The Midwest's Secret Cape

Folks go to Door County—a bucolic peninsula between Green Bay and Lake Michigan—for the lakes, the art, and the cherries. I took my bride in search of something even sweeter.

After more than 40 summers, Julie's family still comes back to the cozy cabin on Kangaroo Lake. In fact, her parents and sister had arrived while we were exploring the peninsula. They joined us for our last stop, which turned out to be one of the best. Below Jacksonport, Cave Point County Park offers the astonishing sight of geology in action. Lake Michigan booms away at porous cliffs here with enough force that even on a calm day, you have to raise your voice to be heard. If you climb down to water level, you can see the millions of tiny pulverized shells that have washed up on shore. It's an ancient place—the rocks in the cliff are more than 400 million years old—but the sight was new to all of us: Neither Julie nor anybody else in her family had been here before. We only went because I'd struck up a conversation with a stranger who had suggested it. I'd spent days trying to see Door County the way Julie's family saw it: Now, for once, we were all seeing it with the same fresh sense of wonder.

It says a lot about a vacation spot that even after 40 years you can still discover world-class attractions. But the beauty and charm of Door County are subtler than that. They lie in a delicate balance of water, landscape, and people—particularly the families who keep coming back. After watching Julie retrace the happy days of girlhood, I can easily imagine our hypothetical children bounding up Eagle Tower or pressing their noses against the display case at the Yum Yum Tree. Thirty-something years ago, Julie's newlywed parents must have imagined the same things for their hypothetical children, and in the same spots.


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