How does a place in the world wiggle its way in to your heart? Having been to Toft Point State Natural Area only once before, I wanted to make sure what I felt a year ago was still intact now. I guess the pull to return to its rocky shores and soft, wide paths through old-growth forests was surely telling. I was being drawn back. Maybe it was out of my control.
These last few months, I'd often thought about Tof't Point and the early June day I discovered it --memorable not just because of my wild animal encounter of the spikey kind (see Walking With a Porcupine in this blog), but because of the sum of all its parts: a 743-acre preserve with 2 miles of rugged shoreline, mesic and boreal forest, unique plants, and a variety of birds. I had come to Toft Point by myself, 5 hours’ drive from home, in Wisconsin’s Door County–the thumb of the mitten, when you look at the map.
There is something special about exploring a place in solitude, don’t you think? Toft Point doesn’t even have a sign on the road announcing its presence. Another thing to love.
As I parked, there were just two other people near their cars in the small parking lot. The woman, who appeared to be a regular, warned me about mosquitoes--and had a netted hat to prove it. I turned to look at the other person, a man who was either preparing or packing up his fishing gear. “Aw, the mosquitoes are big, but they’re slow!” he countered, brushing off my concerned look. I applied spray, grabbed my binoculars, and headed down the trail alone.
It had been a late spring, and combined with the diverse habitat, I was afforded views of early-blooming flowers I didn't expect: Striped Coralroot Orchid, Columbine, lady slipper, and luscious, fragrant, old-fashioned lilacs.
The scenery changed as I emerged from the forest. Here, the foundation of the original Toft home, where Thomas and Julia raised 7 children, has been restored, and five hand-built cabins remind visitors of a period in the 1920's when one of the daughters, Emma Toft, returned to the homestead to help her mother after Thomas died. During that time, they operated a summer resort.
Venturing out along the shoreline, the sun was doing its best to chase away the morning mist that lingered over the water. There was much to appreciate, including bright orange Indian Paintbrush in the sedge meadow habitat, and the Mourning Cloak (below).
Naturally, no trip to one of the Great Lakes is complete without a little rock jumping. Okay–rock stepping.
As I headed back through the cool woods to the car, the Forget-Me-Nots whispered their message. But I didn’t need any reminder. I'll be coming back to Toft Point.