Submarines, sailboats and secret gardens in Door County
Reprint with permission Lillie Newspapers
Who would have thought the nation’s most complete World War II submarine would be permanently docked in the Manitowoc River, just off Lake Michigan, in Wisconsin?
After years of service during the war, when it sank 13 Japanese vessels and attacked a Japanese convoy heading to Iwo Jima, the USS Cobia was credited with helping to capture the island several months later.
For me, the submarine, along with sailboats and sunken gardens, made a recent getaway to the Door County area of Wisconsin a special experience. It might make for a nice summer escape for you, too.
On the guided tour of the USS Cobia at the Wisconsin Maritime Museum we learned the sailors lived in shorts, because it was so hot in the sub, slept alongside bombs in the sub’s cramped quarters and got better food than other sailors because it was a tougher, riskier assignment.
We climbed down the narrow stairs into the sub and through a series of small, narrow doors as we walked from one end of the boat to the other. My backpack and foot kept getting caught on the raised doorways so the person behind me would give me a push.
Our guide said some sailors liked sub duty because they didn’t go home maimed: they either drowned or got home safely
Though the USS Cobia was not built in Manitowoc, 28 similar subs were made in the shipyards there. By 1959, the Cobia was considered obsolete and used in training programs. It was settled in Manitowoc where, in 1986, it was declared a National Historic Landmark and listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
The adjacent building, also part of the Wisconsin Maritime Museum, shows the history of shipbuilding in the Great Lakes, with assorted boats and hands-on displays for children.
Sailboats and fire boats
One afternoon we rode in a 33-foot sailboat along the shore of Sturgeon Bay in Door County to Lake Michigan, where we saw the Sherwood Point Lighthouse in the distance. We passed by the 1,200-acre Potawatomi State Park with its limestone cliffs and variety of wildlife.
We watched our crew of one adjust the sails and saw an occasional spot of sun opening in the clouds. Others in our group hiked on the park trails. It was a good, relaxing day.
In Sturgeon Bay we took a ride on the Door County Fireboat that was built in 1937 and used by the Chicago Fire Department for many years.
It was cold, windy and overcast, but the boat provided cozy fleece blankets to wrap up in while we stood at the rail and watched the shoreline and waves.
Forferek’s Glen, just south of Green Bay, is a gem hidden in farm fields. Walking along, visitors unexpectedly come upon a 30-foot waterfall. Spring and early summer, when the water is flowing the most, are the best times to visit. Look way down under a stone archway to see a lovely group of trees at this unique, otherworldly spot.
The Green Bay Botanical Garden was full of lovely flowers and cottage gardens, which long ago were made from the leftovers of castles.
A Shakespeare garden and children’s garden were featured, but what particularly intrigued me were the miniature, nearly hidden fairy gardens, reminding me of my young granddaughters who have a secret spot in their wooded yard with tiny a stone walkway and a message box for the fairies.
I had to take few photos of the fairy gardens to give to the kids as ideas for a summer project.
Art, history and automobiles
I visited Popelka Trenchard Glass and Margaret Lockwood Gallery in Sturgeon Bay. Nationally recognized artists Stephanie Trenchard and Jeremy Popelka had us mesmerized with their glass-blowing demonstration, and the art glass in their shop was lovely and imaginative. I would love to have bought some pieces for my home.
Margaret Lockwood’s gallery in the historic Steel Bridge Creative District featured her large paintings of Door County. Her 1870s home is a work of art itself.
The following day we visited the new Automobile Gallery in downtown Green Bay. It’s designed and owned by “Red” Lewis, who helped refinish the 50 or so old cars on display in what used to be a Cadillac dealership. In the new place he mixes wonderful, shiny automobiles like a 1959 red Cadillac, a 1991 DeLorean with gull wing doors — his favorite car — with meeting and event rooms that can accommodate 400 to 600 people. The spot can also be a wedding venue, his daughter Becky explained, adding
the Green Bay Rotary Club presented him with a Free Enterprise Award for his work there.
Only about five hours from the Twin Cities, Manitowoc, Door County, Sturgeon Bay and Green Bay are an easy summer getaway filled with unexpected sights and delights.