January 11 2018
A runner shares a personal essay documenting her years as "the runner" in rural South Dakota.
Naturally, one of a runner’s first questions upon arrival in Door County is: Where can I run? The answer: almost anywhere. I stayed in Baileys Harbor along the eastern coast of Door County, where running trails were accessible just off State Highway 57, along which many of the area’s hotels are situated. In the summer, one can lace up before the day’s heat settles and run along tree-framed paths right by the water’s edge. It’s a beautiful way to start the morning, and the late August temperatures (settling in the upper 50s and low 60s in the early mornings) made for comfortable running weather. Door County is very runner friendly, with several walking (or running) paths woven into the framework of its small towns and along the water. But the state parks are fun for runners, too. Though best explored while hiking, state parks like Whitefish Dunes and Potawatomi consist of wide trails that allow runners and hikers plenty of room on which to navigate.
Whitefish Dunes State Park has one of the county’s best trails for running. It’s mostly flat and features changing terrain one delves deeper into the park. There’s a crescent of sand near the visitor’s center at the park entrance, on which children build sandcastles during the summer. There’s plenty of room to run along the sand, but there are also miles of trails to explore on the other side of the trees that line the beach. The main path through this park eventually branches off and up: after climbing a short incline, one can enjoy the views from atop Old Baldy, the state’s tallest sand dune standing at 93 feet. Though the consistency of the path varies between sand, grass, dirt and gravel, it’s an easy trail to follow, scoring low on the difficulty scale for runners, hikers and cyclists.
Hikers up to a greater challenge would do well to explore Eagle Trail at Peninsula State Park. Though a short 2-mile loop is accessible, visitors are advised to watch their step as they descend roughly 150 feet from the road to the edge of Eagle Bay. The trail is marked by visible tree roots and rocks, and is made slippery due to rainfall and spray from the nearby bay. Adventurous trail runners might dare to test this trail for tough training purposes, but hiking alone is tricky enough. That being said, the tree density makes for gorgeous photography: glimpsing Eagle Bay through low-hanging branches offers a stunning blend of blues and greens, and the rocky bluffs that outline the trail are cluttered with shallow caves.