In 2015 on my baseball trips I spent a day in Minneapolis and the next day in Milwaukee .
While I was there, I read some of the travel brochures about the Minnesota and Wisconsin and was impressed with all of the natural beauty and outdoor activities – so I vowed to come back one day and spend some time in each of those states experiencing this. A perfect opportunity came when I saw that both the Packers and Vikings were playing at home on week 1 on Sunday and Monday night respectively. So, I booked an 8 day trip fitting the football games into my agenda.
I flew into Milwaukee and drove up to Door County Wisconsin- a beautiful part of the state that is nicknamed the ‘Cape Cod of Mid-West’. I spent my first day exploring a couple of great hiking trails. In the morning, I hiked White Dunes State Park on the eastern door peninsula in a city called Sturgeon Bay on the shore of Lake Michigan. There are several trails within Whitefish Dunes. I hiked the Black trail which was about 3 1/2 miles long which was mostly wooded with some rock exposure and then the Brachipod trail which was about 2 miles long which had some interesting fossils and great nature views. Both trails offered some great views of Lake Michigan and lots interesting wildlife.
After lunch I headed over to Cave Point County Park which featured underwater caves, challenging hiking trails & limestone cliffs along Lake Michigan. The trails had lots of exposed roots and the paths were very uneven and tight, so to get the best viewing spots you have to be willing to do some climbing.
The next day I headed up to Peninsula State Park in a city called Fish Creek to do some kayaking on Lake Michigan near an area called Eagle Bluff . For the first hour or so, the water was calm and the paddling was easy. Then the waves stated to get choppy and rough – which isn’t something I really loved. I don’t have a lot of experience paddling on open water, so this took a little getting used to.
After Kayaking I drove further north first to Sister Bay and then up to Ephriam. Both are really idyllic waterfront towns with lots of great shops, parks and places to eat. For dinner, I went to a restaurant called the Old Post Office to try one of the local customs that at least a dozen people had told me I ‘had to try’ called a ’Fish Boil’. This is a popular and long-standing Door County tradition that many credit Scandinavian immigrants for bringing to Door County. Fish boils were originally used to feed large crowds of lumberjacks and fishermen and was a quick and economic way to feed large groups of people. The fish is typically caught by local fishermen, cut into small chunks and cooked in boiling water with red potatoes add onions. The cooking of the fish is an elaborate presentation. Restaurants typically ask that patrons arrive a half-hour early to witness the boiling. The fish and potatoes are prepared in a cast-iron kettle. When the water comes to a boil, the potatoes, kept in a wire basket, are lowered in. While the guy was cooking up the fish in this enormous kettle with an even more enormous flame underneath it, he was telling stories and jokes. This was accompanied by music and lots of beer drinking. When the fish was ready, they escorted us inside to the dining room where we lined up as if we were in an army mess hall. At the front of the line they ladled out the food onto our plates and we went into the dining room to eat it. Everything tasted fantastic. For desert we were all given a slice of amazing fresh baked cherry pie with ice cream. After dinner we went out on the porch to watch the amazing sunset which I was told is pretty much a nightly occurrence in Door County.
The next day was the Packer game at Lambeau Field and the evening in Green Bay. The following morning, I gassed up the car and headed to Minneapolis to see the Vikes on Monday night (stopping off at Chippewa Falls along the way to visit the Leinenkugels brewery) . After Minneapolis, I headed onto Duluth and the North Shore of beautiful Lake Superior.
My first day there I had another great hike in Hiking at Hawk Ridge and later checked out Bob Dylan’s birth home and all of the interesting shops and bars along Superior Ave. At night time I hit all of the great dive bars on Superior Avenue and met and talked to some really ‘interesting’ people. The hotel I stood at, Fitgers, was an old converted brewery and probably the best place to stay in town. Interesting old rooms, views of the lake – shops – a great brew pub - and lots more
There are some really nice restaurants in Duluth, which surprised me, including one outstanding Italian restaurant, Va Bene Café. The following morning I had a great kayaking trip in Lake Superior launching from Brighton Beach Park on the North Shore. There are a lot of great kayaking / canoeing options in Duluth other than superior including Black Sand Beach and St. Louis River Estuary
Finally, after lunch I went on a 30 mile / 4 hour bike tour which followed Scenic Highway 61 along Lake Superior’s North Shore arriving in a city called Two Harbors. We had an early dinner and ‘victory beer’ at Castle Danger Brewing Company. Both the kayaking and cycling tour was run by a company called the Duluth Experience. There were about 12 of us on the cycling tour including a newlywed couple from Wisconsin where the wife was 6’4” and the husband 5’6”.
That evening I caught the red-eye back to NJ. A very fun, eventful and exhausting week away for me.