Well compared to the human petting zoo and three ring circus at Peninsula State Park, and by not settling and pressing on, I found what I consider to be the perfect park. Newport State Park in Elison Bay, WI is secluded, pristine and quiet with just a handful of primitive campsites all on the lakeshore with 30 miles of ungroomed, heavily wooded trails which abound with wildlife (kinda, not really).
There is a stretch of open beach with lots of shoreline and a ranger station unmanned with self-registration. There were only two campsites available for one night only so I went with lucky 13 because it was remote, not near any other campsites and on the rocky cedar grove crowded with rocky shoreline.
It was a four mile loop to backpack to the campsite on Rowley's Bay Trail. I had been walking everyday for weeks leading up to this trip to strengthen my legs and toughen up my feet. The preparation worked as I performed very well even for a fat old guy. My feet are meat.
When you backpack in and out you are thinking about what you need and what will fit in the pack. Efficiency is key unless in this instance you forget to pack a few sheets of toliet paper (luckily I didn't need it). I was able to fit a sleeping bag, Luke's green Northface Nebula Strata tent, Mary's green "tights", Joey's Hulk pillow and blanket, a Pink Floyd shirt from Walmart for the irony, waterproof matches, a hatchet for protection, two cuties, four bottles of water and a bag of trail mix.
More to come…..
Ok, I'm back. I had to find Wifi and a place to charge my phone because my charger in the car is really slow for some reason. I thought going back to Al Johson's Swedish Restaurant and Butik was as good as any other place and I learned a few things from the staff and more experienced patrons while I was there charging my phone. I also ate a proper breakfast for the first time in a long time - it was damned good.
Al Johnson opened his restaurant 70 years ago and ran it up until his passing a few years ago. He rode his bike to work and waited tables, cooked, wiped down tables, hosted and even fed the goats.
There are a total of five goats and they get on the roof using a ramp in the back of the restaurant; there are also two webcams on the roof in caae you want to watch goats graze on a Swedish grass roof top 24/7 or check the weather.
The restaurant is packed everyday from open to close, year round. Butik is a Swedish word for the French word "boutique" or small shop. Some of the staff are actually fron Sweden. Swedish meatballs sound relatively easy to make given the simplicity of the ingredients (100% beef, onions, milk, salt and pepper) and they are even more delicious if you haven't eaten anything but fruit and trail mix for days.
Next up, the Washington Island Ferry and staying the night on the island before catching the Rock Island Ferry (the Karfi) tomorrow morning.
Newport State Park is a 2,373-acre Wisconsin state park at the tip of Door Peninsula near Ellison Bay, Wisconsin. Protecting 11 miles of shoreline on Lake Michigan, Newport is Wisconsin's only wilderness-designated state park. In 2017, the International Dark-Sky Association named Newport a Dark-sky preserve.
Newport State Park, WI continued… I packed my hatchet for protection and from my tent I shouted into the darkness, "I got a gun you son of a bitch!"
With my backpack packed and feeling a little anxious, as if I was up for the two hour hike to campsite 13, it was at the Rowley's Bay Trailhead that I noticed that my phone battery was dead which meant no pictures and no measure of time. Oh well. I didn't see any wildlife along the hike but I did notice a sign for that invasive flowered plant, Garlic Mustard, that I saw at Big Knob Campground in MI (UP).
I reached the shoreline and the cedar groves crowding the rocky shore rivaled those of the ones I've seen at Rock Island. It was only a few more paces until I got to campsite 13. It was tucked away in the woods with a fire pit, two wood benches, two flat areas for tents and a metal animal box to protect food. It was perfect, or so I thought - the plot thickens.
I set up the tent and went to the shoreline to relax in the sun. The view looked east over Rowley's Bay and there were no waves; just ripples lapping up on the rocks. With no concept of time, I sat there until the sun passed over me to the right (west) and I figured it was getting close to dusk and enjoyed the golden hour.
I thought about all sorts of stuff and recognized how noisy my mind was even in such a quiet and tranquil setting. On these solo trips you can cover a lot of ground seeing stuff and you can talk to yourself out loud and disagree most of the time with what you are saying. But I never really win that many arguments with myself, so I did what I always do - walk around, eat and sleep.
I ate half the bag of trail mix and drank two bottles of water saving the rest and the two cuties for tomorrow. I turned in early without using those cool waterproof matches and opted not to make a fire.
I fell a sleep quickly to the sounds of the ripples and in the middle of the night I was startled and woke in a panic. I heard something or someone stalking around the tent. Was it an animal, a ranger, a serial killer, my ex-wife, or worse both my ex-wives or the creepy guy that I met in the parking lot at the trailhead? My mind was racing and I grabbed the hatchet that I always keep in the tent under my pillow for moments exactly like this one.
I must have stayed motionless for 30 minutes running through all the horific scenarios in my head and debated with myself what would be my first move. I definitely did not imagine the foot steps and I was now prepared to seriously fight.
I chose to stay in the tent and maintain a defensive position but I thought I should send a warning. I gripped the hatchet and from my tent I shouted into the darkness "I got a gun you son of a bitch!". There was nothing but silence, however, I could still hear the footsteps pacing further from the tent now but definitely still on the campsite.
I continued to think of my options but leaving the tent to confront the threat was an unnecessary risk. I laid motionless in complete silence with the hatchet in my hand until I fell a sleep.
When I woke up to the sound of the now familiar ripples it was early morning, the hatchet was still in my hand and I was alive. The hatchet is a gun? It's the same thing to me if it scares off a threatening son of a bitch or a imposing walking tree.
I really was scared…