Quite a Cruise!
~Tuesday, August 3, 2021~
We had a few projects to take care of before heading to Bayfield, WI to take the Apostle Island Boat Tour. We were hoping that the smoke would have disappeared by today for a more scenic boat ride, but it’s still lingering. Lake Superior looks much more dramatic with clear blue skies. After showers and packing a few snacky type goodies for the tour, we hit the road mid afternoon.
But first was a return visit to Adventure Club Brewing for Jeff to get a beer while I shopped next door at Howl Adventure Center, for a new pair of hiking boots. I’ve owned my current pair of low profile Oboz trail runners for a few years now with most of the tread gone. They’ve definitely been put to good use. Anyway, I grew to love the Oboz brand and this store had a great selection of them. The tricky part was finding my size...I wear a 9-½. After trying on 5 pairs, I finally found the perfect shoe. If you’re ever in the Bayfield area of Wisconsin, this is a must stop. Great shop for outdoor apparel and very helpful staff!
Next was a stop at the grocery for a few drinks and salads for our boat trip. We had plans to do more touring of Bayfield but the shoe thing took longer than expected. It’s one of those things where we wished we had one more day in the area. This seems to be a common dilemma for us. USA Today ranks Bayfield as one of the Best Coastal Small Towns, Wisconsin’s Smallest City, the Berry Capital of the State and the Gateway to the Apostle Islands. It is simply beautiful. Another reason to come back!
Our plan was to get to the dock area an hour before departure so we would be at the head of the line to be able to sit on the top deck of the boat. Great minds think alike. There were already 20 people ahead of us. We chatted with a few tourists and had fun watching the boats come in and out of the marina. One boat in particular was a Chris Craft wooden beauty, with the owner and his wife hanging out at the dock, enjoying all the attention with their perfect audience. Those boats really are stunners! We boarded the boat about 20 minutes before departure and couldn’t ask for better seats….up TOP!! Even though the weather was amazing, we heeded the warnings to bring layers since the temperatures can get 10-15 degrees colder in the open lake. Plus, we wouldn’t be returning to the marina until around 8:00 p.m.
Captain Mike led our tour and did a fantastic narrative of the islands with all of his volunteer experience working for the National Park Service. He was also stationed at a few of the Apostle Islands over the years, so he really knew what he was talking about. What a difference it makes having a live person tell the story.
No one knows why the Apostle Islands are called the Apostle Islands. But what I can tell you is they are an archipelago….an island chain surrounded by the greatest of Great Lakes, Superior. The archipelago comprises 22 islands that have been formed with layers of sand, gravel and stone over billions of years.
These islands are also a critical nesting area for over 200 species of birds. Herrings as well as Bald Eagles nest on tiny Gull Island. Migratory birds rest on Outer Island. Even some animals, like bears, swim across from island to island to get their food source. Captain Mike shared a story about a bear that had been relocated to another island, only to have it return to where it was located from. What? White tailed deer are also apparently very good swimmers. We also slowed down at Manitou Island to see the old fishing camp as well as Basswood Island which displayed old Brownstone blocks from the quarry. There’s even agriculture on the islands. One in particular has a plethora of blueberry bushes on it and is called of all things…..Raspberry Island. Apparently, when blueberry bushes are burned, as they do on this island, they come back even more hearty and plentiful. Never heard such a thing! We enjoyed seeing the many islands with their beautiful beaches, and the sandstone cliffs formed into windows and arches. But the one island that really stood out was the northernmost island….Devil’s Island. The smoothly carved cliffs and many sea caves make this a standout. We even saw a few kayakers meandering through the many awesome tunnels, wishing we were doing what they were doing. Mike told us when he was growing up, sailing/boating were the main outdoor activities of the islands. Today, it’s kayaking. Though kayaking near the shores of these islands looks fun, especially with the many tunnels and arches you can steer through, it can be quite dangerous. Therefore, it is highly recommended that unless you are extremely experienced, you should go with a professional guide in these waters. In just 15 minutes, you can go from a glass-like surface on the water to 4-5 foot waves. The weather is that unpredictable.
On the latter part of the trip, Captain Mike steered us to two lighthouses, one on Devil’s Island and the other on Raspberry Island. The first Apostle island’s lights were built in the 1850’s and 1860’s to guide ships to ports. From the 1870’s to 1890’s, more were added to other islands.
The sunset was still beautiful, despite the hazy smoky atmosphere. What a fabulous tour. It’s wonderful to know that such
a beautiful place has been preserved for future generations. In 2004, Congress set aside 33,350 acres of the park to be protected forever as the Gaylord Nelson Wilderness, named after Wisconsin’s former governor/U.S. Senator. He is also better known as the father of Earth Day.
When we made it back to solid ground, Bayfield seemed so inviting with an evening of music in the park, and the many restaurants and ice cream shops teeming with tourists. But we needed to get back. Too bad this stop was a teaser, but we’ll certainly be back!