Potawatomi State Park, Wisconsin


A few years ago, my mom suffered a knee injury that kept her from being mobile for some time. It was hard for her to get back on her feet, but she was motivated. She and my dad were celebrating their 50th wedding anniversary, not with a party, which they begged us to avoid, but with time together.

Potawatomi State Park

What they really wanted was a vacation with each of us to celebrate their 50 years together. First they went to Austin, Texas, then Walt Disney World and finally the Grand Canyon with my youngest, oldest and second youngest sisters.

All of that traveling really motivated my mom to get her knees back in shape, and in the summer of 2018, we packed up the car and pointed it northward, toward Door County, Wis. I figured we'd please my mom and do a lot of sightseeing from the car, shopping and visiting places that were easy to get to.

But to my very great delight, we woke up the first morning, and my folks proposed a visit to Potawatomi State Park for a day of hiking.

To understand how surprising this was, you have to know that while I grew up enjoying hiking and time outdoors with my dad, I don't remember my mom ever being on a trail. Ever.

Established in 1928, Potawatomi State Park, located near Sturgeon Bay, Wis., features 1,225 acres of beautiful, rolling upland terrain with steep slopes and limestone cliffs that make for incredible views and great hiking and biking. It also features picnic areas, camping and a boat launch, and in the winter some of the trails are groomed for cross-country skiing. There's a 75-foot observation tower, which happened to be closed for safety reasons when we were there. The park has an active friends group who help out with maintenance and fundraising. Potawatomi is also the starting point for the 1,000+-mile Ice Age Trail, one of just 11 national scenic trails in the country.

On our visit, we started off on the relatively simple and short Ancient Shores Trail, a comfortable half-mile featuring educational signage about the topography and history of the area. When we got back to the car, my mom suggested we aim our sights a bit higher, and we headed to higher ground and the trailhead of the Tower Trail, more than three miles with some trickier terrain for her to traverse. She bore it like a champ, clambering over rocks while either me or my dad offered an arm to be sure she kept her balance. Amazing.

We hit some of the other Door County trails during our weeklong visit, but it was Potawatomi that stuck in my mind, the first place I'd ever seen my mom really loving the things I love—being outside, walking in the woods, and stopping now and then to take in a beautiful view. RM

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