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.

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!



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.




    • Ha ha thank you Lisa. I even had more but have to stop 🙂
      Now that you said it, Steve was thinking it must have Jimmy Buffets truck! The painting on the truck was really nicely done, and that parrot is his signature sign!

  1. You did a fantastic job capturing all the mushrooms. I can envision you crawling around the ground to catch that perfect shot. Nice job 🙂

  2. Ah yes, range lights are very familiar to us old sailors. They were critically important to us to safely enter new harbors without running aground! Thanks for the memory. Your mushroom pics are quite interesting and beautiful.

  3. Now that’s a lot of mushrooms…Joe would have been just like Steve! They are so pretty and interesting with all the odd shapes, sizes and colors. Wonderful pictures MonaLiza…and you!

  4. I totally agree with Lisa, you didn’t get carried away at all. I love seeing the diversity of nature and your pictures are always so wonderful. We appreciate all the hard work you put into capturing these beauties. Thanks for sharing them with us and pay no attention to Steve – he doesn’t speak for all of us! (and I mean that in the nicest possible way Steve, tee hee).


  5. Thanks so much for the pictures — they reminded of why I’m planning my own RV trip: to see all the beauty out there. Lovely work!

  6. It’s My Own Damn Fault is in a song where the guy loses the girl because he is stupid.

    Thanks for the heads up about the gnats. Paul hates them.

    Who knew mushrooms were so photogenic and beautiful. Great job.

  7. Okay, we are 1-1 on the last half of this blog!! John is right there with Steve which is why “our” blog rarely has anything like this! I, on the other hand, loved all the fungi!! I am very fascinated with all the shapes and colors. You did a wonderful job with adding all the photos (which I enjoyed) and thanks for the information that I didn’t know:)

    I guess the lighthouse radar is the same concept as the runways at the airport!?

    • Ha ha I knew it, Steve was really shaking his head when he saw those mushrooms. There were a lot more but have to stop uploading them. Those were just on a short trail near our campground.
      Steve says yes the concept is similar in a way like the approach lights at the airport, for guidance.

  8. WOW!! I just LOVE all your mushrooms and fungi! I can’t believe that you found so many. How many hikes did you do to find all of these? We saw range lights in the UP but not nearly the mushrooms. I just can’t get over how gorgeous they are. I’m with you…….NOT TOO MANY!!

  9. Vinegar….works every time! Had to share your mushrooms with my mushroom loving friend….those are over the top! I can feel you not too far behind…I’ll try to keep you apprised of AK and LA…we’re stopping at Betty’s!

  10. I’ve known that colors and designs are factors in building a lighthouse. So it’s always nice to see comparison between different lighthouse designs around the world … and the blogosphere. 😀 I’m with Steve. I love to see them in great captures like you’ve done, but I’m not much of a mushroom-kind of guy. 🙂

  11. The mushrooms are wonderful–glad you ignored your editor! Once you start paying attention to mushrooms, they will draw you in. I was intrigued by many of the same mushrooms on a hike in Maine last month. Now I want to learn more about harvesting the edible ones. Lovely post.

  12. Terry would be right there with Steve with the mushrooms! Pretty much anything that causes me to stop and take photos on a hiking trail does not appeal to Terry! 😉 I love the fungi and the information you provided.

  13. I absolutely LOVE your mushroom photos — what an incredibly variety you found! And I know how difficult it is to take macro shots in low light. You did a fabulous job, ML. I would have enjoyed hiking and searching for ‘shrooms with you.

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