Toft Point is an absolute must-do when on the Door Peninsula. It is, however, more of a walk than a hike. Nonetheless, put this on your list of trails to take while in the area. It is near Ridges Sanctuary, another delightful area. I will post on Ridges next week; Toft Point is such an amazing treat that it deserves its own post, despite it’s meager mileage.
Despite the beauty packed into this short and easy hike, there are rarely many other hikers there, and this day was no exception. At the end of Toft Point Road lies a gate. This gate divides a small dirt cul-de-sac from a jeep road that stretches off into a pristine pine forest. We applied some Deet – this was spring in Wisconsin and marauding hordes of bloodsucking mosquitoes are to be expected. Pine forest is one of the worst places for these nuisances, but they are generally kept at bay with repellant. Happily, they would abate as we neared the lakeshore.
Another pre-hike ritual to be religiously honored is the cleaning of the boots. Wisconsin is struggling with some invasive species and there are almost always boot brushes at trailheads. Please use them.
We set off down the trail gazing left and right for the floral treasures that line the path. Just in bloom were striped coral root (Lisa’s current favorite flower) in addition to brambles, downy yellow violet, starflower, and copious patches of baby-blue forget-me-nots. Purple fringed polygala (aka gaywings – Lisa’s current favorite flower name) added to the floral palette, as did many other verdant delights. Azure damselflies alighted briefly on bright green leaves only to flit away again, frustrating us in our attempts to get a good picture.
The trail curved gently to the right before opening into a field with several log cabins. To the right were the sparkling waters of Moonlight Bay. A cabin stood half-in/half-out of the bay, instead of on its usual solid ground.
Simplified, the water levels on the Great Lakes depend on the ratio of precipitation to evaporation; heavy rainfall coupled with cooler temperatures make the water levels rise. Conversely, if the season is warmer with less rain and snow, the lake levels fall. In 2013, the water levels reached historic lows but since have been trending higher.
All around were wildflowers. In the marshy areas, white anemone canadensis dotted the lush grass that bordered the trail and filled the field. As we passed the large cabin on our right, tiny, white bells of European lily of the valley hung along the trail. Beyond the cabin: lilac. Towering bushes replete with pastel pink clusters attracted butterflies, bees, and … us. Eastern tiger swallowtails flitted about the lilacs as a bright orange monarch examined a milkweed plant below. A northern leopard frog hopped across our path. The drone of bumblebees hung in the air as we enjoyed the lush surroundings and drank in the perfumed air. There is more to this field but I’ll discuss it on our return trip.
Continuing down the trail, we passed more cabins and an old kiln – these are fun to explore (you cannot enter the cabins), but on this day the high water had made the whole area between the trail and the water soft and swampy. We stuck to the trail and were guided to the shore of Moonlight Bay, where the trail turns sharply to the right. This spot is simply perfect. White pebble beaches and wave-cut dolomite ledges stretch left and right on a small cove in the bay. Only the ledges weren’t there this year. Normally there are rock formations jutting one to four feet out of the gently lapping waters of Lake Michigan, including one picturesque crag with a lone pine tree standing stalwartly on top. On this hike most of the formations barely broke the surface and some were completely submerged. We walked out onto the few formations that were still above water and enjoyed the cloudless sky and glimmering lake.
The entire area around this ninety-degree bend in the trail was dappled with yellow lady slippers. Every which way we turned was another bloom, or three, or six. Under the pines, in the grass, and sheltered under bushes were tiny blossomed booties. We spent twenty good minutes exploring this area before continuing east along the shoreline.
Our now single-track path threaded its way through more Wisconsin pine forest. We passed copious spots to cut down to the shore and look out over Moonlight Bay as it tracked for a half-mile along the coast. Our hike ended at a sign that read, “Trail ends here”. No wiggle room there. The sign also reminded us that beyond lay sensitive species of flora – for any visitors inclined to feel that the sign is blocking out the scenery and breaking their mind. It might, but trampling those plants is equally destructive. The shore is impassable beyond that point anyway.
Turning back, we retraced our steps almost to the ninety-degree bend. Amid abundant lady slippers, we turned left onto a spur that would be our return trail. This is the Roy Lukes Memorial Trail. Roy was a friend of the Toft Family, for whom the area is named. Our environs became dark and almost spooky – we were in a thick pine forest. To our left was a mossy wall of rock, a limestone ledge that fluctuated between four and eight feet high. To our right was a crumbling stone wall. Covered in a velveteen blanket of rich emerald green, the rocky shelf and crumbling wall stalked us all the way back to the field with the cabins, where we again broke into open sunlight.
We had come out behind the large cabin, and the backside of this meadow was filled with lilies, lupine, and hawksweed. A northern crescent butterfly roosted on a nearby plant and bees hummed all throughout the tall grass and flowers. We took way too many pictures, then headed down the jeep road for the trailhead.
The Toft Point trail is a sublime stroll through a picture-perfect Wisconsin landscape. There’s no elevation and barely even a rock in the trail. This is a wonderful place to take your children and your grandparents but leave any pets behind. Owned by the Cofrin Center for Biodiversity at the University of Wisconsin Green Bay, Toft Point is used for research and educational purposes – and has some rules. In addition to pets, there are no vehicles, firearms, or bicycles allowed, nor can you smoke on the property. All that adds up to a safe, quiet, peaceful hike. Or walk. Sashay? Call it what you want, but give it a chance. I visit every time I’m on the peninsula, and that’s how I developed my soft spot for Toft Point. ♦
Date: June 13, 2020
Location: Baileys Harbor, WI
Trailhead: 45.073640, -87.097420
Distance: 2.6 miles
Elevation Gain: 0 feet