On Ridges Road, a long road that turns east outside of Baileys Harbor, there’s a sign near the end that says Toft Point.
Turning onto that barely paved road will take you (eventually) to a few parking spots which feel like they have been carved out of the green, green woods. Here, you won’t find crowds. In fact, if it weren’t for the kiosk assuring you that you’re in the right place, you might wonder if it’s ok to be there. And certainly, if you hike the ½ mile path through unspoiled forest, you won’t find an ice cream shop at the end. There won’t be docent-led tours or sparkling bathrooms or a gift shop. In fact, you’ll likely see no one as you sit on weathered rocks to take in the music of waves lapping on the Lake Michigan shore.
What you will find is old growth forest. This means, that unlike most Door County trees that were cut down in the 1800’s to supply wood for Chicago and cities to the South, these trees were untouched. Kersten Toft, the original settler, insisted that 40 acres be saved from logging, which means trees here are well over 200 years old.
You’ll see more evidence of this commitment to natural preservation as you walk. The land and the water is prominent; man-made structures are few. One of Kersten’s eight children, Emma Toft, operated a basic vacation resort; her cabins offered few amenities but gave stunning views of the water. She reportedly allowed porcupines in her pantry and chided any guest who picked wildflowers. Her devotion to preservation was legendary; it was she and a small band of like-minded environmentalists who, in 1937, recognized the value of the adjoining Ridges Sanctuary and saved it from development.
Toft Point is now a State Natural Area. This ongoing commitment to preservation means that guests on the land can see what guests have always seen: cormorants and gulls and tundra swans.
There are seventeen species of nesting warblers, and lovely spring flowers. Rare orchids, and the federally endangered Hine’s emerald dragonfly.
The few people who come to Toft Point tend to walk slowly and leisurely. They look up into the trees for birds or down at the forest floor for flowers. Or, they read a book at the water’s edge and munch on a snack. They are mostly happy to be where other people are not.
Henry David Thoreau said that solitude makes a great companion. After a day spent at Toft’s Point, you’ll be likely to agree with him.
Photo credit: Ann Heyse