I SURVIVED; A JUG of Crown Royal did not. That would be a brief summation of the 50th annual reunion of the 1969 UW-Eau Claire Third East Bridgeman dorm floor inmates that I was a part of last week. Held in Door County for three days, the reunion not only included a few dollops of Crown, but also many other things for which the county is famous for.

I would liked to have gone on a half-day charter for lake trout and salmon, but with stiff winds and rain which varied between drizzly and downpour off and on all three days, that part of my planned activities did not come to fruition.

Other elements of my plan for outdoor activities were carried out despite the weather. While some, including my lovely wife, visited about every shop in Door County or golfed or enjoyed other such things, I took my feet and laid them down on some very fine hiking trails.

The first that I walked turned out to be my favorite. Located west of Carlsville, maybe a quarter-mile from the shore of Green Bay, is the Bayshore Blufflands Nature Preserve trail. You can start at the upper level farther back from the shore or do as I did and start at the lower-level parking lot.

That starting point leads you across a native-grass open field to the face of the Niagara Escarpment, a high ridge which begins in Niagara Falls, N.Y., continues along lakes Huron and Erie, crosses Lake Michigan and wends its way down the entire spine of Door County.

As the trail guide will inform you, the escarpment, a long line of former dolomite cliffs, was once the floor of an ancient sea about 450 million years ago, give or take a year or so.

I can tell you that the climb up the face of the escarpment is a steep one. If I had to climb it straight up, I’d build a chair lift. As it is, the rock-strewn trail which traverses the escarpment, a grade that rivals the toughest of the American Birkebeiner hills over Hayward way, is a good test of an arthritic knee.

Once at the top, it’s mostly flat going around the outer loop with only a wide valley with a descent on one side and an ascent on the other posing any mild challenge. I’m guessing there are some pretty nice views of Green Bay — the water, not the city — from the edge of the escarpment when there are no leaves on the trees, but with heavy leaf cover you only get glimpses of the bay here and there.

There were plentiful signs of deer along the way, although I didn’t see any. I did see a fair number of turkey buzzards, sandhill cranes and Canada geese flying overhead, as well as lots of little brown birds in the brush.

Crossing the upper-open grassland field, I came up on an ancient apple tree gone wild that was loaded with fruit. I thought about chomping on an apple, but decided against sharing the fruit with what looked to be a solid colony of worms in it.

After finishing that 2.5-mile walk, I headed for the Oak Road Nature Preserve which offers another 1.75 miles of mostly easy walking. Lots of late summer, early-fall flowers were in bloom there.

Finally, I headed for the Lautenbach Woods Nature Preserve and a 1.25-mile walk which is mostly easy walking except for the part going down and up the Niagara Escarpment. A sole bald eagle kept me company while soaring overhead.

I was going to tackle some Peninsula State Park trails, but after 5.5 miles of hiking, I opted for cheese curds, iced tea and a Milwaukee Brewers game on TV at Husby’s Food and Spirits, which turned out to be our favorite daytime gathering and sheepshead playing place in Sister Bay.

 I was part of a foursome which took a walk down the hill from our bed and breakfast to take in the obligatory sights of Sister Bay including goats grazing on the grass-covered roof of Johnson’s famous restaurant, Al Johnson’s Swedish Restaurant and Butik, boats of all description moored at the marina and the roiled waters of Green Bay itself.

We sampled goat’s milk ice cream at a nice emporium. I would tell you how great it tasted, which it did, but to this north Wisconsin hick’s unsophisticated palate, I honestly couldn’t tell the difference between goat and “moo cow” ice cream.

One of the highlights of our group outings was a fish boil dinner at the White Gull Inn in Fish Creek. Our fish boil guru has a college degree in psychology, but for 50 years as a commercial fisherman on Green Bay, he has practiced psychiatric care solely on the whitefish he catches and possibly in the course of his outdoor boil routines, on visitors like us who listen to his stories.

I can tell you the whitefish was delicious, as was the Door County cherry pie served for dessert. I reckon my wife liked the pie as well as I discovered while packing the car to come home, a very large cherry pie from the Wood Orchard Market in Egg Harbor. 

Our final evening in Door County, our entire group took in a Peninsula Players performance of “George Washington’s Teeth” at a playhouse between Egg Harbor and Fish Creek. Set along the shore of Green Bay amidst a stand of cedars, it was a fine place to enjoy an outdoor campfire with gentle waves breaking on the shore before the performance started.

Having had a preconceived notion of Door County as a mega-tourist trap, I can say — now that I have wandered and explored just a small part of it — that there is much more to the county than tourists.

There is much to say for its natural beauty, the wildlife and fish that live in the woods and waters, and the friendly people who live there. A different type of outdoor experience than this people-shy north Wisconsinite usually looks for, but a very satisfying one at that.

And the cherry pie was delicious.