14 August 2015

Wisconsin: Road trip to Washington Island

Karen, Karen, Sandy, Mary and Liz, along with my friend Trudey, are The Bridgettes, a fun group of women who play bridge, and enjoy events and excursions together. I was delighted to be invited along on one of their excursions, a road trip to Washington Island in Lake Michigan. What a hoot the day was! A day of constant smiles and laughter, of easy camaraderie, of shared fun, of beautiful scenery.

We all met up and climbed aboard Mary’s people carrier then, after first stopping for a delicious breakfast in Algoma, headed north into Door County. This narrow peninsula has 298 miles of coastline so is a Mecca for tourists and holidaymakers. During the summer months the population explodes from around 28,000 to as many as 250,000, with people flocking from cities like Milwaukee and Chicago to enjoy all the county has to offer, from sightseeing, swimming and hiking to fishing, kayaking and biking, to name just a few of the local attractions.

Here's comes the ferry 
Though it would’ve been tempting to linger along the peninsula, we were women on a mission, so headed straight to the car ferry at Northport for the 20-minute ferry crossing to Washington Island.

Five of The Bridgettes

Arriving on Washington Island
Once on the island, our first stop was at a local pub called Nelsen’s Hall, world famous as the home of the Bitters Club. It seems I was to be inducted! There were no intricate rituals, no fancy costumes, no special knowledge requirements – all you had to do was swig down a shot glass of Bitters in one go. Considering you would normally add just a drop or two of Bitters to a drink, that’s no mean feat, but I passed the entrance test with flying colours and have my Bitters Club membership card to prove it. And considering Bitters was originally developed as a patent medicine, full of aromatic herbs and other medicinal botanicals, it’s got to be good for you, right?

Induction complete!

That drinking is not the reason I am lying flat out on the ground in this next photo! After some of our group had followed up their Bitters with more flavoursome mojitos, we moved on from Nelsen’s Hall to the Fragrant Isle Lavender Farm and Shop so that the photographers amongst us could get some photos. We were a little disappointed to find just one field of lavender but it was still a pretty place to shoot.

Next stop was the picturesque Stavkirke, a replica of a stave church (a post-and-lintel wooden construction) in Borgund, Norway, accessed via a prayer path through the woods opposite the Trinity Evangelical Lutheran Church. The setting is very pretty and the building impressive, another perfect stop for photographs.

Trudey and I at the Stavkirke
Our last stop on the island (except for a refreshment stop for ice creams and sodas), was at another gorgeous spot, Schoolhouse Beach. It is named for the first island school built on this shore in the 1850s and is famous for its limestone pebbles. In years gone by, the stones were piled high, extending all along the shoreline and several yards into the cedar woods that edge the beach. ‘By ones and twos, by pocketful, purse full, by box full, trunk full or truckload, the limestone gems so beautiful to look at, so soothing to hold, are being taken from their natural environment,’ so reads the signboard. Nowadays, in an effort to preserve what little is left of this beautiful place, there’s a fine of $250 for removing a single stone from the beach – so, don’t!

We caught a late afternoon ferry back to the mainland and headed for one of the local cherry orchards, partly for photos and partly for a spot of shopping, for anyone who wanted, at the attached farm market. The geography and climate of Door County make it the perfect place to grow cherries and there are around 2500 acres of orchards. I can only imagine how stunning the orchards must look when full of blossom in the springtime.

By this time, tummies were rumbling so our last stop of the day was for dinner at Juniper’s Gin Joint in Fish Creek, before heading back, weary but content, to our starting point. It was such a delightful day out, an entertaining road trip with enchanting and highly amusing new friends. And I’d love to go back to Door County one day to see more of all it has to offer.

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