door county ducks
Spring in Door County

Door County, Wis., holds a lot of memories for me. It was more than 30 years ago when a couple who had collected my art vacationed in Door County and told Anne and Minnow Emerson, owners of the beautiful Edgewood Orchard Galleries in Fish Creek, about my artwork. Anne reached out to me, and I had a show and book signing the next summer at their gallery! Barry and I drove up for the opening with Kelly, who was almost one year old at the time. It was our first big trip with her. What is usually a six-hour drive took us a day and a half with our new baby Kelly in the back seat!

When we arrived in Fish Creek, we put Kelly in the backpack and looked around at the shops and galleries. We also took in a traditional fish boil. The day of the show opening was beautiful. I sat under a tent signing books and meeting lots of kids from the area. Meanwhile, Barry looked after Kelly in the big yard around the gallery. I had gone inside to show someone my artwork when Barry burst in with Kelly. He handed her to me saying, “She’s choking!” I remember panicking but not really checking Kelly. I had no idea what to do. Suddenly, Anne yelled out, “Is there a doctor in the house?” There were about five doctors in the house!

One of them took a good look at Kelly and found she just had a little piece of grass in her throat. She really wasn’t choking after all! Barry and I laughed about this for years. We wondered how Kelly ever survived with two beginner parents.

Through the years, I have had many reasons to travel up to Door County – speaking at the school, leading book tours and presenting mini-shows at the gallery. We also vacationed there as a family. But in all those years, I had never hiked in Door County.
Now I was leading a week-long A with third graders at the school, then presenting a picture book class for Write On Door County. I was fortunate to stay in the newly remolded Write On Door County House. It was just what I needed after a long and emotional winter. I had moved Barry twice and then moved myself into a new apartment. But I made up for lost time now and got some hikes in.


Hike Twenty-eight was on Sunrise Trail in Peninsula State Park, right off the main drag in Fish Creek. It was a warm and sunny late afternoon as I walked a couple of hours into the woods. On my way back, I heard frogs singing in the swamp and found a bench to sit on and just listen. The trail made a nice loop so I did not get lost.


The next day, I went back to the park and picked up the Hemlock Trail. The trail was a bit confusing, but it took me up to a high point where I could see the huge ice shoves on Green Bay. It had been a long, cold winter and the ice was just breaking up, causing ice formations that looked like icebergs.

photo-104Wandering around Hemlock trail took about two hours. Huge trees along some areas on the trail made me feel pretty small. I had spent the last two years feeling small and helpless. Nevertheless, I tried to think about all the fun times Barry and I had had up in Door County. I had been trying not to remember the good times because it was just so painful to think about all we have lost. But on this day, I remembered, and it wasn’t so tough after all.


Finally, I am half way to my goal of 60 hikes in my 60th

For Hike Thirty, I drove out to a Land Trust hiking area called Three Springs in Door County. I got really lost trying to find it. In fact, I ended up driving all the way to other side of the peninsula before I back-tracked and found the trail.

It was a rainy and wet day on the confusing trail. The area was in the process of being logged so lots of the trail markers were missing. I must be getting smarter in my old age. I realized that I had told no one where I was going, so instead of trying to follow the map, I went out 30 minutes, then turned around and walked back the same way. I was pleased to find a cool, old homestead in the woods and then a marsh area where I could sit and watch spring happening all around me.

Now 30 years later, here I was hiking in Door County while my husband was home in a care center. I felt like the young parent I was so long ago, not wanting to make a mistake and not knowing what to do while my child almost choked on a piece of grass. Except this time around, I am on my own, dealing with my husband’s escalating dementia. Will I do the right things? I hope so.

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  1. claudine coughlin says:

    Oh Nancy, I never have been on many hikes, especially by myself. I commend you for being brave enough to do this. I can empathize and sympathize with what you are going through with Barry. It is no fun not having your spouse to be with you to go through your life experiences. Even after five years being without Tom, there are times when I just fall apart and feel so alone. Friends and family do not understand unless they have been there. Take care! Claudine

  2. If you’d like some company in September or later, I would love to hike with you. I’m really, really back on my feet after two hip replacements. Jane

  3. Laurie says:

    Nancy, you are a beautiful writer, but mostly, you’ve been so inspirational – to share what you have been dealing with in a way that is so honest. I know it gives other women courage to also cope with what they encounter in life. I know it gets old sometimes to be told how strong you are. I too know that life doesn’t always shape out to be what was imagined. My spouse suddenly left my marriage, leaving me with 2 young children and newly pregnant. In a few short months he lost every asset we had as well as our dream home- leaving me with nothing but our children. I only tell you this, because I want to say I understand that the Grace you have found is a gift and what you share, while is so different from my experience, is something I can relate to. Your messages and actions likely help many- me too, when we just want Normal on some days. My youngest is now 11- life is good and a journey- even though it’s different than what we expected. Thank you for sharing and helping with your many gifts.

  4. Elizabeth Burke Moeller says:

    My sisters, mom & I hiked your first trail Memorial weekend; I loved it, it was so peaceful.
    While reading the description of your 30th hike I visualized the connection that that journey had with what’s going on in Barry’s head. Maybe Barry was there with you in spirit. A full circle of sorts connecting you, Barry & Door County again. Carry on my courageous friend, I think & pray for both of you often.

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