I have been visiting the Door County Adventure center booth at Canoecopia for several years now. Each time I drop by, I talk to the owner Tim about coming up for a visit. Then it does not happen, and the cycle is repeated the next year.
Canoecopia speakers 2016 – Tim Pflieger telling us about lighthouses, coastlines, and inland lakes of Door County
This past year at Canoecopia I did not actually talk to Tim; however, I did hear his presentation on kayaking Door County. His photos and presentation definitely sold me that I should try and make it this year.
Related: Canoecopia speakers 2016
This year has been kind of difficult to plan since I am training for the Chicago Marathon, but I sent Tim an email about coming up in early July, and he replied that he had a trip up to Washington Island planned. I packed up the car and left Chicago on Friday evening.
Waking up to this at Kolher-Andrae State Park
Heading up to Door County
My first stop was Kohler-Andrae State Park just north of Milwaukee on Lake Michigan. This put me within a three hour range to drive up the next morning and make the 9 a.m. rendezvous. The next morning I awoke to a spectacular sunrise over Lake Michigan and then headed north. I stopped a couple of times along the way to take pictures of the Lake Michigan shoreline and then reached the Northpoint Pier, which is the end of the Door County Peninsula.
My first scenic view of Lake Michigan and Door County
While looking for where the kayakers might be, I glanced at my phone and noticed an email from Tim. He said to give him a call as plans had changed. The trip began in Europe Bay instead due to some intense northwest wind funneling through the opening between Washington Island and the top of the peninsula.
Putting in at Europe Bay with Door County Adventure Center
Europe Bay is part of Newport State Park, and there is a landing there. Tim gathered the 15 plus sea kayakers for a brief talk. There were four instructors present and the rest varied in experience from experienced to novice. Tim asked about my kayaking experience on the phone, and I mentioned a previous sea kayak experience on Lake Erie, but admitted I was more comfortable in a canoe.
Getting started with Door County Adventure Center
We all got into the canoe and Tim assisted me getting into mine. He then gave brief instructions about where to put my legs. There were braces on the side and foot pedals at the end. He then balanced the kayak for a few minutes while I got adjusted. It was a lot tippier than I remembered it.
Sitting back at the rear with a little chop coming through while kayaking with Door County Adventure Center
Sea kayaking with Door County Adventure Center – GoPro picture
Setting out in two foot waves
The first thirty minutes were a little hairy. Two foot swells were coming at us sideways. This was a tough baptism to experience while getting adjusted to the kayak; however, I began to feel more at ease halfway through this stretch. Eventually, I even began to enjoy the chop.
Once I felt more comfortable, I could appreciate the views better. The views of Lake Michigan and the shoreline were absolutely gorgeous out here. Just like in Traverse City, Michigan, the lake was a brilliant azure blue. Furthermore, we were being followed by groups of white pelicans flying in formation and solo Caspian terns.
This is the way to view the Lake Michigan shoreline in Door County
Once we turned more southward toward the main part of Newport State Park, we lost the wind and the paddling became easier. This is the nice thing about sea kayaking in Door County. No matter which way the wind is coming, there is always a calm bay somewhere as there are two coastlines to choose from as well as inland lakes to paddle.
Our group relaxing in a calm bay along the Newport State Park coastline
Taking paddling instructions
We then huddled up in the calm bay and Tim divided us into four different groups. Each group had an instructor teaching a different lesson. I opted to go with John who taught the stern and rudder technique. This is a technique one can use to control the boat while surfing a wave. Since we just rode some pretty good waves coming in, I thought this would be a good option.
We paddled back to where the waves were coming in and John showed examples on how to catch a wave and then control yourself using the stern rudder. It was a lot like regular surfing.
Josh from 41 North in Cleveland at the top and John instructing with Door County Adventure Center at the bottom – Two generations of Tatros
In the midst of the instructions, John was talking to another kayaker in the group while I was at a distance practicing the stroke. I overheard him say something about an outfit in Cleveland, so I paddled over and asked which outfit, and he said 41 North. I paddled with this company when I sea kayaked Lake Erie. It turned out that the guide that I had on that trip was his son, Josh. The paddling community is a small world.
Related: A sunset tour kayaking to the Cleveland skyline
Lunch at Newport State Park and then more paddling
We then stopped for lunch on a rocky shoreline on other side of Newport State Park. I discovered that everything I brought was completely drenched from the two foot waves bouncing over the kayak. Like I said, I am more used to a canoe where you can keep things dry. I definitely need to invest in more water proof packs next time I kayak.
Ken from Liquid Adventuring
I enjoyed a brief swim on the shoreline as the water was pretty cold. Before getting in the kayak, I took a picture with Ken from Liquid adventuring. Turned out I was not the only travel blogger on the trip and more proof that it is a small world. Ken and I follow each other on Instagram and neither of us knew the other would be on the trip.
More beautiful views of the Door County shoreline
Then we returned to our kayaks for more paddling. We paddled for another hour or so and then took another break for more instruction. Tim demonstrated a dead man rescue where you can pull an unconscious person upright from a capsized position with one hand. It was impressive and Tim showed some strength and leverage, for he managed the maneuver quite smoothly. Seeing this made me feel quite safe paddling with Door County Adventure Center. The instructors are great teachers and they really know what they are doing in case of an emergency.
Crossing to Rowley’s Bay
We had one more tough section to paddle before calling it a day. We had to paddle across Rowley’s Bay to the resort where someone could take me back to Europe Bay and my car. Only problem was the wind was creating white caps across the bay. We could either paddle straight across or paddle along the coast for a while and then cross. We decided to continue up the coast in hopes it would make the crossing easier.
This made the trip go a little longer, which I was all in favor of. We even saw two bald eagles on a tree while kayaking up the coastline. Finally we opted to cross, and in another half hour we were across. We arrived at 3 p.m. What a great day of kayaking with Door County Adventure Center.
Sea kayaking with the Door County Adventure Center
Door County was worth the trip
My trip was partially sponsored by Door County Adventure Center as I received a complimentary tour, but I cannot say enough good things about the trip. The quality of the kayaking, the scenery, the bird life, the leadership from Tim and other instructors were all top notch. Check their website here. They offer all types of opportunities to get out on the water including rentals, lessons, and workshops. Door County Adventure Center also has a zipline course, so there is adventure in Door County.
I visited Door County with my parents many years ago. It was not a very memorable trip, and this memory along with the fact that Door County is more known for Bed & Breakfast places than adventure (not that there is anything wrong with Bed & Breakfasts) probably had a lot to do with my reticence to return. If you do visit Door County and want adventure, sea kayaking is the way to go. I will definitely return.
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