In other words: FALL COLORS!
I love fall, & I haven’t had it for the last couple of years because it really isn’t a thing in Florida. A few trees turn pretty colors but for the most part they either just drop leaves everywhere all the time or insist on staying green & leafy year-round. Anyway, I’m pretty excited about fall in Wisconsin. I’ve been looking at wandering up into the Door Peninsula the whole time I’ve been here because I’d heard it was beautiful, & I figured what better time than fall? I checked out the fall color report (easy to find for pretty much anywhere with a quick Google search) saw that Door County was up to 90% with expected peak this week, the weather was supposed to be nice on Saturday, so I packed up my camera & headed out for my mini road trip.
The Door Peninsula is the little thumb of land that sticks out into Lake Michigan north of Green Bay. It’s about 90 miles from Green Bay out to the very end at Northport, to go any farther than that you have to get on the ferry to Washington Island (which I would love to do sometime but alas, it was not to be on this trip). It was a long drive from Sheboygan, about 3 hours each way, but it’s a beautiful area & there’s plenty of little lakeshore towns to visit along the way. It’s been 3 whole years since I’ve been north of the 45th Parallel so I was glad to get back!
WI-42 & WI-57 both wind up into the peninsula, I ended up taking 57 there & 42 back, both are great drives. The only unfortunate thing is that I think half the state decided to go leaf-touring on the same day, plus half the little towns were having farmers’ markets and/or fall festivals so there was a surprising amount of traffic to deal with. Sister Bay is a town of less than 900 people but there must have been thousands at the fall festival, all having to walk a long way from where they parked to downtown, none of whom seemed able to keep themselves or their dogs out of the road. I think a weekday would have been better, although it would take a whole camping trip to properly experience everything.
I visited the farmers’ market in Two Rivers (self-proclaimed birthplace of the ice cream sundae), ate lunch in Bailey’s Harbor, & finally made my way all the way up to Northport to watch the car ferries for a bit. Northport sits on the passage between Lake Michigan & Green Bay, a strait known as Porte des Morts or Door of Death. The true origin of the name is unknown, but may derive from the oral histories of local Native American tribes. It is appropriate today because this area may hold more shipwrecks than any other patch of freshwater in the world. I’d really like to get back up there when I have more time (and maybe it’s warmer!) to visit the islands. Pilot Island has a really cool-looking abandoned lighthouse that I could see from the mainland & looks like it would be really fun to check out.
On the way back down the peninsula I stopped at Door Bluff County Park & Ellison Bluff State Natural Area, both of which are very small but also free and had great views out over the lake. The County Park is far enough off the main road that you start to think maybe you missed it but no, it’s there, keep driving. I ended up spending 11 hours wandering around & it wasn’t nearly enough time! Hopefully someday I can go camping up there & really get some proper exploring done.