Minnesota Prairie Roots

Writing and photography by Audrey Kletscher Helbling

One final look at Door County, Wisconsin October 15, 2012

Filed under: Uncategorized — Audrey Kletscher Helbling @ 7:29 AM
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DOOR COUNTY, WISCONSIN, truly is what you make it.

With that in mind, and understanding that I did not even begin to see and do everything a visitor can see and do at this scenic tourist destination in northeastern Wisconsin, here’s one last look at some photos I shot on a recent one-day visit.

You can explore the stunning natural beauty of Door County…

My husband walks along the beach at Whitefish Dunes State park along Lake Michigan on a recent cold and windy afternoon in October.

The harbor at Egg Harbor on the western side of Door County.

A view of the bay while crossing a bridge into Sturgeon Bay, the beginning of Door County.

…or shop the antique and gift shops…

One of the many shops in cozy Egg Harbor.

Nature Works, an Egg Harbor gift shop.

A festive display outside of Nature Works.

A row of flags add a bit of Americana charm to a scene in Egg Harbor.

…or wine and dine…

I just had to photograph the Audrey Grace vineyard at Lautenbach’s Orchard Country Winery south of Fish Creek, even if my middle name is not Grace.

…or take in the arts scene…

I spotted this sign for the Cheeseheads musical inside Julie’s Cafe in Fish Creek.

…or check out the historic buildings…

Look at this absolutely magnificent pink and gray granite church, St. John the Baptist, which I photographed at Egg Harbor. The 1907 church, constructed from stone harvested from local farmers’ fields, is part of the Stella Maris (“Star of the Sea”) Catholic Parish.

READERS, PLEASE VISIT my blog archives to see previous posts I published recently on Door County.

Copyright 2012 Audrey Kletscher Helbling


No cherry jackpot this season in Door County, Wisconsin October 13, 2012

Filed under: Uncategorized — Audrey Kletscher Helbling @ 9:12 AM
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REMEMBER THAT WONDERFUL and unseasonably warm weather we embraced last March? Then remember the cold and freezing weather which followed in April, as if the two months traded spots temperature-wise. Not a good thing when you own an orchard.

This sign along Wisconsin Highway 42 south of Fish Creek marks The Cherry Hut roadside cherry business, established in 1949.

I hadn’t thought much about that warm spring until a recent visit to Door County, Wisconsin, famous for its cherry orchards.

The northeastern Wisconsin peninsula experienced the same type of weird warm winter weather we did here in Minnesota, causing the cherry tree buds to form early and then freeze.

The cherry pit spit at Lautenbach’s Country Winery & Market, Fish Creek.

According to the Wisconsin Cherry Growers, Door County’s typical cherry crop of 12 million pounds was expected this year to hover around 700,000.

At first glance you would think this is a cherry product. Not so. This is apple butter sold by The Cherry Hut. I assume the apple crop was also down this year in Door County as it is in Minnesota.

The cherry harvest is long done in Door County. But even a poor crop doesn’t stop this tourist destination from promoting cherries and offering samples of cherry wines and juices and cherry salsa from, I presume, primarily last season’s crop.

And restaurants, like Julie’s Park Cafe in Fish Creek, were still offering up slices of delicious Door County cherry pie.

A $5 slice of tart Door County cherry pie…

…shared by three–my husband, second daughter and me.

© Copyright 2012 Audrey Kletscher Helbling


Scenic and “touristy” Door County, Wisconsin October 11, 2012

Filed under: Uncategorized — Audrey Kletscher Helbling @ 7:32 AM
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I’d heard so much about it—”touristy,” fish boils, “you’ll love the small towns,” wine, cherries…

To be honest with you, I wasn’t 100, not even 50, percent certain I wanted to visit this northeastern Wisconsin peninsula cozied by Green Bay on the west and dwarfed by massive Lake Michigan on the east.

I am neither a woman who enjoys shopping or masses of people. So a one-day trip to Door County did not come without a bit of trepidation.

One of many Door County shops, this one in Egg Harbor on the western side of the peninsula.

What I discovered is this: Yes, lots of people visit this scenic tourist destination, but not so many on a Friday in early October that I felt overwhelmed. And, yes, the western side of this peninsula could definitely be classified as “touristy,” because, after awhile, the endless wineries, antique and gift shops, candy stores, etc., all begin to blend together.

Collectibles for sale at Peninsula Antique Center near Egg Harbor.

You can only sample so much wine, flavored balsamic vinegar, flavored olive oils, cheese spreads and cherry salsa before you become disinterested. Fortunately my traveling companion husband and second daughter agreed that by the time we reached Fish Creek, we’d sipped enough wine, sampled enough oil and vinegar and salsa and cheese spreads, but no sweet stuff, thus requiring a stop for a shared truffle and shared fudge.

A winery truck parked in Egg Harbor.

I must interject here that we were pleasantly surprised to find Door County wines to be reasonably priced—the ones we purchased being around $10.

After stopping at numerous shops, it was time for a break and a little lunch at Julie’s Park Cafe & Motel in Fish Creek, conveniently located next to the Peninsula State Park entrance. I ordered the day’s soup special of fish chowder while my husband ordered an 8-ounce burger topped with bleu cheese and the daughter chose a chicken sandwich topped with onions and cherries.

My bowl of fish chowder was burn-the-roof-of-your-mouth hot, but bland in taste and appearance. Is this typical of fish chowder? I don’t know given this was my first time eating fish chowder.

I wish I could tell you our food was over-the-top delicious. But my daughter had to search for the cherries in her sandwich. I found the fish chowder bland. The burger was good, my husband said, but too much at eight ounces, the only burger size available. The thin, dry fries were more like shoestring potatoes than fries.

Scrumptious Door County cherry pie from Julie’s Cafe.

As disappointing as two of our three main menu choices were, Julie’s Cafe redeemed itself with the generous slice of tart Door County cherry pie we ordered and shared. No visit to Door County should come without a purchase of something “cherry,” whether wine, salsa, dried or fresh (when in season) cherries or, most recommended by me, cherry pie, even if it was $5 a slice.

No one was spitting cherry pits into the strong cold wind when we stopped at Lautenbach’s Orchard Country Winery at Fish Creek.

I’d love to visit Door County during the cherry harvest and inquired as to when that might be. Our vibrant and friendly waitress at Julie’s Cafe did not know, which surprised me.

But then I suppose you could say I wasn’t exactly the most prepared tourist either, approaching Door County with the attitude of “we’ll stop when we see something we want to see.” That seemed a workable plan for a first time visitor.

Even on a bone-chilling cold and windy day, vendors were set up streetside in Egg Harbor.

Door County, though, deserves much more than a quick no-itinerary one-day trip. It deserves careful planning so you see beyond the storefronts, drive beyond the two main routes—42 on the more “touristy” western side and 57 on the less populated rural side—and discover all this lakeside land has to offer. For it was the glorious, natural beauty of this place which most charmed us.

Scenic Whitefish Dunes State Park on the eastern side of the peninsula.

Glorious autumn colors as photographed by Miranda Helbling from Eagle Tower in Peninsula State Park at Fish Creek on the western side of the peninsula along Green Bay.

Scenic Egg Harbor.

TO READ A PREVIOUS POST about Door County, click here to see photos of Peninsula State Park.

© Copyright 2012 Audrey Kletscher Helbling


Autumn splendor in Door County, Wisconsin October 9, 2012

Filed under: Uncategorized — Audrey Kletscher Helbling @ 7:47 AM
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HOW DOES ONE EVEN BEGIN to describe the glory of an autumn landscape?

A view from the Eagle Panorama overlook  in Peninsula State Park where you can see Horseshoe, Strawberry and Chambers Islands, Welcker’s Point and the Upper Michigan shoreline.

Peninsula State Park in Fish Creek in Door County, Wisconsin, shows us what words can never summarize. Natural blazing beauty beyond belief.

My husband, Randy, and me at Eagle Panorama. Yes, Randy is wearing the shell of his winter coat over a heavy hooded sweatshirt. I was not smart enough to bring along my winter coat or a hat.  Photo by Miranda Helbling.

My husband, Randy, with our daughter Miranda, who has lived and worked as a Spanish medical interpreter in Appleton, Wisconsin, an hour south and west of Door County, for nearly two years. This image was shot at Eagle Panorama.

My husband, Randy, daughter Miranda and I toured northeastern Wisconsin’s scenic peninsula on Thursday when fall colors were at their prime.

Except for the raging wind blasting us from Green Bay on the west side and, later, Lake Michigan on the east, we savored the day. How could we not, with colors this stunning, these from Peninsula State Park?

Treetop view from Eagle Tower. Photo by Randy Helbling because I would not climb the 75-foot tall tower which rises 225 feet above the shoreline. You can barely see Shore Road, bottom right, the road we drove through the park.

See me standing down there waving at my daughter atop 75-foot Eagle Tower? Photo by Miranda Helbling.

If I wasn’t afraid of heights, I could have seen this view from Eagle Tower shot by my husband, Randy. The road on the left is Shore Road, the route we took through Peninsula State Park.

Eagle Tower, built in 1914 as a forest fire observation platform, offers a scenic view of Green Bay and beyond. Photo by Randy Helbling.

Horseshoe Island as seen from Eagle Panorama, not to be confused with Eagle Tower.

The Eagle Bluff lighthouse, built in 1868 and on the Wisconsin State Register of Historic Places. Door County is home to 11 lighthouses. No, we did not tour any and saw only this one.

Remember my earlier mention of the wind? Well, these waves on Green Bay show you just how windy it was on Thursday morning when a wind advisory was in affect for Door County. I believe winds were around 25 – 30 mph.

Near the pier in Peninsula State Park.

Do not let this illusion of calm waters fool you. We did not walk very far onto the pier because of the fierce wind.

It’s a scenic drive along Shore Road through Peninsula State Park in Fish Creek.

HAVE YOU VISITED Door County? If so, what were the highlights of your trip?

CHECK BACK for additional posts of Door County.

© Copyright 2012 Audrey Kletscher Helbling