Maybe you have to make your first trip over there, or visit a couple of times, to understand the meaning of the Island calling.
It comes over you at the strangest times. All seasons. Almost any day of the week. Not a sound–though in the late 70’s, the lowing of the foghorn over the waters could be mesmerizing. I feel it today, this bright sunny morning in Door. The need to go, get off the mainland. Drive to Northport, bury the car in the wooded lot, look out over Death’s Door, take a depth breath, taste the fresh air, …watch for the Washington, or the Arni J. Richter come dreamily into vision across the blue water, to disperse/take on passengers and cargo. A study in tranquility.
I want to have breakfast there, overlooking West Harbor. Spend some time with a few friends, maybe run into singer/songwriter/storyteller, legendary ‘local’ Julian Hagen, who always brings a smile to your face. I want to catch up on local news…but mostly meander around the Island for hours, places I know and don’t know…till the sun hits a certain angle telling me it’s time to catch a late afternoon ferry back. Feeling I’ve definitely been away. A whole different perspective.
“Nobody, nothing’s over there,” they may tell you. Which brings a smile to my face. Everything’s over there! But I say little. Another ‘best-kept secret’. To get away—go to Door County. To really get away—go to Washington Island. Or even beyond that, Rock Island (State Park) where there are no cars.
Where, except for the Thordarson Boat House and the Pottawatomie Lighthouse, there is even more ‘nothing’ than Washington Island. About 900 or so acres of nothing but you, that comfortable, solitary feeling of further ‘island isolation’–the good earth under your feet, water all around you, horizons unlimited. (Where am I?) A smaller passenger ferry, the Karfi will get you there out of Jackson Harbor.
But I’ve saved the best for last: the ride over to Washington Island—or back. The quiet excitement of journey as you board, find your spot on the ferry: Outside? Or safe inside the passenger cabin? It all depends on the weather. It all depends on you. But unless the weather is particularly nasty—cold, rain, wind, snow, sleet…there’s no better place than outside (main, mid, or top deck) in the midst of it…standing by the rail (or sitting on a bench), facing the elements, wind-gagging for breath, the spray of the waves on your face, the feel of the ship under your feet, landscapes (Plum Island, Detroit Island) fading in and out of sight…the magnificence of the moment, the view—a different Door County day. Clouds of gulls, sparkling sunlight, all of it right there…out here in the middle of nowhere. The mainland slowly slipping away, you heading through Death’s Door bound for whatever lies ahead…memories fading…floating…watery delight…you’ve lost yourself and everything else…you’re going…you’ve been…you’re away…