Hiking club explores Plum Island

by TIM SWEET, Director Emeritus, Friends of Plum and Pilot Islands

Al and Judy Wittenkeller retired early when given the opportunity and moved to Fish Creek in 2002. The couple became interested in a local biking and hiking club made up of other retirees, and Al has been the main organizer of the hiking branch of the club for about 16 years.

His group meets every Wednesday from October through March to explore the wonderful wilderness Door County has to offer nature lovers and adventurers. They typically cover three or four miles on their hikes, then gather for lunch afterwards.

Judy passed away earlier this year. The social aspect of spending time with friends outdoors helps alleviate at least some of the loneliness that comes with losing a spouse.

On August 17, Al’s hiking club mapped “The Shoreline” for a trip to Plum Island. Photo by Tim Sweet.

Once a summer, Wittenkeller organizes a warm weather outing. This took place this year on August 17, when 16 club members created The shore take a walk in the woods of Plum Island.

Captain Doug Smith, a retired member of the Coast Guard; and Captain Stiles Meredith of Gills Rock piloted the ship through the calm waters of Death’s Door to take the group to their destination.

“What a unique place to enjoy the day,” said Wittenkeller. “Probably my favorite place in all of Door County.”

Club members saw the wreckage of the Grapeshotan 1855 schooner that sank off Plum Island in 1867. They watched the ferries pass from atop the front and rear range lights and learned about future plans for the Green Bay National Wildlife Refuge.

“We absolutely loved this day,” said band member Trish Black. “It felt like a real summer treat.”

After having lunch in the shade of the rescue station, the group returned to dry land.