Welcome to Part 2 from our five-day September visit to Door County, Wisconsin. If you missed last week, click here to read and see photos from Part 1.
In this post I’ll take you on three hikes through nature preserves managed by the Door County Land Trust. Our final stops will be in Baileys Harbor, the Ice Age Trail, and the Crossroads at Big Creek Learning Center and Nature Preserve on the outskirts of Sturgeon Bay.
First, a little about the Door County Land Trust. This local non-profit, non-governmental organization was created in 1986 to “preserve, maintain, and enhance lands that contribute the scenic beauty, open space, and ecological integrity of Door County.” The Trust protects over 8500 acres of land through partnerships with local land conservation groups with the goal of “sustaining a healthy ecosystem and high quality of life.” They do all this work through outright purchases of land using donated funds by individuals, businesses, and foundations. The Trust also accepts donations of lands and enter into conservation easements with private land owners. Their many volunteers also helped to develop and maintain the trails I’ll take you on today. For more information about the Door County Land Trust click here. Let’s get started.
Lautenbach Woods Nature Preserve
This 160 acre preserve is located a few miles south of Egg Harbor at 6749 County G. Our GPS missed the mark by about a quarter of a mile. It showed the entrance on the right hand side of the road going north, we were looking right. After turning around, we saw the sign, it was down the road on the left side, set back a bit from the road. We noticed the lovely Woodwalk Gallery is just across the road from this preserve.
Ours was the only vehicle in the small parking lot. A sign pointed us to the beginning of the 1.25 mile trail through the forest and the rocky slope of the Niagara Escarpment. For the most part, the trail was easy walking, there were a few areas along the escarpment where the path was rocky. The preserve was quiet except for the light breeze rustling the leaves, singing birds, and buzzing of mosquitos. We regretted not applying insect repellent before starting our short hike. We corrected that mistake on later walks.
It was an enjoyable stroll in the woods and I highly recommend making time to enjoy this nature preserve.
White Cliff Nature Preserve
About fifteen minutes north of Lautenbach Woods is the White Cliff Nature Preserve, 8248 White Cliff Road, Egg Harbor. The road to this natural area took us through a high end residential area on the water side of the road with high bluffs on the other side. Soon we saw the sign and realized there was no parking lot. The lightly trafficked area allows visitors to park on the same side of the street as the entrance. Again, we had the place to ourselves.
White Cliffs is 105 acres in size with a 1.5 mile trail. At the beginning of the trail were these two weathered Adirondack chairs. We might need these AFTER our hike!
The well-marked trail through the mature forest was relatively easy with only a few spots of rough ground. Please excuse the slightly out of focus photo!
Along our route, we enjoyed the solitude of the forest and variety of plant life. Again, the birds sang their songs with gusto. While the hungry mosquitos buzzed around us, we were protected from those nasty blood suckers!
There were a variety of mushrooms growing on the felled logs. The one below was quite large, about the size of a dinner plate.
White Cliffs was another fine walk along a well maintained trail. One caution, wear good footwear. There are a few soft spots especially after a rain.
Frank E. Murphy County Park
After leaving White Cliff, we drove the back roads through Egg Harbor and on to Sturgeon Bay. We came upon a sign for a county park and decided to investigate. We found a 14 acre well-appointed park on popular Horseshoe Bay on the Green Bay side of the Door peninsula. This park has a long beach, a boat launch, a dock that juts out into the bay, a picnic area, playground, and restrooms. I’m guessing that during the warm part of the season, the beach is very popular.
Unless you are walking or biking, don’t use the old entrance to the park!
Another reason to visit Door County, it’s county park system is excellent.
Heins Creek Nature Preserve
Another Door County Land Trust property is Heins Creek. It’s located at 7112 Highway 57, about four miles south of Baileys Harbor. The 74 acre preserve has a 0.75 mile easy trail that meanders through the rolling terrain along Heins Creek. There is a parking lot just off the busy highway.
The sandy dunes along the path reminded me of the sand traps at a golf course.
As we entered the wooded forest of mature trees, the path became seemingly less worn.
At one point along the trail, my Traveling Partner and I had to duck under a large tree that broke off. The cause likely from a wind storm off nearby Lake Michigan.
We spotted this colorful mushroom growing close to the path. It seems mushrooms thrive uninhibited in these nature preserves. We thanked it for showing us it’s beauty.
Just down the trail, we saw this grouping of mushrooms, more natural beauty.
Heins Creek flows gently through this preserve eventually ending its journey a short distance away at Lake Michigan. We could hear the waves crashing agains the shoreline from the nature preserve.
Again, another recommended hike in scenic Door County.
Just before our hike at Heins Creek, we stopped at BP 57 in Baileys Harbor for a to-go breakfast sandwich and a cup of coffee. Yes, the BP station has an excellent deli in the back, not your standard convenience store fare! That day, we’d left our campsite early for sunrise photography at Cave Point. By this time, we were hungry. We enjoyed our take out and the warmth of the coffee at Anclam Park on the south side of Baileys Harbor. This park was updated this summer. There’s a small beach, playground, picnic tables, restrooms, and a jetty that extends out into Lake Michigan. A pleasant place for a pit stop.
Ice Age National Scenic Trail
I’ve written about the Ice Age Trail a number of times over the past few years. I never get tired of taking short jaunts on this nearly 1200 mile trail that follows the terminus of the last glacier to enter Wisconsin. One of the starting points of this trail is in our home away from home, Potawatomi State Park. We were joined by a couple of our Madison friends, Vicki and Larry, for a mile walk along the trail. I brought up the rear so I could stop and shoot a few photos along the way. There are about thirty-five miles of the Ice Age Trail in Door County. Try a few miles, you’ll be glad you did.
Crossroads at Big Creek
One of the hidden gems of Door County is the Crossroad at Big Creek. It’s a learning center and 200-acre nature preserve on the east edge of Sturgeon Bay at the intersection of Highways 42/57 and County TT. This nonprofit organization was founded in 1991 by the Sturgeon Bay Educational Foundation. Within a few years, they raised the funds to purchase about 75-acres of land they share with the Heritage Village. Over the years, additional property was added, an observatory built, and the Collins Learning Center building constructed. All this was paid for by fundraisers, individual and business donations, and grants from foundations and government agencies. It’s truly a beautiful resource for the city and county.
The four main trails within the Crossroads are open all year. We decided to take the 1.3 mile Creek Trail that crosses Big Creek a few times. I would rate the trail as easy and accessible to most abilities.
There wasn’t much water in Big Creek, it’s fall and we are short of rain in most of Wisconsin. Nevertheless, the bridges over the creek saved us from sinking into the peaty mud!
Purple asters were in full bloom in the open sections of the trail. Less visible is the goldenrod with it’s yellowish flowers.
Part of the trail took us on a boardwalk where the soil was damp and mucky.
Here’s a peek at the shallow, clear Big Creek.
At the far end of the trail is the Historical Society’s Hans Hanson House. The house wasn’t open during our visit but I did take a photograph of the barn that occupied the grounds. Hans Hanson and his family settled in southern Door County in the 1850s after immigrating from Norway. He created this farm by his own labor. It’s an example of early settlement in Door County.
The Learning Center provides programs for the general public and school-age children. They have a couple of outdoor classrooms such as the one shown below.
The Crossroads should be on everyone’s Door County bucket list. I know the list will be long but keep coming back. For more information on Door County, click here.
I’ll end with this photo that I took at the Door County Coffee and Tea Company on Highway 42 North in Carlsville. It’s something we need in our world today, at least in my humble opinion.
That’s it for Door County for a while. We are planning a return trip during the winter season, no not in the camper, in a comfortable Airbnb! We’ll also be back next summer for at least a month of recreation and relaxation.
Until next week, happy travels!