Gnats, Range Lights and Mushrooms – Door County, WI

My “editor-in-chief” (Steve) was not very enthusiastic when he learned this post is mostly about mushrooms.  He pointed out that I had initially overlooked some interesting things we did other than viewing mushrooms.  Well, I have included a couple of experiences we had during our stay in Door County, but I must admit to being so enthralled by the abundance of fungi I found along the hiking trails that I got a bit carried away.  So, here we go with my story about the gnats, range lights and mushrooms.

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Not sure what it means, but it’s pretty!

One day we discovered the hard way that vinegar attracts Gnats.  Steve had our dinner cooking in the crockpot, and among the ingredients that permeated our house all day was vinegar.  It was such a beautiful day that we left lots of windows and the main door open.

Bad idea!  We suddenly noticed swarms of gnats coming into the house, right through the screens!  We killed a lot of them, but then decided to go online to see if we could buy or make some kind of a trap.  What do you know, one of the traps actually uses vinegar to attract them!  We ended up filling a jar halfway with Apple Cider Vinegar, covering it with plastic wrap and poking several small holes through the wrap.  The vinegar lures them through the holes but they can’t get back out.  It worked pretty well!

How to kill Gnats

Our high-tech gnat trap

So, what are range lights?  We didn’t know until our trip to Bailey’s Harbor took us right to the Bailey’s Harbor Range Lights, a pair of lighthouses arranged in a “range light configuration”.  When mariners approach the harbor they simply line up the two lights one in front of the other, which keeps them safely in deeper water so they won’t run aground. Built in 1869 at a cost of $6,000, these were part of a six-light system that were built on the Great Lakes at the time.  Today, the buildings in Bailey’s Harbor (upper and lower lights) are the only ones of their style and class still standing in their original locations.  They were listed in the National Register of Historic Places in 1989.

Baileys Harbor Range Light

The lower range light is the building in front, with the upper range light 950 feet inland.  The newer navigation aid in the foreground replaces their functionality.

What makes this configuration unique is best explained below:

Baileys Harbor Range Light

Gallery of mushrooms and fungi

And now about the mushrooms!  I usually see one or two mushrooms on our hiking trails, and the most I’ve ever seen before this stop were at Shenandoah National Park in Virginia, where I saw four types.  But along the trails we followed at Door County I saw many kinds and colors of mushrooms, so I started paying more attention to them.  This was one of those hikes that frustrated Steve, as I like to stop and take pictures while he wants to keep moving along.  So, if you’re like my honeybunch and couldn’t care less about mushrooms you can just skip the next section. And oh, I am unable to id them all!

I found these mushrooms along the walking trails at White Cliff Fen and Forest Preserve at Egg Harbor, Newport State Park at Ellison Bay and Whitefish Dunes State Park at Jacksonport.  Taking pictures of mushrooms can be quite challenging, even though they don’t move around or fly away like birds do.  I had to get down on my knees and level my camera on the ground, or crawl around on dead trees and leaves to get up close and personal.  And because these mushrooms thrive on dead trees and the forest floor I had to learn how to work with less light than usual.

All mushrooms are fungi, but not all fungi are mushrooms.  For those fungi that produce them, the mushroom plays a similar role to a flower or a fruit in other plants.

Mushrooms are categorized as fungi because unlike plants that require sunlight to undergo photosynthesis to make their own food, mushrooms lack chlorophyll.  But they do require a substrate and other specific conditions in order to grow.  I saw them growing on soil, leaf litter and on dead and decaying wood.

Of course, all fungi must obtain energy and nutrients from the environment.  Mushroom-producing fungi do this by extracting nutrients from soil, decaying plant material or by exchanging nutrients when in association with other living plants.

Lastly, as we all know some wild mushrooms are edible and some are deadly.  I don’t know which ones are which, so I just take pictures of them and leave ’em alone!

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I have to admit I got a bit carried away, but there you are – the mushrooms of Door County. There were so many that I hiked one of the trails several times to capture them all!

Here is a more in-depth and scientific discussion about mushrooms, if you happen to be interested.

 

Next up:  Our southern migration is underway