Last week’s excursion was to Wisconsin, a state where I spent 10 summers as a camper and counselor in the 1960s and 1970s. When one is accustomed to the intense summer heat and humidity that comes with living in the south, the contrast of the cool climate of Wisconsin in July is a balm.
On July 4th I picked up my friend Tom Collinger, someone I met when I was 10 years old. I can share my deepest feelings and thoughts with Tom. He has my back regardless of what gets revealed, flaws and all.
Our first destination was Kettle Moraine State Forest, a park that covers 22,000 acres of kettle lakes and prairies. Kettle lakes are created by the retreating waters of glaciers where the remaining ice formed depressions many moons ago. The weather was hot in the afternoons, reaching 90 degrees. As a result, we hiked in the mornings and swam in the afternoons. Given the choice between swimming in the ocean, a river, a pool, or a lake, I’d choose a lake every time. I felt buoyant, cheerful, and invigorated. We observed a group of cranes next to one of the lakes. They honked liked they were playing bugles.
After three nights at Kettle Moraine we hit the mother lode in Door County, Wisconsin. Door County is on a peninsula in Lake Michigan above Green Bay. We stayed at Peninsula State Park where crisscrossed bike trails are fringed by limestone cliffs. The “wow” factor was large. The skies were blue, doubling the sparkling blue hue of the lake that punctuated the space between the trees as we hiked and biked on the park trails. Sailboats dotted the surface of the water. The park is a destination for kayakers. The woods bathed my inhales in beneficial bacteria, plant derived essential oils, and negatively charged ions.
The German writer Goethe once said, “Nature has neither kernel nor shell; she is everything at once.”
Other than one meal that we made over an open wood fire at our own campsite, our culinary highlight was an evening “fish boil” at a restaurant in the quaint town of Fish Creek. This spectacle consists of freshly caught Lake Michigan whitefish cooked in a vat of boiling water along with red potatoes, sweet Texas onions, and corn on the cob. The bones remain in the fish to prevent it from flaking apart in the boiling pot. Oils from the fish rise to the top of the vat and are boiled over at the end of the cooking process. Kerosene is added to the fire at the end of the boil, causing the overflowing oils to burst into flame that dramatically rises high above the vat. When the flame expires shortly after the pot boils over, it’s time to eat. The fish gets pulled out of the vat, then plated, and served. The flavors are simple and delicious. The traditional end to the meal is cherry pie. We enjoyed every bite.
Spending time with a close friend is a gift. The drive together in the rig, “hang” time at our campsites, and the outdoor excursions fuel the fire of friendship. My heart is full today.