Tag Archives: state park

Carl Spackler

door country whitefish dunes state park 3rdarm

The first stop was the beach. We weren’t alone: hundreds of riders were on their bikes for the Door County Century. After a brief stop to see the ancient sea caves along Lake Michigan, we went to the quieter Whitefish Dunes State Park.

door country whitefish dunes state park 3rdarm carl spackler sand castle

I went into the water, warmer than early in the summer, but a still numbing 60 degrees F. Meghan made Carl Spackler’s face out of sand.

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Death’s Grotto

door county wisconsin arthur mullen etta kostick meghan vanleuwen 3rdarm september

Etta and I made an overnight trip with our good friend Meghan to the Door peninsula. Meghan had never been to Door County, a situation I was in just a few years ago.

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It’s become one of my favorite escapes from Chicago.

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We woke up early Sunday morning for the drive. On the road, we listened to White Bird by It’s A Beautiful Day.

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Newport State Park

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We did not stay long enough to see the glacial remnants and broken limestone along the shore of Newport State Park due to dangerous weather.

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I did get to see a terrifying thunderstorm tear away across Lake Michigan. We went for a short hike, to walk off some of Bea’s Ho Made raspberry filled donut holes.

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There were literally no human beings there, in the middle of July, except the couple that had eaten dinner at the table next to ours the previous night…

door county state parks chicago wisconsin 3rdarm arthur mullen thunderstorm newport state park

…just nature’s quiet beauty.

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Cave Point

door county state parks chicago wisconsin 3rdarm arthur mullen

Years ago, when I first visited Cave Point County Park, I leapt from the limestone ledges of what was a coral reef millions of years ago into the seagreen waters of Lake Michigan. It was an unexpected thrill, nature’s dare, and I survived. When I visited again this July, there were no cliff jumpers, maybe due to the water being super cold.

door county state parks chicago wisconsin 3rdarm arthur mullen

I stood like a pine tree in the fading summer sun, and the beauty of this place, even though I had been there before, was still an unexpected thrill. There are three great state parks on the Door peninsula, but this free county park is the one true must-stop park for Door County visitors.

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Whitefish Dunes

door county state parks chicago wisconsin 3rdarm arthur mullen

Wisconsin has some of the most beautiful state parks I have ever visited, and Whitefish Dunes ranks high on the list. The beach has soft sand, the aquarmarine water is cold and refreshing. The isolation of the Door peninsula means that even on a Sunday in July, there were not a lot of people there.

door county state parks chicago wisconsin 3rdarm arthur mullen

Etta brought an inflatable raft with an anchor and spent hours in the water. Even mid-summer, the polar vortex is still having an effect: I did not want to submerge my junk in the ice cold lake and I so I happily read and napped on shore.

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I love Wisconsin: a yearlong pass to the WI state parks has been a great investment.

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Governor Dodge State Park

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There are some expenditures that suffer me no guilt: annual passes to state parks and hooded sweatshirts from said state parks are on the list. This summer and fall we will be able to visit all the state parks in Michigan and Wisconsin as many times as we’d like.

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Governor Dodge is on a very short of the best state parks in the Midwest. And due to its location in Iowa County, WIsconsin (the southwest corner of the state), it is a relatively hidden gem.

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We drove through the verdant country and pulled off into Governor Dodge. My girlfriend wanted to get a sense of what the park had to offer, so we drove from Cox Hollow Lake to Twin Lake. We also got a beefy hotdog and an ice cream cone at the concessions.

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The ice cream that day in June was cream cheese with blueberry and pie crust. That says a lot right there: this is a very good state park. Instead of the more popular waterfall trail, we opted for the Pine Cliff Trail, because we wanted to hike off the treats.

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What I learned was that during the last few glaciations, a species of pine native to northern WIsconsin was pushed by the ice packs down to the area. It found sanctuary in the acidic limestone cliffs, where it continues to live on, stranded on an island far from the rest its kind.

The other thing I learned is that Wisconsin state parks serve really good ice cream.

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Hoffmaster Vision

hoffmaster state park 3rdarm michigan

I know that Michigan’s beaches are heralded for their fine sand and beautiful sunsets. I thought Hoffmaster State Park deserves particular accolades.

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It is far enough up the coast, and near enough to Muskegon that the vacationing crowds of St. Joseph / South Haven are not driving up there. There are impressive dunes and walking paths.

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The water this June was still below 57 degrees, following the brutal polar vortex winter. This is one of the last places on the coast of Lake Michigan that it’s possible to see the natural landscape for its true self.

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Morning Star Cafe

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We drove to the Morning Star Cafe from our AirBnB, which turned out to be a mistake. It was about 500 feet away. The restaurant is well shaded from Michigan’s summer sun, and the interior charms with collaged fiestaware making a mosaic on the front desk, the kitchen expo, and in the dining room. Motown was playing.

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I was served a ridiculously tasty smoothie with Michigan’s own strawberries and raspberries. I destroyed it as if it were a milkshake and I was Chef Roy Choi coming off 3 months of milkshake abstinence. There was no photographing this massacre.

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Etta got a latin-style special with chorizo and eggs and enjoyed it. I got the most plain-jane egg dish and they nailed that too. The bacon was high quality, the bread was obviously individually crafted, the eggs were cooked perfect. The service was a breath of fresh air: on point, professional, in rhythm. This place is doing everything right.

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Lake Michigan Deep Thoughts

etta kostick hoffmaster state park 3rdarm

I don’t know if it’s the candy eating away at the enamel on my teeth (my aunt said I’m hideous) or what, but this summer I’m feeling old.

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It’s good to know that Etta is still a super babe, but I think my managing job is wearing me down.

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The only relief is more candy.

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Hoffmaster State Park Sunset

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It was only 5 days before the summer solstice, the best light of the year. We bought a season pass to Michigan’s state parks and used it twice in one day.

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The first time was at the crowded but beautiful Grand Haven State Park beach. By the time we drove into Hoffmaster State Park to see the sun set there were less than 10 people on the beach.

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