Learning out Loud in Milwaukee, WI

Washington Island by bike

Yesterday, I drove up to the very tip of Door County to hop on the Washington Island ferry and cross Death’s Door for the first time. I’ll spend two nights here at the Jackson Harbor Inn, about 8 miles from the ferry terminal, and adjacent to the Karfi ferry to Rock Island State Park, Wisconsin’s furthest extent into Lake Michigan.

The Potawatomi Islands are an archipelago that spans the gap between Wisconsin’s Door and Michigan’s Garden Peninsulas, and demarcates the boundary between Green Bay and the rest of Lake Michigan. Washington is the largest of these islands, and the only one with a permanent population. (Though much of the land on other islands, like Detroit Island, remains privately owned, Washington is the only connected to mainland with a year-round ferry.) They were also the focus of a land dispute between Michigan and Wisconsin resolved by the Supreme Court in 1936.

Anyway, I’m here for a couple of nights solo tripping. I got in yesterday afternoon and stopped for lunch at the Albatross before finishing the ride to the Inn. It was one of those rides that felt really long because I didn’t know exactly where I was headed. In fact only took about a half hour from Alby and was a stunning forested ride. It was similar to riding Madeline Island on Superior (and the islands are about the same size), but it’s a more compact island so you get more of the feeling of riding surrounded by forest feeling common to mainland Wisconsin.

Last night’s dinner at the Jackson Harbor Soup was a fantastic place to take in the emerging evening. From the dockside seating you can watch the cranes settle on the reef and the gulls and terns make their way to a perch for the night. Quiet fishermen make their way to the dock before night falls, and the lake takes on its evening calm. Rock Island, across the strait, beckons the morning’s voyagers to explore the wheel-free environment but until then, remains forbidden to all but the night’s campers. It’s quiet, peaceful, and the exact mix of moods I needed my sabbatical draws to a close next month.

The Friends of Rock Island State Park (FORI) run a volunteer program to help the Wisconsin DNR support the park. There are two weekly opportunities during the season: Lighthouse Museum Docent and Camp host. Both have volunteers stay on island in facilities furnished by the park, and get one round trip to and from Washington Island provided. It sounds a bit intense, but also like it could be a lot of fun for a week, and the facilities are pretty rad. Something to do someday in the future, maybe.

Today it’s a bit rainy and cloudy, so I’ll stay on the island and explored around here, maybe bike up to the island tower, maybe check out the Little Lake, maybe just venture out for a bike ride. We’ll see what the day holds. I want to check out Rock Island before I leave, but might hold out for better weather tomorrow.