When I left for my trip “Up North” in early May, I was expecting to need my long underwear to stave off the cold – but in fact it was just the opposite. I live only a couple of miles from another large basin of cold water (Lake Michigan) and sometimes it’s Memorial Day before the lake breezes don’t come with a chill. Luckily I over pack and had plenty of clothing options that didn’t include a sweatshirt and socks – because it was in the mid- to upper-70s nearly all week. One great thing about my trip today was that, while I was heading to an Island in Lake Superior, I would have my car with me, for warmer (or cooler) clothes and shoes. The weather was absolutely gorgeous and the lake was like glass, which made the ride over a lot easier on my stomach and some of the pictures pretty cool because of the reflections on the water.
The trip over included some conversation with a young woman who moved to the island six years ago with a tent, her dog and a paid-off car. Luckily just before her money ran out, she was able to get a job, a small place to live and settle in. She loves island life and takes the ferry to Bayfield most mornings to swim at the local pool, because she says Lake Superior is a little chilly this time of year. Ha ha. She knew from the minute she stepped on the island years before that she wanted to move there, so she would bring back plants for her garden on the mainland to remind her of her goal. She loves it there and can’t imagine why she’d ever leave.
The ferry docked in the small town of La Pointe. I could sense a laid-back vibe the minute I stepped out of my car and into a local shop for my morning coffee and a little something for breakfast. No one was in a hurry to do much of anything and that was fine with me. I wasn’t even pissed when the coffee carafe was empty and I had to wait for a new batch. I chatted for a while with the woman behind the counter about her favorite things on the island, I browsed the assortment of items for sale and I could hardly wait to hit up her suggestions.
It was $38 round trip for my car and I to make the 25 minute trip to the Island via the Madeline Island Ferry. The island is 14 miles long and 3 miles wide so you will need a car, although a bike would be even better and may be cheaper to transport. Around Memorial Day things pick up, but today there was hardly anyone here, just the nearly 250 permanent residents… and me.
Big Bay Town Park
First stop was Big Bay Town Park where mine was the only car in the parking lot. Great scenery and here’s that reflection I was telling you about. What a perfect day. The water was like glass and you could see way down into it. The birds were chirping and obviously I was miles away from reality – something we all need from time to time.
My day was spent in solitude with my toes in the water while I pondered life’s most important questions [again] – like, “This is awesome! How can I travel more?”
Big Bay State Park
Next stop was Big Bay State Park, a 2,400-acre park, with gorgeous sandstone bluffs and caves and 1.5 miles of beach on the Lake Superior shoreline. Established in 1963, this great park has beautiful picnic areas, several campgrounds and more than nine miles of trails. I just touched the surface during the time I spent here and look forward to returning again soon.
A fabulous tree seemed to be suspended in time, leaning towards the calm waters of Lake Superior. It’s hard to tell where the lake ends and the sky begins. I have seen Lake Superior many times and have never seen it so calm and so clear. It really was a fabulous day.
After I took the last of the pictures and was headed to the next area, I saw a couple of deer along the road. While quietly trying to change out lenses to get their picture, I noticed something lumbering down the road farther ahead. It was definitely very black and quite a lot bigger than a dog, maybe possibly a small bear. By the time I got situated with my lenses and missed the picture of the deer and made my way down to see what the heck that was, he was gone too. At my next stop, I couldn’t help thinking about that silly bear and how he may come lumbering out of the bushes by my car at any time, which made me very uncomfortable. I decided I had enough pictures for the day and made that stop a quick one. Guess I’m not gutsy enough to be a wildlife photographer!
And, just in case you had the same thoughts as I did after I wrote this and said to myself, “How do bears get onto an island, especially if the only time the water is frozen for the journey is in the winter while they’re snoozing?” According to the National Park Service on the FAQs page: “One of the greatest concentrations of black bears in North America is found on Stockton Island in Apostle Islands National Lakeshore. Bears also regularly inhabit Sand and Oak islands, and, due to their swimming ability, may be found on just about any of the Apostle Islands.”
Unfortunately when I was here, I was too early to see the rest of the Apostle Islands up close, so that will warrant another trip during the summer or fall months. There is a grand tour where you tour all of the islands and also several other individual island trips where you can see their lighthouses up close. Since I am a crazy fan of lighthouses, I’ll be back, and guess which tours I’ll be taking!
Thanks for sharing this wonderful day with me. I have a day chock-full of waterfalls coming soon.
Check out Madeline Island – you’ll be glad you did!