You had to live here to know about it. Hear someone mention it in conversation. It had nothing to do with summer vacations in Door County. It was invisible spring, summer, and fall when it faded into the natural landscape as the 17th fairway of the golf course that was set so perfectly in one of Wisconsin’s most beautiful state parks: Peninsula Park, Door County—between Fish Creek and Ephraim.
The transformation and challenge came in winter. White on gray. Deep snow. Long winters of no end. What to do come another weekend in cold storage? Ice skate? Ice fish? Cross-country ski?
The hill seemed much higher then, forty years again when the kids were small and a friend in Ephraim mentioned it was a good place to take the kids in winter.
I recall a recent L.L. Bean winter catalog, “Outdoors” and can’t believe the stuff available: “Bean’s Kids Winter Walker Snowshoes ($49.99); Tubbs Flex Snowshoes ($179); Bean’s Toboggan ($99 to $149); Sonic Snow Tube ($89 to $129); Bean’s Flyer Sleds by Flexible Flyer ($28.95 to $32.95); Flexible Flyer Runner Sled ($79 to $99); Flexible Flyer Saucer ($28.95); Snow Castle/Snowball Maker Set ($29.95)…helmets, goggles, sunglasses, Bean canteens…
It also seemed (and was) more ‘dangerous’ in the past. More like old-time sports for kids—mostly unsupervised by parents or anyone else. You found a rise in the landscape something like a hill covered in ice or/and snow—and you went at it. Gave no mind to cold. Numbness. Frozen hands, feet, face. You made fun. Sport. Took chances. The bigger the hill the better. You slid down on a small wooden sled that didn’t steer too well…or a red-rubber-patched, black inner tube, a piece of cardboard, or the seat of your pants. Maybe an old pair of wooden skis hand-made by your friend’s Swedish grandfather. Or if you were really lucky, a toboggan that everyone could pile onto and yell all the way down.
Nothing else to do when you came to rest at the bottom, (and hopefully turned over ) but get up, dust yourself off, and climb to the top of Hill 17 again…and again… It never got old. Sometimes a parent or someone handed you a cup of sweet hot cocoa from a thermos–which made the day even tastier.
I look upon the scene today, alone, from the bottom of the hill: “No Sledding” a sign says, “Due to icy conditions.” Quiet. Not a soul in sight. A classic white-on-gray Door winter’s day…as they once were. And remain.
I take a last look up into the stillness, hold it for keepsakes…till the hill begins to fade into a Charles (Chick) Peterson painting—the ghosts of kids bundled in winter jackets, caps, scarves, gloves. Their bright color, the only color in the landscape. The sight of Ephraim across the frozen bay. The sound of voices laughing, screaming up and down the hill.
The warmth of winter.
Painting by Charles L. Perterson. You can visit the artist on his web site by clicking here… or just click the above painting please!