Kangaroo Lake in Door County – The Magic of Studying Details, Then Turning Around

Kangaroo Lake

Kangaroo Lake – South View © 2014 Bo Mackison

The mid-October day was mercurial – one moment skies were blue, the next a wave of gray clouds pushed in from nearby Lake Michigan. Blustery winds buffeted me, causing me to lose my balance more than once. Then calm would descend for a brief respite for the wind and chill.

October in Door County, for sure, Wisconsin’s northeastern most point, a peninsula sticking out into tempestuous Lake Michigan.

Kangaroo Lake is one of the more protected places on the peninsula in fresh water lake in the center of Door County, and a wonderful place to go during the autumn festival days. Most of the crowd who comes to enjoy the views hug the shore of Door County, bay side and lake side. But there is much to be said for the wild beauty of the interior, too.

I loved studying the autumn changes of Kangaroo lake, standing on a narrow bridge of road that crosses the northern most bay. Fallen leaves were bobbing on the surface, the reeds were stripped of there green finery and their fuzzy seeds, and stood knee deep in the cold, stunningly blue water. Beyond, fir trees lined one side of the lake, and deciduous trees in this year’s last blaze of glory hugged the opposite side.

Then the sun disappeared in the scattered clouds.

Once I had taken in the scene with all my senses, as is my habit, I turn around to see what is behind me.

Kangaroo Lake

Kangaroo Lake – North View  © 2014 Bo Mackison

And the sun slid from the cloud cover, causing the lake ripples to shimmer in a sheet of dancing light.

A solitary island caught my attention. Birds were darting from the trees to the water and back again. Creatures were slipping in and out of the shadows and the shoreline brush.

Kangaroo Lake — its two faces. Both to be explored and adored.

Fish Boil – A Wisconsin Tradition

Fish Boil at Boil-Over

Fish Boil at Boil-Over © 2008 Bo Mackison

I have a suspicion that if you mention “fish boil” anywhere in the United States, except Wisconsin, you will see some odd expressions, but the traditional Door County Fish Boil is wildly popular in this northern Wisconsin vacation destination. The main ingredient – thick steaks of delicate, freshly caught whitefish from the surrounding waters of Lake Michigan – make dinner an occasion for many a visitor. This is especially true when the fish is prepared in a huge black kettle amidst a fiery blaze. When a member of the Boil Over Crew sounds the dinner bell, it is the signal for the “boil over” and that is the signal that it will soon be time to eat.

For the uninitiated, a fish boil begins with a kettle of hot salted water perched atop a wood fire. The boil master drops one steel basket of potatoes and onions into the boiling water, and a second basket of fresh whitefish goes into the steaming cauldron a few minutes later. When everything is nearly ready, kerosene is added to the fire and a huge flame erupts, causing the water to boil over the top. Hence, a “boil over.” The hot flames cause the water to boil over the sides of the kettle, removing fish oil that has collected on the surface during the cooking process.

As you can see in the photo, the crew then lifts the baskets from the heat, lets the water drain, and the ingredients are presented to the hungry crowd with a generous drizzle of butter and hearty slices of bread. And to make the event an even grander foodie experience, the meal is finished off with a slice of Door County cherry pie.


Vintage Vanilla

License Plates on Ice Cream Truck

License Plates on Ice Cream Truck © 2008 Bo Mackison

A vintage ice cream truck sports the license plate VANILLA, but the truck obviously doesn’t sport decent brakes considering the “security” rock placed in front of the front tire.

Blue Flag

Blue Flag

Blue Flag © 2013 Bo Mackison

These lovely iris are growing all wild along the roadsides in Door County. The flowers this year seem to be out-doing themselves. Maybe giving us a reward for surviving last winter’s brutal punches. I’m thankful for all the bright colors and the warmth of the sun too. I am so happy that summer has finally begun!

Yellow Lady’s Slipper

Yellow Lady's Slipper

Yellow Lady’s Slipper © 2013 Bo Mackison

This June the Yellow Lady’s Slippers were profusely decorating the woodlands of Door County. Considering how picky and complicated their life cycle is, it’s almost amazing they grow at all.

All Lady’s Slippers grow in acidic soil which must have a certain underground fungus. The seeds of these plants are about the size of a dust speck and have absolutely no nutrients. Their “fungus buddy” attacks and eats the outer coating of the tiny seeds and allow the inner cells to absorb nutrients from the fungus and then germinate. This process can take several years. After the slipper finally germinates, it can take up to 15 years for the plant to mature enough to flower.

And it doesn’t get any easier after it flowers. Its pollination is equally complicated, requiring a bee to enter the pouchy flower. Once inside, the bee will often get trapped and either dies or has to chew its way out. The bees that manage to escape this demanding mistress then carry pollen to other blossoms, but even after all this trouble, only a small percentage are actually pollinated.

Guessing the only reason these ladies survive is due to their long lives – each plant can live for 100 years, providing they are not lunch for one of the many Door County deer. Once a flower actually is pollinated it is very prolific though, and can produce more than 60,000 seeds.