Small Town America

Small Town America

We hit the road last Monday, but before we got those RV wheels rolling again, there was one more place I needed to visit. Ok, maybe I didn’t need to visit, but I certainly wanted to visit Bayfield, Wisconsin. My goals were apple picking and photographing fall foliage.

It was the first week in October, and at 6:00 in the morning, it was only 27 degrees Fahrenheit outside. It was definitely cold and I was very grateful the furnace in the RV was running like a champ. When I looked outside everything was coated in a thick layer of white frost. And when I stepped outside, I could actually see my breath ūü•∂

A frosty cold morning – Oct. 4th – 27 degrees F

Al questioned my Bayfield excursion, but I knew it would be a mostly sunny day with light winds. I had to get out and enjoy the day. The prior couple of weeks, the weather had been gloomy and depressing … typical Midwestern weather that I always hated. Thus, I was grateful for a day of sunshine and planned on taking full advantage of the nice weather.

So on a brisk fall morning, I bundled up in layers, set upon scraping the frost off the truck windshield, loaded up a picnic lunch and an extra coat, and jumped in the truck for the 90 minute drive.

A beach along Lake Superior with fall colors

Visiting Bayfield, Wisconsin

I fell in love with this captivating small American town last summer. Picturesque Bayfield, with a population of less than 500, is the gateway to the Apostle Islands National Lakeshore. It’s located at the far northern edge of Wisconsin along the southern shores of Lake Superior, the largest freshwater lake in the world. The rolling hills, lush vegetation, and beautiful Lake Superior shoreline make visiting this part of northern Wisconsin well worth the out of the way drive. It’s the perfect place for me to escape everyday life and enjoy a little solitude while taking in the lovely landscape.

Blue Vista Farm

There are over a dozen orchards and fruit farms surrounding the town. My go-to orchard is the Blue Vista Farm. Considering my daughter and I had such a fun time picking blueberries here at the end of July, I was really looking forward to re-visiting and picking apples. Unfortunately, due to circumstances surrounding the 2020 pandemic, the Bayfield Apple Festival was canceled, and therefore, the owners of Blue Vista Farms decided to press their harvest of apples this season.

(To enlarge a photo in a gallery, simply click on any image.)

Oh well, not all was lost. I had a wonderful time walking around the property with my camera and then purchased some freshly pressed apple cider before heading off to my next stop. (BTW … I should’ve purchased more apple cider. It was incredibly delicious and fresh.)

Gil Larsen Nature Trail

On the north end of town, across the street from the library, is the trailhead to the Iron Bridge and Nature Trail. This was a new find for me. I absolutely loved hiking this ravine and was definitely in my happy place. It’s an out and back trail that’s less than two miles roundtrip. So it’s not a long trail but certainly worthwhile and gorgeous.

The trail meanders along a creek and passes under the historic Old Iron Bridge. The trail is a variety of wooden bridges, dirt ground, wood boardwalks, steps, and rocky creek crossings. Fortunately, my visit was during the beginning of October when the creek was merely trickling with water making the creek crossings easy-peasy. And no bugs to contend with … a huge bonus. I would imagine springtime could present a different kind of experience and challenge.

Along the way are benches for visitors to sit for a moment to admire the surroundings and take in the sights and sounds. I was thrilled to photograph the woodpecker and listen to it pecking away at a tree. The thick canopy of trees and tall earthen walls blocked much of the blue skies giving a sense of mystery to my surroundings. The cool damp air added to the unique experience.

This trail felt somewhat reminiscent to me … possibly similar to a western slot canyon. Perhaps this ravine is the Midwestern version of a slot canyon. Did I already tell you how much I loved exploring this nature trail?

Walking across the historic Old Iron Bridge – Rice Avenue

Once I completed walking the nature trail, I decided to walk around town a little bit and eventually walked over the Old Iron Bridge. The bridge towers pretty high above the nature trail as it crosses the ravine. Looking down, it was difficult to spot the trail that I had just hiked due to the dense tree foliage. The autumn colors were vibrant and I was awed by the overall beauty.

small town America along the shores of Lake Superior dotted with fall colors

Beyond downtown

Should you ever find yourself visiting charming Bayfield, Wisconsin, be sure to venture beyond the main street (Rittenhouse Avenue). I was undoubtedly in my happy place as I explored. I was delighted with the architecture, the tree-lined hilly streets, hiking a magical trail, and strolling the friendly quaint town. Basically, I loved the overall atmosphere and landscape that embodies this small American town in northern Wisconsin.

Bayfield is one of those places that has captured my heart. So I guess, it’s safe to say, I plan on returning next season. ūü§ě “God willing and the creek don’t rise!”

Photo Challenges – Sunday Stills. This week, Terri asks us to share images of “Your Happy Place”. Whenever I’m out and about in nature with my camera, I’m in my happy place. Not only was I in my happy place this past summer, but northern Wisconsin also served as a great “Hideaway”. During our four-month stay, Al and I pretty much kept ourselves isolated either on remote private property or out in nature. Lens Artists Photo Challenge #119 – My Hideaway – alone in nature!

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A Love Affair with Blueberries

A Love Affair with Blueberries

The rolling hills, lush vegetation, and beautiful Lake Superior shoreline make visiting this part of northern Wisconsin well worth the out of the way drive. I’ve always been curious about the south shore of Lake Superior and have long wanted to visit this far northern part of the state. I finally had the opportunity recently and was not disappointed.

Bayfield, Wisconsin is considered the Berry Capital of the State and also known as the Gateway to the Apostle Islands National Lakeshore. Bayfield’s local agriculture produces some of the largest crops of blueberries, raspberries, and strawberries in the Midwest.

Blueberries on a blueberry bush

Summertime is berry season on the Bayfield peninsula. That means fresh, locally grown berries are ripe for the picking. You can either pick yourself (most cost-effective) or you can purchase pre-picked berries. The “Fruit Loop” drive not only immerses visitors into the picturesque landscape but introduces them to the local farms and farm stands along the small country roads.

Blueberries, strawberries, raspberries, and more

Al and I spent our summer camped on his sister’s lakefront property near Hayward, Wisconsin. Considering the quaint little town of Bayfield is located an easy hour and a half drive away, my sister-in-law and I decided to take a day trip up to the town to pick blueberries. She had never gone berry picking before. Ah, I’d need to fix that. (We called ahead to check on the status of the blueberries before making the drive. The second week in August 2019 was perfect for picking blueberries. We also kept tabs via the Orchard-Reports.)

Our first stop was at the Blue Vista Farm. I fell in love with this place. The property is stunning with its historic barn, and flower garden. And then there’s the orchards, butterflies, and birds along with clean air and puffy clouded blue skies. Seriously, I could spend a summer here and easily run out of film ūüėÜ. My sister-in-law literally had to pull me away so we could continue with our Bayfield explorations.

Blue Vista Farm – To enlarge a photo in a gallery, simply click on any image.

After picking roughly 5 pounds of blueberries at the Blue Vista Farm, it was time for us to head to our next destination; Erickson’s Orchards & Country Store. Here, we weren’t interested in picking any more fruit. Nope, our visit was totally centered around their baked goods available in their country store.

We had visited Bayfield a few weeks earlier and had stopped in at Erickson’s. It was at the tail end of strawberry season and blueberries weren’t yet ready to pick. So, we settled for a sampling of baked goods and a bottle of local wine. And wow! So, now it was time for a repeat purchase, but instead of strawberry treats, it was blueberry treats. Yum! Many of these farms also offer additional products such as jellies, jams, preserves, and honey that we’ll consider during another visit.

Fish Tacos BlackenedWith our stash of freshly picked blueberries and a box full of baked goods safely stored in our cooler, we headed into town for lunch at the Bayfield Inn. Their rooftop restaurant offers beautiful views and casual dining.

The town of Bayfield is home to one of the remaining sustainable fisheries on the Great Lakes. Local fishermen bring in a daily catch of salmon, trout, and whitefish.

With whitefish being the most popular, many of the local restaurants offer it on their menus cooked in a variety of ways.

I ordered the White Fish Tacos blackened and they were absolutely delicious. So tasty that I’ve tried replicating them at home. I’ve gotten close to their recipe, but I’ll need to keep working at it and Al will continue to suffer through my culinary experiments. I don’t think he’s complaining.

Shopping

After lunch, my sister-in-law and I did a little strolling up and down historic Rittenhouse Avenue. Bayfield is a small town and each shop offers something different and unique. Of course, my T-shirt addiction didn’t allow me to walk away empty-handed. ūüėŹ And my sister-in-law couldn’t resist a purchase at the Candy Shoppe. Their fruit wine breads and chocolate turtles were to die for and we hear their homemade ice cream is pretty tasty as well.

Gardens

I think one of the things that surprised me the most during my visits to this historic Wisconsin town was the gardens. From residences to shops and even marinas, they all pride themselves in providing lovely flower gardens complete with yard art. It was so enjoyable to just walk around the town taking in the sights.

I’ve loved every single visit I made to Bayfield this past summer. Al and I even managed to take one of those 3-hour boat tours around the Apostle Islands. And we couldn’t have picked a better day to do so, but I’ll save that adventure for another post.

Bayfield, Wisconsin
Bayfield, Wisconsin

 

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Basket with Double Drop Down Handles
Cotton Kitchen Towels
Stainless Steel Tumbler with Lid

Death’s Door

Every now and then¬†hubby and I¬†come across a place that’s so picturesque, it calms the body and clears the mind.¬† Perhaps for some, it even stirs the soul.¬† A place that’s home to¬†quaint villages and¬†distinct agriculture.¬† A place that could easily become an addiction and for many it has.¬† Door County, Wisconsin has a way of luring folks in causing them to return time and again.Door County, Wisconsin

The land may be one addiction but the water is¬†another.¬†¬† Most of Door County’s shoreline¬†is surrounded by shallow, rocky ledges.¬† Delightful islands both large and small add to the splendid scenery.Door County, Wisconsin

Whether it’s sailing, power boating, or paddling; boating of any kind is a beloved sport around here.

Algoma, Wisconsin
home for the week was in a marina in the town of Algoma surrounded by water – RV center rear

In the 19th and early 20th centuries, lighthouses assisted sailors in navigating the lake and bay waters of the Door Peninsula and surrounding islands.  Many of the lighthouses are still operational to this day and are open to the public.  There are eleven historic Door County Lighthouses.  I was able to visit the Eagle Bluff Lighthouse which I found charming and interesting.  My mother was a huge fan of lighthouses, and I always think of her when photographing one of these delightful landmarks.

Lake Michigan Lighthouses
Eagle Bluff Lighthouse built in 1868 located in Peninsula State Park, Door County, Wisconsin

So where did the name “Door” County come from?Door County

In a dangerous and unpredictable confluence of currents is Death’s Door.¬† Historians have long blamed these waters¬†for more shipwrecks than any other body of fresh water in the world.¬† It’s here, where the waters of Green Bay meet the waters of Lake Michigan with sudden, unpredictable squalls, erratic wave patterns, and shallow shoals resulting in many a fine ship being dragged to a watery grave.Door County, Wisconsin

The Door Peninsula got its name from the dangerous straits that pass between the tip of the peninsula and Washington Island.  213 identified wrecked vessels in the waters of Door County have been listed.   The Door County Maritime Museum in the town of Sturgeon Bay, is a must see for any nautical buff.scenic sights in WisconsinDoor County, WI

Door County agriculture
Sharing the road

Since our RV was parked in the little town of Algoma, south of Sturgeon Bay, we were able to not only explore Door County’s scenic towns and shoreline, we ventured inland Door County Cherriesnavigating some off the beaten path roads.

It was here we discovered the agricultural side of Door County.¬† We passed vineyards, cheery orchards, berry orchards, and apple orchards.¬† During our end of August visit, cherry and berry seasons were pretty much over, but apple season was just around the corner.¬† There’s something so appealing about a crisp juicy apple that I personally picked from¬†a

apples
In another month, these beauties will be ripe for the picking

tree, or enjoying a cup of fresh milled cider directly from the orchard’s store¬†that captivates my attention.¬† The thought evokes cool days and stunning fall colors.¬†The inland peninsula is dotted with farm stands, wineries, and small shops selling local goods;¬†homemade pies, jams, fudge, and local honey, just to name a few.

The fall colors of Door County easily rival those found in the northeast, and although our original plans were to stay in this part of the country to enjoy the fall festivities, we ended up changing directions.  More on that to come.Door County Orchards

Door County fishing
The fishing gang

But I would be remiss if I didn’t¬†mention the¬†fine people¬†that call Wisconsin home.¬† No matter where we went, we felt welcomed and valued as a visitor.

And then there’s Al’s buddies… the guys had a great time fishing out on Lake Michigan and although the fish stories were plenty, the guys did all agree they had hoped for a little more action (as in more¬†fish).

Door County

And while the guys were out fishing, I was off connecting with a fellow blogger.¬† When I made mention in one of my blog posts several months ago¬†that I’d be visiting Wisconsin, I received an email from Kathlin of The Badger and the Whooping Crane¬†inviting me out to lunch should I be near her neck of the woods.

Well, she didn’t have to twist my arm.¬† Thanks Kathlin.¬† It was a joy and a pleasure spending the day with you.¬† Next time, I’ll definitely hang around a little longer for those great fall colors.Barns of Door County

Our time in the Midwest has come to an end and although we had a fabulous time, we’re ready to have the wheels on the RV rolling again.Maritime Museum

“The mountains are calling and I must go” – John Muir

Door County 330

Door County Tales:: Shipwrecks, Cherries and Goats on the Roof (American Chronicles)
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