Where does your imagination take you when you think of nature? Is there a formative place? A place that you revisit frequently; a place that for you defines a beautiful natural environment? A place that inspires, refreshes, restores and invigorates?
I revisited such a place earlier this month on the northern tip of the Door County peninsula in Wisconsin. This “thumb” of Door County projects into Lake Michigan, separating the main lake to the east from Green Bay to the west.
Both are connected via Death’s Door Passage, a notorious place for ship wrecks. At least 24 ships were lost from 1837 and 1914 in this narrow, turbulent passage. This prompted the construction of a canal at Sturgeon Bay to allow safer passage of ships between Lake Michigan and Green Bay.
Prior to the shipping days and the coming of Europeans, Potawatomi Indians used this bluff as a strategic fortress to repel marauding Iroquois, Winnebago and Sauk Tribes. Pictographs from this era still exist here.
During my youth, my family spent summer vacations on Garrett Bay, facing north toward the fishing and ferry port of Gills Rock and Washington Island beyond.
This is one of the places where my life-long love of nature began. Whenever I close my eyes and imagine a sacred place, this one comes to mind.
An unassuming place at the end of a gravel road, Door Bluff Headlands County Park has a rough trail that leads downhill to the rim of the bluff. In this mostly-coniferous forest, White Cedar grows in contorted fashion, twisting among the steep cliffs overhanging Green Bay. Although not particularly large in girth, some of these trees are hundreds of years old. Their roots cling to the cliffs, resembling bird or dinosaur feet grasping the rocks and thin glaciated soil.
The view of Green bay is framed by White Cedar along with Balsam Fir. Sixteen miles across the bay, Michigan appeared as a thin green line. Herring and Ring-billed Gulls soared by at eye-level. Caspian Terns flew close to the water with their heads tilted downward ready to dive suddenly to catch fish, periodically uttering their raspy, dinosaur-like “grrrack” calls.
Red Columbine and Starflower decorated the trail-side. Bird song from Winter Wrens, Eastern Pewees, Red-eyed Vireos, and Ovenbirds comprised the forest soundscape along with the steady gentle breaking of waves against the rocky shores.
A Rose-breasted Grosbeak paid me a visit, singing his florid, melodious song. He reminded me of my Grandma Katy, a bird-watcher from an earlier era who was fond of this species. She thought they resembled exotic ambassadors from Asia.The combination of this stunning bird with the gorgeous seascape below was spellbinding.
I am eternally grateful to those who protected Door Bluff Headlands Park. It is a very special place for me and for many others. May it endure forever.