Nature’s Gallery: The Ridges Sanctuary

As my daughter and I hiked the forest today, she asked me "Mom, how come you know all the names of the flowers?" "I'm lucky," I told her. "My mom and my grandmother taught me."  As a youngster growing up summers in Door County, my mom would take us hiking, walking through the woods near our cottage, or even stop on the side of the road to point out wildflowers. The knowledge has stuck, and as I get older, it's become more precious to me. There's something about being able to name a plant or a flower that honors it, that recognizes its uniqueness and its beauty. Of course, if I forget a flower's name, I can always rely on my trusty pocket guide, Wildflowers of Door County. We had to look hard, but we found our first Trout Lily of the season today! We had to look hard, but we found our first Trout Lily of the season today!   If you're looking for a perfect place to see Door County's abundance of spring wildflowers, look no further than The Ridges Sanctuary. Open to the public year-round, the Ridges in Baileys Harbor features 5 miles of rustic trails and bridges that wind through some of the most pristine land on the peninsula. There are hikes of varying lengths, and none are overly challenging, making it a perfect family activity. You can go on your own, or if you prefer guided hikes, they are offered regularly starting in mid-May (now!).photo 2 What's more, right now The Ridges are part of the Festival of Nature, now in its 8th year, an exciting collaboration between the most important stewardship organizations in Door County, including the Door County Land Trust, Crossroads at Big Creek, The Nature Conservancy and the Wisconsin DNR. There's a full schedule of hikes to unusual locales not normally open to the public, birdwatching expeditions, lectures and even shared meals and a barn dance. Read the full schedule here, and prepare to be enriched. A carpet of Trillium. A carpet of Trillium. All of the programs and forums are great, but to me there's nothing like just stopping by the Ridges on a whim and going for a hike. The only thing better than doing it by yourself is hiking with someone you love! This time of year, you'll see nature's gallery of Door County's spectacular wildflowers, in itself worth the $5 price of admission to the Ridges trails. Add to that the fact that you're supporting an historic organization whose mission it is to preserve the natural beauty of our home, and it's a no-brainer. Happy hiking!