Wednesday, January 21, 2015
The Apostle Islands
Last year, during the brutally cold winter, The Apostle Islands National Lakeshore made the national news here in the US for a rare phenomenon. For the first time in 5 years, the islands' ice caves, 18 miles west of Bayfield, Wisconsin, were accessible in the winter. Record crowds came out to cross about a mile of Lake Superior to access the ice caves along the coast.
We didn't visit in the winter, but we were able to visit the Apostle's in the summer. We made a day trip from Duluth, Minnesota to Bayfield, Wisconsin to board the excursion boat on a beautiful summer morning. Judging from the long line to board, the Apostle's are a very popular summer destination in Wisconsin(.Oh, and arrive early. Parking is street parking only and by the time we made it on the boat, the top level was full and we were stuck underneath.) The cruise itself is a 3 1/2 tour around the islands (which seemed a bit too long to me - I think 2 hours would have been plenty to see all that there was to see) Lake Superior was calm that day and we were able to cruise past a replica of one of the original settlements, the recently restored lighthouse and of course, the piece de resistance, the sea caves. The captain saved the sea caves for last knowing they were the main draw of the cruise.
As much as I enjoyed cruising the islands, the high point of the cruise for me was our captain's storytelling. Regaling us with the history of the islands, he was definitely in the right career. His last story of the day was of the infamous Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald. There was so much about the shipwreck that I didn't know! And, of course, we had to sing the Gordon Lightfoot song for the rest of the day - once it's in your head it just won't seem to go back out! (By the way, the song, written and sung by Gordon Lightfoot, is incredibly accurate)
If you want to get out on the water to explore the islands, all 22 of them, you aren't limited to this particular boat. You can kayak - for a few hours, a day or a few days. Or you can hire a sailboat to take you for a coupla hours.
Only one of the Apostle's is inhabited year-round, Madeline Island. With a population of 246 people, Madeline is not included in the National Lakeshore. We didn't take the ferry to Madeline this time, but in talking with a few other tourists at lunch we found out about the infamous Tom's Burned Down Cafe. Apparently after the original cafe burned down, Tom kept running his bar in a tent - which it is to this day. After hearing rave reviews of this "dive" bar turned tourist spot, I think I'd like to try it out next time.
And as incredibly cold as visiting the sea caves in winter sounds, I think I would like to try that out someday too!
For more information on visiting The Apostle Islands National Lakeshore, click www.apostleisland.com. Info on cruise service, boat tours, camping and recreational shuttles.
Linking up with #fridaypostcards here !!!!