Before I started talking about planning this trip, I had never heard of Door county. Then I discovered that it is a best kept secret by people in the midwestern states. Locals we spoke to in various parts of the state refer to it as the “thumb” of Wisconsin. Sure enough, that’s exactly what it looks like on a map. My weaving friends, however, speak of it as a fiber arts haven – a weaving school, some incredible galleries, and an overall creative ambiance. I had addresses in hand, and was prepared to explore.
It was time to get on the road and leave Michigan behind, for as early a start as possible. We were wary about potential highway construction traffic driving south. As soon as we crossed the Michigan border, (which didn’t take long) there it was (the traffic). At least it wasn’t too bad, but we were in for a haul since we would have to drive all the way to the “base of the thumb” and then back up the east side to reach Ephraim, our next hotel stop.
Door County’s popular towns can be reached by traveling along routes 42 and 57. There really are a lot of weaving and fiber arts, but it is mostly art galleries that advertise, as well as bed and breakfasts and lots of eating places. Our basic plan was that as long as the weather held out, we would hit outdoor spots on our wish list, then browse around for indoor activity if the weather turned on us. That made Eagle Point Lighthouse our first stop. It’s located within Peninsula State Park, and has quite the history paired with an awesome view. Turns out that the last Lighthouse Keeper’s wife not only made the quilts her family used, she was a spinner and a weaver as well. I am sensing a pattern here!
After the Lighthouse tour, we still had a few hours before check-in time at the Somerset Inn & Suites in Ephraim. This cute town was founded in 1853 by Moravians from Norway. I had never heard of Moravians before (so much for my Catholic education). A simple and religious people, they were not known for great wealth, but they sure were industrious. Once again an Historical Foundation comes to the rescue – we toured the Anderson Barn History Museum, the Anderson Store Museum, and the Pioneer Schoolhouse & Goodletson Cabin. Each stop had a docent with tons of information to share, and that was how we found out the skinny on fish boils. Yes that’s right – a boil, not a fry. Several sources sited Old Post Office as the place to go. We made our reservations, checked into the hotel, then scurried back to watch the event unfold. It’s quite entertaining – potatoes are loaded into a water-filled drum that is over an open flame. Next onions are added, then a tub of cut and cleaned Michigan whitefish is dropped into the drum. Salted water overflow causes a huge ball of fire to spout up and it’s quite the show. It’s served buffet style in the restaurant, followed by cherry pie. Made with Door cherries, of course. Excellent all around!
Evening clouds threatened and rain fell overnight, accompanied by thunder and lightening. Next morning it was ferry day to our destination, Washington Island. We couldn’t shake the clouds, but the rain held off except for a few harmless sprinkles here and there.
Washington Island was like entering another world. The ferry ride is about a half hour long. Some people stay in their cars, a few wander along the outer decks checking progress crossing the water. No whale watching here. We followed the example of the locals and got into the car as the ferry approached the dock – it was quick work to drive off and on to the island. I have to say that it is hard to get lost on Washington Island. There are a few main roads that run north and south, and east and west, that follow a grid. We couldn’t escape construction here, either. The whole purpose for traveling to the island was to tour Sievers School of Fiber Arts. Every since I started researching the area, I have been wanting to check this place out. It offers many classes in various crafts. While I could not tour the school itself, the shop is open 7 days a week and has the most wonderful collection of students’ products and weaving supplies and a library and Denny was worried he wouldn’t be able to get me out of there! I signed up for the 2015 class catalogue and sighed as we got back into the car. The school really feels like it is in the middle of nowhere, which is a good place to be if you want to concentrate on learning your craft. I’d love to take a class there – we’ll see what the future brings in that department!
Lots of private lots for sale, real get-aways. Cherry trees, open fields, a town parade that ended at the community center with a big turnout. Denny somehow picked the right street to drive south – the Red Cup Coffee shop was the place to be – good coffee, local art for sale, a really great atmosphere for hanging out. Techies glued to their tablets and laptops need not apply. These are people who believe in personal interaction, thank you.
Another ferry ride – now we were experts. The ferry takes off as soon as it is full, so there isn’t much waiting time on a Saturday in high season. That left us with lots of time to explore along Route 42. One of the places on the top of the list was Al Johnson’s Swedish Restaurant and Butiks in Sister’s Bay. This is the place with the grass roof and the goats to keep it trimmed. Our first pass didn’t reveal any goats reveling on the rooftop, but tucked into an out of the way corner, so we sashayed up the street and had a grilled whitefish sandwich at Husby’s on the main drag. One of the best I ever had in my life. Beer wasn’t too shabby either, but I was feeling a little out of place because I didn’t have Green Bay Packer colors on. We walked off lunch and chose one or two of the tons of shops and galleries to browse through while we made our way back to the car and to see if the goats were a little more visible at Al’s. We lucked out, and I was able to get a few good shots. I just love goats. They are so personable.
Now what to do? We figured out that driving to one city or the other didn’t take much time, just a lot of backtracking about. So I pulled out my weaver’s list and off to Gloria Hardeman’s and the Artful Artisan in Fish Creek.
Gloria Hardiman has some really incredible weaving from local artists as well as artists from the southwest. A dressed loom displayed her latest project in work. Duly impressive, it was tempting to buy something, but I didn’t find a non-wool in my colors, so I left just admiring the talent. Two of Gloria’s pieces were actually on auction at the Hardy Gallery in Ephraim. Incredible work! Next the hunt was on to visit Artful Artisan at the Settlement Shops. Here Barbara Knupper had a project in work on her loom as well, and she also works in metal creating some tempting jewelry. My purchase was a pair of lava stone earrings, and a resolve to get a good weaving project on my loom in Arizona.
It’s amazing how much energy you can expend just walking about, driving from point A to B to C and onward. At some point there are so many shops and museums that you can absorb, and I was at the overload point. Back at Ephraim, we got a good walk in along the shore. What do you think we saw outside Anderson’s Store, but the cutest metal goat that was bleating (just kidding) to come home with us to keep our violin-playing goose company? Yes, they deliver. Good. Time to put our feet up and figure out where to eat dinner.
Back to Fish Creek where we found the best pizza in the county at Wild Tomato. Fired up in a brick oven, fresh and local ingredients, they sure know how to make a tummy happy. You have to get there early, though – between the restaurant and the take-out there is quite the brisk business. We took counter seats and were ring-side to all the action, which was quite entertaining. In some ways there was still a lot to see, but then we did hit our top picks, and in getting close to the end of our two weeks there was a sense of “missing our stuff” that was building in the background. And there were a few more cities on the list, so we made quick work of re-packing for the next stop – Green Bay.