Monday, June 4, 2012

Door County--The Other Silent Sports Mecca

Outside of Ellison Bay

When most Wisconsinites hear the term "silent sports", they think of Cable, Wisconsin--home to the American Birkebeiner and the Chequamegon fat tire races.  Cable should pride itself in making their area home to human powered activities, however, in it's shadow, a few places get overlooked.  My husband and I have made our silent sports second home in Door County.  This spring marks our seventh year of coming up to DC, five of which have been to our friends' cabin in Ephraim called "Relative Harmony". 

biking through Peninsula state park
For fifteen years, we were known for our "nomadic" lifestyle and "grand" trips to places like Alaska, Honduras, France, Hawaii and other mountainous regions.  We worked to live and had much more abundant time off for multi-month excursions.  When we purchased our house in Madison--and got a cat--those trips abruptly ended.  Oh sure, we tried to do the quick two-week United States mountain trips but the driving damn near killed us.  Neither of us found any pleasure in spending our vacations cooped up in a car.  This is what brought us first to Door County.  A short four hour drive led us to a place with great cycling (road and mountain), a plethora of hiking options as well as sailing, kayaking and cross country skiing. 

When people find out that we use so much of our vacation time up here, they often give a quizzical look since they know we're not into shopping (DC is also known for their shops).  Although we will go into a few favorite art galleries, most of our days consist of a morning 30-60 mile ride followed by a little rest and relaxation and lunch, then a hike in the afternoon.

 We have become so predictable and set in our ways that the only questions we ask each other in the morning are "Which bike route should we do today (we have six or seven planned routes)?" and "Which state park should we hike in after lunch (there are four that we frequent)?"  A quick check of the wind direction and strength--yes, wind can be a factor up here--and we are off on beautiful, low-traffic roads that wind through wheat fields and dense stands of cedar, go by rows of lake cottages and hug two distinctly different shorelines (three if you count the interior lakes).  Most roads are extremely well kept and during the shoulder seasons, cars are not an issue.

Aside from our solo rides, we've been lucky enough to participate in the Ridges Ride for Nature--the annual century (shorter options are available) put on to benefit the Ridges Nature Sanctuary.  We've also gotten to ride and become friends with the ride organizer, Brian Fitzgerald.  While chatting with Brian in his pottery studio, Ephraim Clayworks, and while hiking and biking with him, we are getting to realize how much energy Door County is putting into promoting silent sports.  Each year, the list of events grow and each year, more and more cyclists, runners, kayakers and campers come up here to enjoy the diversity and beauty of it's natural areas.   

Just North of Baielys Harbor

Lady slipper


On our first ride this week, for miles we were treated to roadsides filled with lady slippers, indian paintbrush, columbine, maidenhair fern, may apple, wild geranium and horsetail.  Coyote and deer crossed our path several times and at a creek, we came up on a white heron.  This type of ride is common here.  Just insert a different flower or bird for each season.  A special thing that allows for this multitude of natural diversity, in a somewhat "touristy" area, is the Door County Land Trust.  Since 1986, this organization has protected more than 5,000 acres and over three miles of shoreline, keeping alive what the area is known for. 

For those of you who love cycling but have families that aren't into the long road or mountain bike rides, Peninsula State Park offers a mellow trail that winds through the woods and down near the shore--completely separate from motorized traffic.  And remember, entrance into the state parks is completely free if done by bike!

Each year my husband and I think of other places to travel and each year we end up in Door County.  It's not that we don't want to explore new areas, it's just that DC feels like "home" now and we can't imagine a year without it.

Heading North of Fish Creek on "cottage row"

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