Björklunden. Swedish for “Birch Grove at the Lake” or “Birch Forest by the Water,” Björklunden vid Sjön is Lawrence University’s 441-acre North Campus. A sanctuary of peace and contemplation, Björklunden resides in picturesque Door County, Wisconsin and features meadows, woods, and more than a mile of unspoiled Lake Michigan shoreline.
Lawrence University’s Björklunden campus is where Door Shakespeare performs its summer outdoor offerings. Per usual, I was there to light their shows and hike when I could. On June 23rd I decided to do something I had been eschewing for years. Why, you ask? Strictly because I believed (based on zero evidence) that it would have little to no hiking merit. It was on a college campus, it wasn’t very long, there would be no rigor, blah, blah, blah. In fact, all of those were true – where I went wrong was to conflate those attributes with a lack of merit.
I found the trailhead near the main building at Björklunden – a mere 150 yards from where I park when I am at the Door Shakes’ venue. Only steps into my hike my eye caught something colorful down the trail. I hurried forward, hoping for and exotic plant or mushroom, but when I reached it I found a plume of neon-pink, nylon bristles poking up from the moss and detritus on the path. I saw several of these on this first section – the Turbine Pass – but no indication of what purpose they served. It occurred to me that they might have been trail markers of some kind, but I had never seen anything even remotely similar anywhere else. That’s exactly what they are. Ten seconds on the internet turned up the product – a large nail with the nylon bristles on the head – for sale in a variety of colors. Made by a company called Trail Chasers they are billed as “Easy to Deploy, Easy to Move and Easy to Retrieve!” Now I know … and so do you.
The Turbine Pass tracks inland for a quarter mile before reaching a small clearing that hosts a 120′ wind turbine. The 50 kilowatt windmill was erected in 2011 and contributes significantly to the campus’ electrical needs and their efforts to reduce their carbon footprint. This was the first time I had stood at the base of a wind turbine, and I marveled at its massive contour.
I located the continuance of the trail and headed back into Björklunden’s woods. I was now on the Quarry Trail, winding my way through forests and fields. Orange fox-and-cubs and yellow hawkweed popped up to the left and right of the path. Shortly after the trail turned south, I took a short spur to the Old Quarry. Upon reaching said quarry, what did I see? A large, exposed stone slab.
I was unable to determine what was quarried here (or how) although it was almost certainly limestone, which is everywhere on the Door Peninsula. I returned to the main trail and continued south.
A half-mile brought me to 1st Lane. There, I doubled back for a few hundred yards to the junction with the Lake Trail. Veering east, I hiked among thimbleberry and herb Robert until I reached the lake. Short spurs cut down to the pebble-covered beaches.
Next came some of the most pleasant trail in the county. I traipsed north along the shore in a fairytale forest of tall pines and lush, green ground-cover. Mossy fallen trees lay here and there, and the waters of Lake Michigan glimmered through the trees. If I were prettier, an entourage of forest animals would have attended me as I sallied forth.
The spell was broken as I passed the Björklunden Lodge. Shortly thereafter came Boyton Chapel and then the small, ramshackle shop where I spend most of my prep time for Door Shakespeare. I went a little farther up the shore before turning back and making my way past the outdoor stage and back to my car. Five minutes later, I was at work.
The trails at Björklunden are neither rigorous nor lengthy. Do they have merit? Absolutely. Good hiking trails don’t look a certain way or have minimum stats. My hiking hiatus and associated out-of-shapedness have reinforced that for me.
As I get back in shape, I am enjoying short, easy hikes every bit as much as long, rigorous ones. I have been missing those longer treks, though. In thinking about the rest of my summer, Yellowstone National Park and the Grand Tetons are calling … and I must go. Also, my wife is meeting me there. ♦
Date: June 23, 2022
Location: Baileys Harbor, WI
Trailhead: 45.038769, -87.130127
Distance: 3.40 miles
Elevation Gain: 50 feet
BIT|Hiker acknowledges the indigenous peoples who are the original inhabitants of the lands on which we hike. Our research for this post indicated we were on ancestral lands of the Bodwéwadmi, Odawa, Menominee, Myaamia, and Očhéthi Šakówiŋ.