NOTE: IN ORDER TO BETTER SEE PHOTOS IN THEIR FULL 1600 PX. RESOLUTION, VIEW THEM IN THE ALBUM FORMAT BY CLICKING ON THE LEAD PHOTO OR ANY PHOTO IN THE POST. This is especially true for landscape shots. Thanks to Mark for the idea of adding this alert so the photos can be seen at their best!

Saturday, June 21, 2014

Meet the Naturalist

Our last day in Door County we visited Whitefish Dunes State Park.  When I went into the visitor center I noticed that Striped Coralroot was blooming in the park.  I asked at the desk where I could find some and the next thing I knew we had our own Naturalist giving us a tour!

Carolyn and I discussing camera equipment

Sherry asked for a picture of me wearing the other hat I bought so she could weigh in on which she liked better! The sun was out quite a bit in Door County, but it did rain heavily overnight a couple of times, which is great for wildflower hunters like me.

On our way out to the spot a weasel ran across the path, but I missed it since I was scanning all the wildflowers we passed looking for some new ones.  Carolyn took us right to the Striped Coralroot, pulling invasive plants and doling out information on the ecology of the area as she went.

This was my first sighting of this orchid, and like others of its kind it produces no chlorophyll and relies on fungi for sustenance.  This orchid can withstand cold but not heat, so is plentiful in the north but not the south.  Remember, orchids do not transplant well, so don't attempt to dig one up and move it to your garden if you see one in the wild!

Not wanting to endanger any of the habitat I wasn't able to get up under the blooms to see if any were open, but am pretty happy with the pictures anyway. Now that I know how to find them next time I'll set up my tiny gorillapod and stay awhile.  Think that's the end of our tour?  We asked for a recommendation on hikes and points of interest and the next thing we knew we were being instructed in brachiopods and other fossils.

There was a display of rocks with fossil examples and we got an explanation of most of them.  My favorite was the honeycomb coral.

A shallow warm sea covered the area 425 million years ago.  The earth was quite a different place then, and what is exposed now in Wisconsin was not only underwater, it was near the equator!  Click on this link about the Silurian period to learn more.

Of course Carolyn also took us out to see where the sandy beach transforms into limestone cliffs, pointing out a patch of Bugleweed along the way.

The sun wouldn't be out for long, fog was on the way in, but I thought it lent a nice touch to the view.

Just north of Whitefish Dunes is Cave Point County Park which we did not have time to visit.  Sea caves line the limestone cliffs there and most people bypass it because it's not as heavily advertised as the state parks. Have to leave something for next time, right?  

It wasn't all about us on our tour with the Naturalist, Carolyn was trying to find a geocache and having some trouble with her GPS.  Wayne chatted with her about it while I wandered around shooting pictures, and they finally got it working and found the geocache.

Wayne was interested in the whole process and got a firsthand lesson in what it's all about.  Me, not so interested in the whole geocache thing.  I have my own list of items to hunt down, I don't need to add more!

We've learned a lot of things in Door County, but the best one is ASK, ASK, ASK!  If we didn't keep asking questions, look at all we would have missed.  Carolyn was a great sport and I'm glad we got her out of the office to see what was blooming.  Can you believe the Wisconsin State Park system currently only has 7 Naturalists?  Let your legislators know that funds for our parks and the education they provide the public is a priority!

It doesn't end here, there was so much to see in our morning at Whitefish Dunes that I have to split it up into a few different posts. I will mention that the park does not have camping facilities, but does have a beautiful reservable shelter whose interior is made from local white cedar and has a fieldstone fireplace.  This park is very popular due to the sandy beach, and a great place to cool off when the heat of summer sets in.


  1. Whitefish SP was the very first place we visited on the Peninsula. . .but you gotta go back to Cave Point. . .it is just fabulous. . .wow. . .reminded us of the Maine Coast. . .really, really spectacular!

  2. Great post! Love the hat. Great sunshade. I've never seen striped coralroot and your pictures are wonderful. How terrific to have your own naturalist just because you asked a question. Now that is public relations at its best. Both the parks sound wonderful. Wish they had camping.

  3. That first water photo is stunning.

    Tell Wayne if he has any geocaching questions I will be happy to answer them. I took my parents geocaching today as a matter of fact. They are visiting us at the lake and caching and fishing is about all my mom wants to do.

  4. You were really lucky to have your own guide, for sure. Looks like a lovely place.