21st Century
The Future
World Travel
Destinations & Guides
Books and Film
Original Fiction
Opinion & Lifestyle
Politics & Living
Film Space
Movies in depth
Kid's Books
Reviews & stories

The International Writers Magazine
: US Destinations: Wisconsin

Rock Island Bliss
Roger L. Baty II

Joseph Campbell tells us all to find our bliss; whatever that bliss may be is how we will continue to be happy throughout the trials of our individual lives. I believe I found my bliss long ago, in several places to be exact. One place is somewhere on Rock Island, just off the Door Peninsula in Wisconsin, where I and some friends kayaked across to relax and camp for several nights. The time of year we were visiting, and the drives that placed us on Rock Islands doorstep, deposited our previously beauty deprived eyes with the fall seasons most astonishing attraction, peak color.

The roads winding north across the Door Peninsula are distinguished by their complete enclosure by beech trees and maples. There are even cherry groves that dot the landscape, with cherry picking tours anyone can participate in. We hit these roads at just the right time and felt as if we were driving through a sea of floating fire, coming over top of us and blocking out the sky, but letting the right light through so the embrace of these colors would not be lost in darkness. The towns along the way are of the small town atmosphere, where no chain stores are allowed. Their appeal is more than becoming, much more welcoming and even closer to home.
Coming out of the trees put us on the tip of Door Peninsula, where the ferry would take us to Washington island. We stayed here long enough to drive across to the north port. It’s a very rich island and didn’t peak our interest enough to look around. We parked our cars at the port and stared across Jackson Harbor to Rock Island. The waves were calm that day, but the current was still pushy. It was simply a matter of ferrying ourselves with the current to make landfall on an outstretched sandbar. Once there, we set up camp.

Rock island was once home to Chester H. Thordarson, the inventor of high output volt transformers. Chester had a large boat house for his visitors, which was reminiscent of the Vikings style of architecture. There are three large windows overlooking Lake Michigan and the Islands shores. Inside there is a spiked chandelier and a mammoth sized fireplace. Across the floor lay old wooden furniture, their backs carved with scenes from Norse legend. Though the history books don’t pay mind to them, the rumors of the time still surface today saying that Chester threw such great parties at this boat house that the likes of Al Capone would arrive by sea plane to attend.

Close by, Chester had his meager house. On the western shore of the island, one can find Pottawatomie lighthouse, a government owned piece of the island in Chester’s time, which has been thoroughly revamped over the years.
Our days on Rock Island were spent hiking, exploring, skipping rocks and kayaking. We camped near the beach and spent very little of our time anywhere near the camp itself. On the Eastern shore was one of the strangest geological sites I personally had seen. The rock beneath the lake which rode up onto shore was divided out like a grid, making any onlooker wonder if any universal purpose lay beneath the sands and water surrounding this island. It stretched a great ways and was not some localized phenomena.
Overall, this island had been good to us. But on the day of our return, a Midwestern rain storm brewed up and laid us out inside the boat house. As the storm kicked up more and more, we remembered it was late fall and the water not forgiving with its temperatures, so the novice sea kayakers among us (yours truly included) decided not to risk the four foot waves of Lake Michigan, and were more likely to stay the night in the boat house, as the tents we had were soaked beyond hope of a decent nights sleep.

Out beyond the haze, towards Washington Island, we could all see something rocketing over the waves in our direction. As it got closer we all saw it to be a Zodiak, and it was motoring right inside the boat house.

Rock Island is a Wisconsin state park and it is only right that a ranger should be here on a day like this. His shift had just begun. The rangers pull something like four days on island to three days off. We were lucky enough that our trip ended on the day he returned. He was a grizzled old man who said very little to us. We didn’t have to explain much to him of our situation either; he just knew what our problem was and immediately we began loading the Zodiak, hooking kayaks behind it, and off went the first wave of us to the looming safety of Washington Island.

I was in the second wave of escapees, and as we bounded over the white caps heading for our cars and dryer times, I watched my friend Jared in the distance, braving the frigid waters and waves, rain beating down over his paddling and huddled torso, because he couldn’t call it a vacation if he was rescued, and he couldn’t call it an adventure if it ended on a boat that motored into shore. He aimed his bow into the waves, hardly paddled on his starboard, because the current through Jackson Harbor was too intense, leaving ships in the past strewn across the rocks separating Washington and Rock island. Jared came to shore just fine that day, as we all had expected; we loaded up our cars, changed into dryer clothes and went on our way to finding the ferry back to Door County.

My bliss was inherited when we weathered this storm for nearly a day before we were rescued. Bored with a boat house made of stone, we hiked about, and although some of us were worried about not returning to school on time for our classes, life couldn’t have been better. In an intense situation, where time could have dragged on miserably, we huddled together, spoke of our impending plans, how we might get off the island, or how long we might stay. None of us fretted, only wondered what was coming next. I felt like I could weather any storm as long as they were all by my side. I found bliss in my company and in the unknown circumstances that hounded us all, but most of all, in the adventure that can be fall.

© Roger Baty II Jan 2007
Colorado Springs

Directions to Hike From Greenbay, take SR 57 north to Rt. 42 to Washington Island.
Contact Information Rock Island State Park Washington Island, WI 54246 or call: (414) 847-2235 during May through October (414) 854-2500 during other times of the year

 More Destinations


© Hackwriters 1999-2007 all rights reserved - all comments are the writers' own responsibiltiy - no liability accepted by or affiliates.