It seems our travels always involve three things: adventure, education, and missed chances. Even if I were to never recount our journeys here, their memories will forever remain incredibly vivid in our minds. To us, they're legendary. Our recent trip to the Apostle Islands National Lakeshore was no exception.
We awoke early that morning to the sweet symphony of nature outside our camper's windows. Perched above Lake Superior and nestled beneath towering oaks and pines, we continued to revel in our campsite victory. The city of Bayfield, Wisconsin maintains a campground just north of the marina. When my husband suggested camping there, I was reluctant because I had pictured a slab of concrete with little privacy or amenities. While the park lacked amenities beyond the basics, it more than made up for it in privacy. With our only neighbors tucked distantly behind the trees, we felt like camping royalty with our hidden spot and superior views.
The air was crisp, and the winds were charging off of the lake, cutting into our still thin Midwest skin. As groups of tourists gathered on the marina docks, whispers of six foot swells began to circulate through the formed line of guests anxiously awaiting the blessing to board the tour boats. Compassionate guides began making their way down the line with the disheartening news: due to the size of the swells on open water, we were not going to make it to the highly acclaimed Devil's Island-- an island known for jaw-dropping sea caves carved by the forces of nature. It was strongly recommended that weak-stomached landlubbers stay ashore, full refunds available. With a mix of ignorance and excitement, we shrugged off the warnings and climbed aboard.
Prior to shoving off, our captain reiterated the warning of choppy seas and offered us two things: last chances and barf bags. We refused, nervously chuckling about the thought that while rough waters weren't tummy-turning, a boat full of puking guests would certainly weaken the most iron-clad stomachs. Once we were no longer protected by the marina barriers, the chop was evident but more closely resembled a busy weekend on a Midwest lake. We settled in and began to soak in the panoramic scenery beyond our vessel.
Each island had a fascinating story that was animatedly described by our captivating captain. For example, Hermit Island was aptly named in honor of the legend of William Wilson, a man who despised the thought of company on his private island so much that he kept hopeful visitors away by firing rounds from his shotgun. Even if there were no tall tales to be told, our vigilant captain readily peered through his binoculars in search of wildlife that was abundant on the islands. We were privileged to see the majestic bald eagle, circling a nest on the tip of Oak Island. We were awed by the rock formations and boulder outcroppings that only enhanced the picturesque beauty of the shorelines.
As we neared the approach to Devil's Island, the waves begin to grow, tossing us around. Suddenly our sizable ship seemed to diminish in stature against the tumultuous waters. After some off-mic conversation between the captain and his crew, he addressed his guests by gesturing towards the fifteen foot spray crashing into the southern tip of the forbidden island. Avoiding a dance with the devil, he steered our ship towards calmer waters and redirected our attention to more island folklore.
As we approached Raspberry Island, the ship filled with shutter noise from every camera that was intently aimed at the crown jewel of the park. The lighthouse stood gleaming and proud atop the rocky shores, ready to beacon passing ships. A recent $3.4 million dollar restoration, equal to the annual operating budget for the entire park, brought this crown jewel back to its former glory. Although we did not go ashore, we immediately decided to make it part of our return visit.
Returning to the marina, the skies parted giving way to brilliant blue skies. The sun sparkled across the lake, marina, and charming city. As a gesture of kindness, the captain offered partial refunds to all guests in reparation for the missed island. Although we were impressed by this offer, we never felt slighted. Sure, it would have been incredible to witness the sea caves of Devil's Island, but we were equally satisfied with our adventure.
Oh, and I'm happy to report that no barf bags were filled on our journey!
Born with a severe case of wanderlust, I'm always searching for new adventures and sharing those stories here.