The Scenic Overlook
We were driving in Door County on HWY 42 north of Sister Bay and just south of Ellison Bay. Those magical words in white on a large brown metal sign that no one who loves beauty can resist. The words “Scenic Overlook.” It had an arrow pointing down a road. I am not sure but I think the name Ellison Bluff County Park or something similar was also there.
In fact, I had noticed the sign earlier. Driven past it several times. Each time I could hear it calling to me. I ignored it once more. Then promptly made a rather short stop at the nearest convenient spot and turned back to follow the the arrow to the “Scenic Overlook.” You can resist only so long and so many times. It is futile, as they say.
The danger lies in having a carrier for my phone that does not cover Door County very well.
Hardly at all would be a better way to put it. That and an old GPS with outdated maps as a backup. I could probably figure a way back to civilization with the GPS but there is that uncertainty about getting off the main roads and trying to follow a trail of signs that sometimes make you feel like Hansel and Gretal. I’ve tried to follow a few that seemed to lead nowhere before.
Also, one of the reasons we were driving on HWY 42 that day was the weather. “It’s a funny day” the little one commented later that day. It was very overcast at the time. There had been some showers earlier in the day. I was pretty sure that it was going to rain some more eventually. But when? So, instead of doing something else (like window shopping) we had been staying in the car so we would stay dry.
Typically, the asphalt road turned to gravel. Something very common in Door County parks. The gravel road split in the middle and went around a lone tree that stood in the middle like a gatekeeper. About this time I began to hear about a need to find a bathroom. There will be one in the park I confidently replied. I had seen a couple porta-potties in another park earlier so I was sure there would be something here. There had to be. Otherwise, I was going to be in big trouble.
The long gravel road had a run down, over grown stone fence on the right. The fence separated the road (or park as I assumed we were already some way into it) from a neighboring orchard. Knowing civilization was just over the fence I drove on.
It seemed like forever. It probably was not far but with one person needing a bathroom (and the bit of doubt in my mind there was going to be one close) the road seemed longer. After all, it there was no bathroom the gravel was going to make retracing the way out just as slow as it made getting here.
Finally, we saw a sign directing traffic in one direction and I knew we had to be nearly to the end. The road soon opened up with lots of places to park all around. More importantly, there was a nicely built stone building for bathrooms. My reputation was saved.
Door County is wonderful by car.
Yet, I fear that those who are not able to hike, bike or even canoe and kayak in the many parks must be missing some of the most wonderful bits of nature. Still, there are many areas that are truly beautiful that can be reached within a minute of stepping out of your car.
This park is one of those places. While Google Maps calls it Ellison Bluff State Natural Area, I am sure it was a Door County county park. No need for a State Park permit to enter. There is a Door Bluff County Park further north which looks just as interesting and might have been something I had seen photographs of in a gallery. I will have to find a way to get to that park some day also. Visit both. You can’t go wrong.
While there is a hiking path at Ellison Bluff Park, the highlight for us was that promised scenic overlook. From a wooden deck you get a view of Green Bay framed by trees that is worth the drive by itself.
The deck has wooden stairs that lead down to a chain link fence with an even better view. While the stairs seem to have become a bit unleveled, they are sturdy and even a bit wet and slippery were easy to manage for my wife with a knee replacement. And just to the right side of the fence at the bottom is a surprise for those who have no fear of heights.
There is a another narrow deck built out over the edge of the cliff.
It is just wide enough for one or two people at the tip but with a view that will make you forget there are other people who would like to squeeze past you to enjoy it also. Fortunately for me, no one was waiting behind be. At least, not that I noticed. The spectacular view of Green Bay (the bay not the city or football team) was, for me, second to the view of the bluff itself looking nearly straight down on the trees below and the shoreline.
It was an amazing view and I wish my wife could have seen it. However, remembering how things went at the House on the Rock (a famous Wisconsin tourist attraction – which I really liked) I did not try to encourage her to get any closer to the cliff edge than the end of the stairs where she was just fine.
And then it rained.
If you like the weather in Wisconsin, don’t worry. It will change. 🙂 Not long after we left Ellison Bluff County Park that rain I expected came down. Unfortunately, I did not happen to take an umbrella into the market with us where I took this picture.
Ellison Bluff State Natural Area or Door County Park or whatever was worth the short drive – even with lousy weather. I bet it is even better when the sun is out. Hope you find it as beautiful as we did. Oh, and always check the scenic overlook wherever you find it.