Camping on an island. Bundling up the Fireball, taking it on a (thankfully, brief) ferry ride to a beautiful Lake Superior island, and setting up camp for three nights. What’s not to like? Now picture, camping in 40 degree rain for three days, complete with 20mph winds (gusting to 30 at times). Now how does that sound?The Apostle Islands are 20+ islands located off the northernmost tip of Wisconsin in Lake Superior. Madeline Island, the largest of them, contains Big Bay State Park, the village of LaPointe, and also a township park/campground, as well as many private residences. Our destination was the State Park. Roundtrip ferry charges were about $90 for the Fireball/Firetruck, plus the three of us. Not unreasonable.
Before the deluge began, we did get a chance to explore the campground and adjoining beach. There are some fantastic sites here – large and wooded. We earmarked a few trails for exploration in the coming days. It was cold, and the wind was howling as the sun began to dip. As Jezzy and I made the last lap of her pre-dinner stroll, I noticed a bicycle loaded with panniers rolling past. “Where did you ride from?” I hollered. “Iowa!” So, we invited him over for cold beer, hot coffee, dinner, and campfire. Our new cyclist friend is Rusty Easton, a bike mechanic from Waterloo, who has cycled to work every day for over 16 years. After warming up by the roaring fire John had established, he wandered back to his own campsite, refusing our offer of dinner. Nice encounter. The first of the big rains had already begun.
By late morning, the rain had stopped, and we decided to bicycle around the Island. Big Bay Town Park was the first stop. Lots of campsites, but many were submerged! This would have been a great place to camp – terrific bathrooms, and no traffic. Continuing around the north end of the Island, we came to the pavement’s end, and off onto gravel roads. Perfect for our mountain bikes. Lots of fall color, combined with glimpses of Lake Superior made it a terrific ride, despite the chilly wind (how can it always be a headwind?)
Back at camp, the rain begins. Thru the night. Gawd, this is SO tiresome. Towels haven’t been dry in days, floormats are caked with wet dirt, and everything is just nasty to the touch. We can’t keep a decent campfire going – when the flame is flaming, the swirling winds make enjoying the fire impossible – we have to rotate our chairs like a lazy susan.
Day three is Hiking Day. Cold drizzle makes me want to leave Jezzy behind, but the pleading looks from both Jezzy and John force me to relent. Off we go on the Lagoon Ridge Trail, which apparently does not see too many sets of feet upon it. Overgrown, with deep mud in spots, it’s a real slog. Came across these mushrooms, which were the weirdest orange-y green shiny color ever! Other mushrooms looked like a good bet for dinner.But, we do get a few nice views of the Lagoon, a large body of water, separated from the Lake by just a narrow barrier strip of land. Our return hike is via a boardwalk, which runs between the two parks on the Island. It’s a pleasant stroll.We’re sorry that we don’t get to explore the other Apostle Islands. Seems like it would be an ideal place to kayak, although windy/rainy/October/Lake Superior doesn’t sound like a good time to learn. Yeah, I’ll put that on the (long) list of stuff I gotta get to.
Heading out on Sunday morning, we manage to get on the 9:15 ferry. We’re pleased, because we anticipated having to wait. The entire campground was packing up on this Sunday morning, and it’s a fairly small boat. We lucked out. On the road to Duluth, we cut in to see part of the Apostle Island National Lakeshore at Little Sand Bay. There’s a defunct fishing operation. The Lake is wild – crashing up over the breakwater. It’s freezing!
We roll into Duluth, where we have a three-night reservation at Lakehead Marina and RV Park. What a laugh! It’s no park – they should call it Lakehead Marina and Parking Lot, which perfectly describes this place. It’s awful! We decide to stick it out for at least one night, then play it by ear. When near an urban area, we like to be close to the city, to make exploration easy without getting in the truck. We’re right across the river from downtown Duluth, and the iconic bridge and drawbridge fill the view from each side of the Fireball.
As I write this, we watch a large Coast Guard vessel slide beneath the raised drawbridge. in the morning. Distant freighter horns beg us to get on our bikes and see what’s happening out there. The sun is out! Maybe this will be okay.