by TIM SWEET, Emeritus Director, Friends of Plum and Pilot Islands
Al and Judy Wittenkeller retired early when they had the chance and moved to Fish Creek in 2002. The couple took an interest in a local biking and hiking club made up of fellow retirees, and Al has been the lead organizer of the hiking branch of the club for the past 16 years or so.
His group gets together every Wednesday, October through March, to explore the wonderful wild spaces that Door County has to offer nature lovers and adventure seekers. They usually cover three or four miles on their treks, then gather for lunch afterward.
Judy passed away earlier this year. The social aspect of spending time with friends in the great outdoors helps to ease at least a little of the loneliness that accompanies the loss of a spouse.
Once a summer, Wittenkeller arranges a warm-weather outing. That took place this year on Aug. 17, when 16 club members chartered The Shoreline to take a walk in the woods on Plum Island.
Captain Doug Smith, a retired Coast Guard member; and Captain Stiles Meredith of Gills Rock piloted the vessel over the calm waters of Death’s Door to take the group to its destination.
“What a unique place to enjoy the day,” Wittenkeller said. “Probably my favorite place in all of Door County.”
Club members viewed the wreck of the Grape Shot, an 1855 schooner that sank off the shore of Plum Island in 1867. They watched ferries passing by from the top of the front and rear range lights and learned more about future plans for the Green Bay National Wildlife Refuge.
“We absolutely loved this day,” said group member Trish Black. “It felt like a true summer treat.”
After enjoying lunch in the shade of the lifesaving station, the group returned to the mainland.