Door County in the Winter – v.2023

Today’s post is 1600 words, 34 photos, 1 video, a 8 minute read. Enjoy!

Hi everyone,

Thanks for all the comments and likes on my three Costa Rica posts. If you missed those articles, click here, here, and here.

A couple of weeks ago, my Traveling Partner and I spent a four-day get-away in beautiful Door County. When we left Madison, snow was falling and icy roads were predicted. We drove out of the falling snow about thirty miles northeast of Madison and had clear sailing to Sturgeon Bay. That evening, there was about an inch of snow and howling winds in Sturgeon Bay. The rest of Door County had very little snow on the ground. Last weekend, they made up for that lack of snow, receiving between 12 and 14 inches in two waves. I wish I could see all that snow, it would be fun to photograph.

The Lily Pad Cottage

Lodging for our stay was the Lily Pad located on the Sturgeon Bay Ship Canal. This is our second time at the Lily Pad. We stayed there a few years ago, again during a winter retreat in late January 2020. It was our last trip before you know what happened in our world. Here’s a link to my post after that visit. There are similarities.

Alissa is the host at the Lily Pad. She lives next door and provides a terrific experience, keeping the place super clean, shoveling the walk after a snowfall, and being very responsive to our inquiries. She’s made some nice improvements since our last stay including the new stairway from the street to the waters edge. You won’t regret a stay the Lily Pad or her other property, Eagle View Suite.

In the photos above, you can see the Fincantieri Bay Shipbuilding docks across the canal. We learned there were eighteen vessels docked in the shipyard, most of them Great Lakes freighters. They had names like Indiana Harbor (1000 foot iron  ore carrier), Cason J. Callaway (700 foot bulk carrier), and Walter J. McCarthy (1000 foot coal carrier). The first morning of our stay we were sitting by the bay window enjoying our morning coffee when we saw six tug boats heading toward the shipyard. They spent most of the day repositioning vessels in the shipyard. It was fascinating to watch them work. Alissa has a pair of binoculars in the Lily Pad for checking out the action on the canal.

There was one cruise ship docked in the yard and another moored on the other side of the Michigan Street bridge waiting its turn repairs and renovation.

Late in the afternoon, we watched the tugs head back to their home crossing underneath the Michigan Street bridge.

A little shipping trivia that I discovered when looking up the information on the vessels. In 2011, the Calloway suffered minor damage when it hit the Indiana Harbor (docked at the time) in the stern (the rear end of a boat). The Calloway also damaged the dock at the Twin Ports of Duluth-Superior. The McCarthy also was involved in an accident in the Superior harbor when it hit a submerged object, ripping a gash in the hull and partially sinking after taking on water. Just last year, a crew member on the McCarthy died after an on-board accident occurred near Gary, Indiana. No wonder they are in port for repairs!

Fire and Ice

During our time in Door County, Sturgeon Bay was holding their Fire and Ice Festival. Historically, Sturgeon Bay has been changed by both fire and ice. At one time, ice harvesting was big business. Before refrigeration, as many as seven hundred men each winter sawed and extracted blocks of ice then packed them with sawdust until transported by boat to Milwaukee and Chicago. Apparently, there was a lot of corruption in the ice business. There were tales of ice warehouses burning to the ground, likely by arson for the insurance money. Where the warehouses stood later became housing. The commercial ice business eventually ended after modern refrigeration became more available. However, ice harvesting for home use in Door County continued until World War II due to the fact that many homes didn’t have electric refrigerators.

The current Fire and Ice Festival featured a night walk at the Crossroads at Big Creek, an indoor market, ice carving competition, fireworks, and sales by merchants throughout the city. We enjoyed walking around the downtown watching the ice carvers at work. Some used hand tools like chisels while others fired up chain saws and clothes irons to create their pieces. 

This fella was carving his block of ice on the sidewalk in front of an accounting firm. A fitting creation!

This young woman spent a few hours creating her design. To me the end product looked like a little girl with boots and umbrella with a goose following along. It was quite a masterpiece.

On Saturday evening, we watched the fireworks show from the comfort of the Lily Pad. It was a front row, warm seat. Here are a couple of photos and a video that I took of the show. I love fireworks shows, this one was right up there with some of the best. Maybe it was the cozy environment!



Door County Potpourri

During our drive around the Door peninsula, we stopped at the Hardy Gallery in Ephraim to check if the graffiti we painted last summer was still there. It was. Below it was a new message I like, “Don’t forget to smile.”

A drive to the top of Door wouldn’t be complete without a photograph and a drive through the “squiggly” road designed by Jens Jensen. He made the road curve through the forest to slow traffic so drivers and passengers could enjoy the natural surroundings. For some this is an annoyance, for others a joy to behold. I’m with the latter. 

While near the top of the peninsula, we stopped at Kick Ash Products in Ellison Bay. They make and sell granola and roast and grind coffee beans. I’m partial to their granola and stock up every time we are in Door County. They also sell gifts and have a nice selection of books. At one time, the building housed a Lutheran church. It’s a nice, relaxing stop for coffee, a beverage, a snack, or a read.

For me, nearly every visit to Door County requires a stop at my favorite sights. One of them is the Sturgeon Bay Ship Canal Pierhead Light. The cool temps and water on the pier limited our walk out to the end for a close-up of the light. I’ll walk further next time when the temperature is warmer.

And from the pier, a photo of the Canal Light and Coast Guard Station. 

Recently, I saw a photo on the internet of the Pierhead Light from what looked like along the beach north of the Coast Guard station. At the station there are signs marking the beach area as private property. On this trip, I turned on Lake Forest Park Road and within a short distance noticed a driveway and small sign for Portage Park. After turning off the road and parking, we walked to the public beach that is beyond the private property close to the station. After about a quarter mile walk on the beach, I saw the Pierhead Light. I took a few photos but the lighting was terrible in the late afternoon sun. An early morning photo would be much better light. Maybe next trip. 

We made the obligatory stop at Cave Point County Park. I’d seen some awesome photos taken earlier in the winter by local photographers Dan Johnson and Doug Jones. The ice was thick and coated most everything on the shoreline. There wasn’t much ice when we visited but here are a couple of photos.

On the corner of Third Avenue and Kentucky Street in downtown Sturgeon Bay stands a bell-tower that contains a bell that originally hung in the First Baptist Church. This is the second tower, the first was built in 1900 and removed in 1939. The current tower was built in 1990 and the original bell acquired to ring again throughout the community.

We were excited to learn that the Friends of the Door County Libraries was having their monthly used book sale at the Sturgeon Bay branch. The basement of the library is filled with used books of all types. We don’t really need any more books in our house but can’t pass a used book sale. Sure enough, we bought a bag of books that our kids will have to dispose of when we are gone. Just kidding!

One afternoon we drove out to Potawatomi State Park. There were lots of people out ice fishing and others just enjoying being out on the ice.

Now for an update on the long story of the 1901 Teweles and Brandeis Elevator. In a short recap, this grain elevator was built and stood on the west bank of the ship canal until a few years ago when it was moved across the canal to the east bank where it languished for a couple of years. Then it was moved back across the canal close it’s original spot to be preserved as the Door County Granary. Last fall when we were in Door County for a week of camping, the Granary was up on stilts while the foundation was constructed. I’m happy to report, it’s now sitting on the foundation and work continues on the exterior. Next time you find yourself in Sturgeon Bay swing by and take a look, it’s located next to the Door County Maritime Museum. Click here for more of the story.

Too soon our time in Door County came to an end. After a stop at the Renard’s Cheese Shop south of Sturgeon Bay, we were on our way home. We wondered when we could make the trip back to Door County during the summer. Planning is underway!

That’s it for this week. Join me next week for another adventure with Traveling with Tom.

Until then, happy travels!


6 thoughts on “Door County in the Winter – v.2023

  1. As always, a fun read, lots of good info and beautiful photos. Thanks Tom

    1. I like visiting in winter, Door County is much quieter and a lot less traffic. There a softness to it. But it’s not for everyone! I hope you do return and enjoy your visit. Thanks for checking in. TM

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