was common on some of the old freighters, which brought fresh air down below deck.

Me in front of a very large anchor.  Below, Rich by a large rudder from an even larger, not present ship.

~Insert joke here about me "weighing" him down, and him "steering" the correct course.~

We did go inside and look at the displays, and learn a little history about the area and the vessels that have tread the waters in and around Door County.

After leaving the museum we made our way back to Ellison Bay and found the Viking Grill, where we had lunch.  After lunch we made our way across the peninsula to Newport State Park and walked out and took a picture of Newport Bay.  Lake Michigan was rather calm today, compared to when I visited in October of 2007.  We then navigated over to Rowleys Bay and found Grandma's Swedish Bakery where we bought even more sweets, but we didn't eat these at this time, being pretty stuffed already.

Our final travel destination of the day was Whitefish Dunes State Park, and more specifically Cave Point County Park.  Here you could truly see the difference in Lake Michigan from my visit long ago. It is very, very calm.  If you click over to my previous visit I comment about the waves and the thunder they make when crashing into the cave at Cave Point.  Today it was calm, with kayakers on the lake, and a lot of kids and teenagers who were jumping off the rocks and into the deep water around the cave.  When I was a much younger person, I may have considered doing this.

No, Wait . . . I was never that reckless!  They looked like they were having fun, but it looked risky to me.

When I was last here, it was with the morning light, and I thought I took a much nicer photo.  In the pictures from this trip, the sun was in the afternoon West, placing much of this vista in shadow. Rich's shot two below has more depth of color.  Check out my picture previous and decide if you like it better in fall color and more active waves.

I also found a nice video you could go see that gives a good flavor of what it is like to visit this park:

Cave Point County Park

We walked down a trail that hugged the rocky beach, and each posed for a picture overlooking the water.

I think I framed the picture I took (below of Rich) better than he did of me (above).  He looks so confident and commanding.  I just look like I'm full of doughnuts.

Walking North of Cave Point you could then see some of the wave action, which was very minimal.

As we walked down the beach we came across a very curious endeavor that someone undertook.  I don't know if this is a yearly thing, or maybe just this year, but at some point this season someone (or several someones) have stacked the bits of flaked dolomite, of which the beach is made of.  It made for a very curious site.

And it made for a very interesting photograph, below.  I think this may have been the nicest, and most curious of this trip.

Once we were done playing in the parks and the water, we crossed the peninsula again and made our way to Egg Harbor, and our place where we would sleep that night.  I was very lucky to have found the Shipwrecked Brew Pub. It had everything we were looking for:  8 nice rooms to sleep in, in-house brewed beers for Rich to enjoy, and is alleged to be haunted.  The room we stayed in was comfortable, we slept great, Rich had some of their brews, and no ghosts bothered us.  Rich even took pictures, several times, of empty halls, but we didn't catch any ghosts.

Once we had our stuff stored in the room we walked around the town a little, and found the Macready Artisan Bread Store, just before it closed.  I love fresh baked bread!  Rich calls me a "breadator".  It is fitting.  Here I am enjoying, and sharing an artisan loaf filled with, what else, cherries, as well as cranberries.  It was fantastic!

A little later Rich tried out the brews at the pub.  As is customary in places like this, he was able to get a "plank" of beers to try.  He finished the drinks off with something that they bottle, and we both had some seafood chowder.  Stuffed to the gills, after a day around the Door, we crawled upstairs to our beds, and I was out.  Maybe Rich stayed awake and talked to ghosts.  I don't know.

The morning dawned another bright and beautiful day.  As the name implies, Egg Harbor has a harbor, where many expensive and beautiful sailboats are docked.  We walked out to the edge of the harbor and took pictures.

Rich taking a picture of something interesting to him across the harbor.

After our morning stroll, we packed up our stuff and drove North again, this time to stop in Sister Bay.  If you come to Door County, you simply must come to Al Johnson's Swedish Restaurant.  In the summer months, there are goats on the roof.  Really!

The establishment started as just a tiny little restaurant many years ago, but as sometimes these things happen, it grew in popularity, and then the family expanded the building, going with a sod roof design, made by carpenters in Norway and brought over by boat, to be re-assembled around the old building.  The story is told that sometime after the new building was built, one of Al Johnson's friends, who always gave him a live animal every year on his birthday as a joke, brought a goat and put it on the roof.  Thus was begun a tradition.  Now the goats come every day, weather permitting and summer only, from their barn not far from the restaurant and spend the day munching the grass on the sod roof.

Here is a video the family had made to tell all about the restaurant, which also plays in the lobby as you wait for your table, which could be a long wait, as it is a very popular place, but very worth the wait.

Al Johnson's Family Video

Here is another video from the Explore the Door series:

Explore Wisconsin - Goats on the Roof

Once you get to sit down, of course, you should order the Swedish Pancakes with Swedish Meatballs.  Here Rich had a mug that says "Living with a Norwegian Builds Character".  Well, he's my Norwegian descent spouse, and pretty easy to live with.

Breakfast was fabulous, to include those lingonberries on the pancakes.

After stuffing ourselves, yet again, we drove back down the Door and looped by the Koepsels Farm Market where I picked up a couple bottles of local wine, one for myself, and one to give to a kindly co-worker who picked up a half day I had scheduled that interfered with our trip.  Outside was a carved troll which I asked Rich to pose next to.  He's such a nice guy to let me post this.

In the farm market they had some smoked fish which the little sign indicated came from Bearcats Fish House in Algoma.  Rather than buy it there, I looked it up and found Algoma was just about a half hour away. So we plugged the directions into the GPS, and went there ourselves. There we picked up some fresh that day smoked fish, as well as a couple fresh white fish to have our own boil at home.

Now it was really time to set our course back home.  As we drove between Green Bay and Wausau, we stopped at a roadside attraction to take the picture above for my friend who was watching our critters and keeping our house safe.  She loves all things 60s.  When I got out to take the pictures a most enticing smell attracted me to go inside the Timeline Saloon where we found tasty bar-b-que.  We bought a couple sandwiches for the road.  If you are a Harley fan, or even just a bar-b-que fan, you should stop by and check it out.

It was a great trip, and I very much enjoyed doing a Take Two, but this time with someone to share the journey with me.

Wednesday, August 3, 2016

High Ground

I have been wanting to secure a new location to set up a bow netting trap station.  In years past I have mostly done road trapping, and it is something that I enjoy very much, and I'm pretty good at.  However, the biggest and most aggressive hawks can be better trapped while they soar, down the Mississippi flyway, following the river, and using the bluffs to give them lift.  Road-trapped hawks are usually searching for mice in the grass, hence they are perched along the roadside.  Now, while this does not preclude them from becoming great squirrel hawks, those birds which naturally keep to the woods and hills tend to be more suited for squirrels.  These birds can be "fished" from the sky using a bow net trapping setup.

Bow netting takes a lot more preparation and equipment.  You also have to get land access.  I've wanted to secure a site along the river, and recently a situation presented itself.  I found out a co-worker of mine owns a large tract of land with her husband near the Zumbro Bottoms State Park, which now that I have measured it, is about 10 miles from the Mississippi "as the crow flies", and due South of Lake Pepin.  It is cleared off and flat on the top of the bluff, where some farming is taking place, corn and alfalfa.  These clips are not the best to give perspective, but from the vantage point, looking North and North-East, and especially the second one, you can see for miles, to include several bluffs in the distance.  Behind the direction I am filming is a tree line or down slope, where a blind can easily blend into the background.  This is a pretty good setup to attract migrating hawks from a long distance.

Go full screen for the best image.

A pretty handy elevation tool I found on the Internet reveals the place I have selected to be 1060 feet in elevation.  The surrounding hills go as high as 1100 to 1150 feet.  This still affords a pretty good view, and an excellent place to go hawk fishing,

I will have to dust off my bow netting gear, and maybe buy some new things (maybe I'll treat myself to a brand new bow net) and fashion a few supplies that have gone wandering away from my hawking gear.

I would like to try to snag a monster red tail for this next season, and I'd like to get one that I could keep for a few seasons.  I've got a couple of apprentices that might be able to help me man the station, and they both need a bird this year as well.