The Ridges Sanctuary on a dusky December afternoon is a peaceful and pretty sight to behold. The trees settle their branches and lean into the greying light and the ubiquitous Door County wind quiets. On this particular afternoon my husband and I found a parking space on the road in front of the visitor center, and bundled out into the chilly air. We were here to experience our first “Natural Christmas,” a celebration we’d heard much of but had never attended. Inside the brightly lit center the attendant informed us the celebration was near Kaye cabin, just a short walk away. Off we went. Luminaries lighted our steps as we crunched over an early snowfall down the Hidden Brook boardwalk. A few other festive folks walked as well, our voices chatting merrily to keep warm.
We reached the cluster of several nineteenth-century log cabins. Lights glowed in each of their windows, and the forest seemed to lean down around the cabins in a gentle embrace. Nearby other guests stood around a small but rollicking fire. We learned from a homemade sign that wreath making was not in a cabin. Instead, we made our way to a sizable metal outbuilding with a busy volunteer granting entry. Stepping up, we eagerly paid 20 dollars for wreath supplies and moved into the warmth of the shed.
The scent was the most festive I have inhaled. The fresh odor of pine surrounded us as another volunteer approached with our wreath frame and demonstrated how to use wire to bind pine boughs of different species to it. If we had a flair for the artistic, she said, we could embellish the green with dried leaves and buds collected for that purpose.
My husband and I set to work creating the wreath that would adorn our home for the holiday season. It was clumsy work at first, but we soon learned to work together to hold the boughs still while one of us tightly wrapped them in wire. The work was soothing and the company enthusiastic; the shed had quickly filled with couples and families with the same ambitions as ours. We shared tools and supplies and finally succeeded in covering our entire frame with natural materials. The result, though rustic, was prettier than we’d hoped and we left our space at the work table quite satisfied. We strolled toward the still-burning fire and watched a few kids roast marshmallows and chestnuts. Inside Kaye cabin other folks sang carols and enjoyed cider and hot cocoa.
This season the Ridges Sanctuary has several opportunities to create natural holiday decor. The first Saturday in December is the Wreath-Making Workshop, and the Natural Christmas Celebration is the following Saturday. Explore the Ridges’ trails on your own or with a guide before the event, or take a tour of the red-roofed range light to experience Baileys Harbor in days of old.
Distance from the Blacksmith Inn: Walkable in 1 minute
Cost: Free to attend; wreath-making is $20
After a lovely afternoon of holiday crafting, make the short trek back to a cozy fire at the Blacksmith Inn. Check the Inn’s availability here for your pre-holiday getaway.