Camping in Door County, WI

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It’s hard to ignore the looming shadow of the delta variant casting shade on a summer that once felt rejuvenating. We’re vaccinated so it is admittedly frustrating to see the numbers spike in areas of the country with dismal vaccination rates. Our family is performing the delicate dance of living our lives and performing risk assessments when necessary but like millions of others, we’re weary at the thought of sliding back toward 2020 in next few months. And being outdoors seems to be what is keeping us chugging along.

The divinity of nature was a core tenant of transcendentalism, so its of no surprise that of the most staunch adherents, Henry David Thoreau, instructed us to “live in each season as it passes; breathe the air, drink the drink, taste the fruit, and resign {ourselves} to the influence of the earth.” And with the world the way it is right now, there is nothing I want more than to retreat into each season while savoring the fruit and resigning myself to nature.

A couple of weekends ago we drove a few hours north to Door County, Wisconsin. Comprising of the peninsula between Green Bay and Lake Michigan, Door County is known as the Cape Cod of the Midwest due to the quaint villages, expansive shoreline, and public parks that dominate the peninsula. We camped at Potawatomi State Park, which is in the town of Nasewaupee on Sturgeon Bay. The campground wasn’t as private as we like, but we had immediate access to the Ice Age Trail and short walk to beautiful water views.

Our initial plan was to spend as much time in the woods as possible, after all it is well documented that being immersed in nature has incredible healing effects. However, but upon arriving and seeing the design and location of the campground and trail access points, we quickly realized that we’d have to drive to get to dog-friendly beaches so we decided to treat our campsite as a place to sleep, rather than a destination in of itself.

While Potawatomi State Park is a dog-friendly campground with water views and a boat launch, it does not provide swimming access to the water. We drove about 20 minutes north to Whitefish Dunes State Park, which has multiple trails and beaches with the last one being dog-friendly. We hiked a few miles and found ourselves at ‘Old Baldy’, which is the tallest due in the pars. At the ‘top’ (it’s only 93 feet), there is an observation platform with views of both Lake Michigan and Clark Lake.

Lake Michigan is crystal clear in Door County and the beaches at Whitefish Dunes were no exception. There are 300 miles of shoreline in Door County and you can even watch the sun rise and set over the water without leaving the county.

There are 19 communities, 11 lighthouses, and 5 state parks in Door County. After hiking and swimming, we drove across the peninsula and found a dog-friendly brewery in in Egg Harbor – One Barrel Brewing Company.

The vibe at Oak Barrel Brewing Company was perfect and the kids enjoyed the yard games and fresh root beer on tap.

We also spent time on the trails accessible from our campsite, including the Ice Age Trail, which we’ve hiked in southern Wisconsin. Covering 1,200 miles (planned, only 675 currently completed) in Wisconsin, the Ice Age Trail is administered by the National Park Service and maintained by a handful of organizations, including the Ice Age Trail Alliance.

Over the weekend we also spent time in Sturgeon Bay, where we enjoyed harbor views and giant pretzels – as one does when in Wisconsin.

So let’s talk about the actually camping aspect. It wasn’t a hike-in site so we had access to our 4Runner, which we used as our makeshift pantry/gear drop zone. While we have no desire to get an RV (tent camping is our jam) but there is something to be said about pulling small gear trailer that can also hold our kayaks and SUPs.

If I had to choose my favorite piece of camping equipment, it’d be this slack line. It packs up ridiculously small but allows us to keep a lot of our stuff off the ground and easily accessible.

We ate breakfasts and dinners at the campsite and grabbed mid-day food while out exploring Door County. We spent the late night hours sitting around the campfire playing 20 questions and eating s’mores and we spent the mornings drinking coffee and hot chocolate under a canopy of trees.

While it wasn’t the forest bathing experience we were hoping for, we still enjoyed our time camping in Door County, Wisconsin. We’re hopeful that continued fostering of our connection with nature will keep us grounded and our outdoor adventures will help our kids build resilience and grit. The fresh air and spending time outdoors does not only bring us closer as a family, it brings us closer to ourselves. And with everything going on in the world today – that certainly isn’t a bad thing.

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