Rock Island, Wisconsin

Picture of Katie.

Katie walking along Rock Island's shore.

Recently I went with on a trip with a group of nine to the Door Peninsula in eastern Wisconsin. After driving to the very end of the land (the tip of your thumb if you're making the Wisconsin map with your hand), we drove onto a ferry to cross the open waters of Lake Michigan to Washington Island. This is a popular tourism destination full of little restaurants, shops and importantly, roads. We drove across the island, parked the car and carried our backpacks aboard another ferry. This ferry took us to remote Rock Island, where no cars are allowed.

The first thing we saw on Rock Island was the Viking Boathouse, which contained an entire table setting of beautiful, unique furniture carvings by Hallor Einarsson of Iceland. Each of the carvings on the chairs describes an ancient Nordic myth. The boathouse itself was constructed as a private vacation residence for Chester Hjortur Thordason. The island was converted to a state park several years after his death.

Our group had reserved a few of the backpacker campsites, so we carried our camping gear for about a mile along a lush green trail. Our campsites were at the edge of the forest, next to the ocean-like shore of Lake Michigan. We spent the next day exploring the small island, whose most popular landmark other than the boathouse is Wisconsin's oldest lighthouse. Our time on Rock Island was extremely relaxing, both walking through the quiet forests and being lulled into a peaceful sleep by the continuous lapping waves of the lake.

On the way home, we stopped at Nelsen's Hall Bitter's Pub on Washington Island. The bar was opened in 1899 and during prohibition, owner Tom Nelsen got a pharmacist's license so he could sell a stomach tonic called Angustora Aromatic Bitters. He drank a pint of the 90-proof tonic daily and credited his longevity to it. Because Nelsen's remained open during prohibition, it is the longest continually operated tavern in Wisconsin.

My stomach convulsed from the medicinal quality of my bitters shot, so I could understand why a prohibition-era judge ruled that there was no way anyone would drink such a thing for recreational purposes. At least now I'm a lifelong member of the bitters club.

More photos from the weekend

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