My boss, Mickie, at the Door County North Welcome Center (visitor center), paid for herself and a co-worker named Vickie and me to take a four-hour tour this afternoon. Just before I left home to pick Vickie up and head to the trolley station in Egg Harbor where the tour was going to start, Mickie texted Vickie and me and said there was a tornado watch for Door County and she said we didn’t have to go on the tour if we didn’t want to. Both Vickie and I opted to continue as planned.
The temperature was near 80 degrees and the humidity was so high it felt like walking through a steam room, so everyone had the windows all the way up in the trolley. We first headed over to The Ridges Sanctuary, to a beach across from Bailey’s Harbor.
Our tour guide was telling us some things about the beach there, but I couldn’t hear him very well above the low rumbling of thunder and the waves being blown in, so I took pictures instead. We got back into the trolley and started heading toward our next destination when the skies opened up and rain poured through all the open windows on the trolley. Everyone scrambled to get the windows closed, but by the time we reached our next destination, the storm seemed to be over.
There’s a new-ish park at the top of the peninsula called Porte des Morts (pronounced Port de Mort) which means Death’s Door. You can just barely see Washington Island on the horizon in the picture above. There have been a number of shipwrecks between that island and the tip of the peninsula. The park is on a bluff and a couple of years ago, the township built steps down the bluff to the beach below.
We got down to the small rocky beach to look for fossils. One of the tour guides pointed out this rock formation and said something about it having been sediment at the bottom of the water when the glaciers carved out the Niagara Escarpment.
“So what is the Niagara Escarpment?” you may be asking. It is a rock shelf that goes from Niagara Falls up into Ontario, Canada, around the upper edge of Lake Huron, along the upper peninsula of Michigan, and down through our peninsula. It is a significant corridor for more biodiversity than any other place on Earth of comparable size. There are two groups that are trying to educate people about this: NERN (Niagara Escarpment Resource Network) and GEO-DC (Greater Escarpment Organization of Door County). The blurb about this tour said,
“The Rocks Speak” a northern Door County trolley tour by Earth Science Emeritus Professor of Northeastern Illinois University, Dr. Charles Shabica and Bob Bultman, trained in geology, an avid caver, and a member of the Niagara Escarpment Resource Network (NERN) for over 22 years. Together they will explore the geologic features and beaches of the Niagara Escarpment.
From Porte Des Morts, we went to Ellison Bay’s own Community Park beach.
We looked on the beach for fossils. I showed Professor Shabica what I thought was a fossil, but he told me it was a piece of cement. He found a small pebble that he said had a bunch of stuff in it, and when I took it to Bob Bultman, who had a small magnifying glass on a chain around his neck, he said that it had a bunch of tiny shells and other fossils in it. The pebble was about the size of my thumbnail.
From there, we went to Pebble Beach. We had a short hike to get down to the beach, and then we looked for fossils again. I again picked up a rock I thought had a fossil in it, but it turned out to be fossilized mud. I guess I’m not very good at this. 🙁
Our final stop was at the Horseshoe Bay Farm just south of Egg Harbor. I’ve driven by the farm a few times and love how it looks, but I didn’t know they give tours and that it has quite a history.
Our tour guide explained that there was a family who had a vision of buying up a lot of land in a picturesque part of the peninsula and building it up to cater to the rich. They built a golf course and a clubhouse, but that didn’t attract very many people, so they got the bright idea to build an impressive farm for breeding Holsteins. They hired men to build these barns within a two-year period right before WWI and then they sought to buy the best Holstein stud money could buy to the tune of around $50,000. Then they found the biggest Holstein cow and bought her for $5,000. They started mating them and everything was going great until the bull stud started looking sickly and the cow died. All the other cows on the farm got some sort of disease, so that ended that venture. Then the family planted orchards and sold lots for expensive homes on the bluffs overlooking the farm. Eventually, this non-profit group that wants to preserve the history of the farm got hold of the property and they are still trying to figure out what to do with it.
I bought some red carrots and a couple of zucchinis there. Then we headed back to the trolley station. (Mom, I was at the farm when you called to see if I was OK!)
When I had first heard about the tornado watch, I called Mark who had taken his motorcycle down to Green Bay to get a new tire, and told him about the storm. As soon as they got his tire changed, he headed back up the peninsula. He was running just ahead of the storm and thought he’d beat it by the time he got to Sturgeon Bay. He took Highway 57 along the east side of the peninsula (the Lake Michigan side) and noticed that the sky ahead of him was getting very dark and the wind was picking up, so he pulled into a gas station in Bailey’s Harbor and holed up in their convenience store for about 45 minutes until the storm blew over. That means that as we were leaving the beach near Bailey’s Harbor and the storm hit our trolley, Mark wasn’t that far away! We continued on our tour while he was in the gas station convenience store, and by the time he was able to leave and head into Ellison Bay, he saw a trolley at the Ellison Bay Community Park and Beach. We practically crossed paths a couple of times this afternoon and didn’t know it!