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The narrow trail turned and began a steep climb up the hill. Tree roots and limestone protruded from its dark brown soil. As we hiked white trilliums and delicate yellow trout lilies brushed the sides of our legs. The entire forest floor was covered in spring wildflowers and the bright sunlight shining through the still open forest canopy illuminated them. In a couple weeks they would all be gone for another year.
At the top of the hill, the right side of the trail opened and the ground beside it disappeared. We were standing on the edge of Door Bluff and staring out over the turquoise water of Green Bay. It was a clear day and we could see all the way to Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. The sheer limestone cliff face was interrupted by cedar trees growing right out of the rock. Gulls looked like little white dots as they flew just above the water hundreds of feet below us. We gazed for several minutes, took a few pictures and continued our early May hike at Door Bluff Headlands County Park.
Although I am on my feet most of the summer cleaning sites and doing maintenance at the campground, rarely will I pass up the chance to visit Door County's share of some of the best hiking trails in Wisconsin with my wife, Kathy and our dog, Whitney. The great thing about living here is the miles and miles of trails to explore right in my backyard. From the many town, county and state parks to the Door County Land Trust and Nature Conservancy lands, there is always somewhere new to explore. As the seasons change the trails and my experiences hiking them do too.
If we want to get away for a quick hike, especially during the busy summer season, we will take the trail out of the back of the campground to the Nature Conservancy’s Mink River preserve. The trail cuts through an abandoned farm field dotted with old apple trees and juniper bushes before it drops into a cedar and hardwood forest along the Mink River. The wildflowers change throughout the spring and summer. Deer and ruffed grouse are common in the area and in the evenings coyotes and frogs create quite the chorus.
Europe Bay on the north end of Newport State Park is another of my favorite destinations. My wife and I usually park at Europe Bay Town Park and walk the beach to the north with our dog for a mile or so. It is a great spot for dogs, and seriously, who can resist watching a dog frolic in the water! When we reach the north end of the beach, we sometimes take one of small trails that intersect with the Europe Bay Trail, the main trail that parallels the Lake Michigan shoreline. It’s an easy and refreshing 2-mile hike that is especially beautify in the fall. The forest becomes ablaze with oranges, yellows and reds of the hardwoods.
With so many places to explore, I plan on spending many years muddying my shoes in the area. As I write this, we are just about to enter the busy season at the campground and unfortunately Kathy and I can’t get out as much as we would like, especially for longer day hikes. The dog puts on a few extra pounds and anxiously waits for fall to arrive so we can take a little more time to continue to explore this amazing county.
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