Camping at Tennison Bay Campground
We'd been told to go check out Door County ever since we moved to Wisconsin from Pennsylvania. We thought the best way for us would be to go camping at Peninsula State Park, on the bay side of the peninsula. I chose a site that was close to the lake, on the western side of the park, in Tennison Bay Campground. There was a nearby trail that ran along the shore, as well as a playground, and a kayak/canoe launch. The beach was a short stroll away from our site, and it was easy to walk to Eagle Bluff Lighthouse.
There was no real plan for our stay. Without an itinerary we just went with the flow, which made for a very relaxing visit. We'd just check out the maps while having our morning coffee and pick where to go that day. While there seemed to be a ton of "touristy" things to do in Door County, we found there were also many opportunities for quieter pursuits. Like the fun of catching and releasing little critters, or sitting in camp playing Animal Rummy with the kid, and even just chilling out in the tent when rain would happen to fall.
Link to Peninsula State Park
The one thing we found amazing was how stunningly scenic the park was. We had colorful sunsets almost every single night. From the very first night, when we arrived just as the sun was going down, we took note of the colorful display. Sometimes we'd walk along the trail bordering the shore, other times we'd be happening to drive by certain spots with an open view of the water. Picking the western side definitely had its advantages for us.
Fun in the Park
While we didn't take advantage of the American Folklore Theatre, White Cedar Nature Center, or the golf course, we didn't lack for things to do while staying in the park. We'd brought Freja's bike along with us. She was allowed to ride it around the circle of our section of the campground. Only once did she stray a bit too far and become "lost" for about 20 minutes. One day Teri rented a bicycle and the two of them explored the bike trails together.
The folks camping next to us had a very well behaved dog that loved to play. We'd often walk to the kayak/canoe launch. There we'd either struggle to keep Freja out of the water, or relent and let her play fetch with dogs. I swear the kid's part Labrador retriever. We just can't keep her out of the water.
Link to Site with Points of Interest
As I mentioned earlier, the beach was a short walk down a few trails. We'd load up our cargo stroller and head over of an afternoon of doing nothing. Freja would play on the beach with other kids, once meeting another girl named, "Freya." Teri would either lay in the sun, or chat with folks. I'd lounge in the shade overlooking the beach, sipping beer and dozing off. I also enjoyed talking to a number of folks we met there. It was a rough time...
If you're wondering what I mean by "cargo stroller," it's our old BOB baby stroller that's been converted into a cargo carrier. They actually make a kit you can buy to do this. It's why we wanted this particular stroller in fact. We use it often to walk to our local pool, and I use it on photo shoots to carry all my gear around. It made shooting all these photos a lot easier than if I tried to carry my gear bags on my own!
Link Cargo Stroller Image
The park offered a chance to spot some wildlife. While it wasn't exactly "safari" material, it was still pleasant to be out for a walk and just happen upon something now and then. Before moving to Wisconsin I'd never seen sandhill cranes, or American white pelicans before. In fact, it wasn't until a few weeks ago that I'd even heard of inland pelicans!
There were also plenty of white-tailed deer and flocks of ring-billed gulls. We also had a number or raccoons running around at night. Once they even got into a scuffle with each other not far from our tent.
While I couldn't explore many of the more rugged trails due to my recently injured ankle, I could slowly make my way along many of the bike paths. I'll link below to a page explaining how I hurt myself, so no sense writing it all out here. Thankfully we'd packed along our cargo carrier as mentioned. It allowed me to go at a nice, slow pace along some wonderful trails.
The diversity of terrain was really neat to see. From wetlands and shorelines to cedar stands and hemlock forests, I enjoyed walking slowly through it all. I heard/saw a number of birds I didn't know, and just enjoyed being outside. The hemlock forest really made me pine for Pennsylvania, with it's dark shadows and fern covered floor.
Link to How I Hurt Myself
One evening, I invited the wife & daughter to walk with me to a small beach I'd passed by during one of my strolls. When we arrived to view the sunset, we were all surprised to discover the beach was made up of small shells and the bones of sea birds. I don't believe I've ever seen anything like it anywhere else. As to why it was like this, I've no clue. Regardless, it was a fascinating place to enjoy watching the sun go down on another perfect day in the park.
Door Bluff County Park
While being in Peninsula State Park was fun, we also explored a bit outside of it. Traveling along the scenic coastal road, through little towns that reminded us of New England, we took a random turn at one point. By doing so we ended up at Door Bluff County Park.
We were the only folks there when we arrived. It's a quiet, primitive park, with barely marked trails. As we slowly made our way down the steep forest trail, my wife became a little concerned. She was certain we were going to fall off a cliff at any moment. The shoreline, which you could just make out through the trees, seemed to be very far below. In actuality it was an optical illusion and before long we were at the shore.
Once at the bottom, we discovered people had created many, many piles of stacked stone sculptures along the water. There was also a pyramid of driftwood assembled right at the base of a cliff. Naturally, we couldn't keep Freja out of the water and Teri relaxed and stacked a few stones herself.
Link to Where the Park is Located
Zip Line Excursion
Teri had promised she'd take Freja zip lining. There happened to a place not far from camp in Rowley's Bay. I'm not going to lie, it was costly, but the kid loved it. The staff was also really nice, and very easy to work with. And did I mention the kid loved it? She was really into flying down the cable, passing through the trees like the little monkey she is.
Link to Vendor
Found Show She Could Be In
As we passed through the scenic town of Sister Bay we spotted a little gazebo by the lake. There were a number of kids, and a performer doing his thing. It was child entertainer and singer Randy Peterson. There happened to be an open parking spot just as we decided to check it out, so out we all hopped. Freja was more than willing to join the other kids in being part of the act. We don't call her a young Lucille Ball for nothing...
Link to Randy's Site
Eagle Bluff Lighthouse
On the final night camping in the park, well after Teri and Freja fell asleep, I made my way to the lighthouse. It was a chilly night and there wasn't a cloud in the sky. The tiny slivver of a moon had sunk below the horizon. When I arrived on location the Milkyway was on perfect display above me.
I'd planned on where I'd place my tripod during the day. The little beacon on the lighthouse didn't seem all that bright, and after a few long bulb exposures lasting many minutes I wasn't getting any useable results. The lighthouse, ironically, was just too dark. I eventually started doing 15 minute exposures, 5 minutes of which I'd "light paint" the building with my little flashlight.
The image to the right is made from two images, top & bottom, merged together. I shot this using a Canon TS-E 24mm f/3.5L tilt-shift lens. The whirling motion of the stars is natural, and I did as little "post" as possible in order to create this image.
Link to Lighthouse