By Jane Bokun
Some people may not think Door County, WI. when they think of a winter playground, but they would be dead wrong. In the summer, it’s yachts moored in sparkling blue water and tony restaurants. But in the winter, the cold, blue waters of Lake Michigan turn to magical, ice palaces and places to bring home the day’s catch after ice fishing.
Indeed, here in one of the coldest winter spaces, there’s time for ice fishing, snowshoeing, cross country skiing, and even fat-tire biking. But Door County is considered the Cape Cod of the Midwest and has it all. It sits on mammoth Lake Michigan, which covers Wisconsin, Michigan, Indiana and Illinois. I am particularly interested in ice fishing because I haven’t done that yet. Luckily, what I notice is you don’t have to be perfect at any one of these sports. Bucolic Door County has a large retiree population and a lot of the people who come to this area to retire, or purchase second homes, like to laugh a lot.
I asked Destination Door County Chief Communications Officer Jon Jarosh, if the tentlike ice huts were heated and he said it was quite comfortable and safe in the cozy huts. Novices like me even find there are plenty of fishing guides to help get the huts ready and help with your fishing expeditions. They bait your fishing poles and then you can catch walleye, northern pike, perch, or brown trout. The area is also becoming known for getting some prime, popular whitefish. I’m familiar with catching fish as a relaxing, Zen hobby as my dad often took my family fishing on Lake Michigan in the summers. After we caught our wriggling fish, we would watch as my dad fileted them while we said, “gross.” My mom then cooked them to a golden brown and our trophies were delicious.
Door County has lots of romantic Bed & Breakfasts and hotels to accommodate newcomers, according to Jarosh. I’ve also done some snowshoeing and cross-country skiing and found I can handle the white snow packed Wisconsin hills with only some deep breathing – and silent praying.
“It’s better than skiing down a mountain,” I tell myself. It may also be more challenging then say, laying out in the sun sipping on a Pina Colada.
After some grunts and groans, it might be time for a spa, I lovingly say to myself.
“I’m trying to live in the moment.”
In Door County, I choose The Spa at Sacred Grounds. There are a few spas here and it makes me want to stop and visit them all, (I love a fancy area) but I’m on a mission.
The Spa at Sacred Grounds in Door County
Although Wisconsin is thought of as a state known for friendly farmers and the popular Green Bay Packers football team, it can also be glamourous here. Art galleries, specialty pubs, wineries and large homes are no strangers.
Once you get to The Spa at Sacred Grounds, in Door County’s Ephraim, the first thing to notice is the place exudes calm. It’s open all year around. On the grounds there are tall trees and myriad plant life. It feels strange because you want to sit at a comfortable table in the woods and never leave. It feels otherworldly. When you’re, like I often am, feeling nothing but problems and anxiety, The Spa at Sacred Grounds is an oasis of therapeutic peace.
Kim Maedke-Shumway, a Door County native, was a customer at the spa for 18 years before she became owner.
Helping others gave the trim, dark-haired woman a new sense of confidence and she already knew what made people happy. She started out with unique massages, facials and spa treatments. It’s a day spa so there is no hotel backing up the property. Inside the spa, there’s a pristine library and yoga studio where classes are held. There’s a private log cabin where some massages are performed as well.
“I thought if I can do for one person what this spa has done for me, I’d be doing well,” she says with tears in her eyes.
After a day at the spa or shopping in fun stores like Bliss, a luxury co-op made of several clothing and design stores, it’s time to try other winter activities. There are 250 miles of snowmobile trails; candlelight skiing in January and February; sleds and tubing at Peninsula State Park; romantic sleigh rides with Mayberry’s Carriages; Classes such as weaving and philosophy at The Clearing Folk School; and even a fish boil every Friday night at the well-known White Gull Inn.
There also are trolley rides that include specialties like cocktail and ghost tours found at Door County Trolley.
It can be tiring, and some homemade cherry wine might be in order from Lautenbach’s Orchard Country Winery. I love tangy cherries and have tried the wine flights which are delicious. Lautenbach’s, open year around, focuses on all things cherry which is my absolute favorite. Besides wine, you can get cherry strudel, pancakes, drinks and more.
For those who want to try this little-known jewel in winter, it’s easy to get to from airports in Chicago, (about four hours); Milwaukee (about two hours) and Green Bay (about an hour). Rental cars are also easy to procure.
Before this winter excursion, I always thought I was a summer girl, but this trip to winter Door County was life changing. You might want to meet me in Door County for very, very slow candlelight skiing and a generous poor of cherry wine.