Thursday, August 23, 2012

Back in the 90’s…Again

When I last blogged (3 weeks ago!) we were just leaving the Apostle Islands in northern Wisconsin and heading a couple hundred miles south for some family time. Along with family, we were treated to cooler temperatures. In fact, we did not need air conditioning the entire time we were there. We could open our windows during the day, sleep with a blanket at night and even had to turn the heat on for 10 minutes in the morning to take the chill away! I got used to that :)

We left there Tuesday morning and drove 180 miles south stopping at the Madison KOA for the night. It was hot enough to warrant A/C and we no longer needed a blanket at night. It was still a bit chilly in the morning but that was gone in about 2 minutes. Wednesday's drive was another 180 miles into Illinois where the A/C was definitely needed, the blanket was permanently put away and the A/C had already kicked in before we got up in the morning! Yup, we're back in the 90's again :(  It sure was nice while it lasted :)

Our 2 weeks there were full of family time. We attended a family reunion.

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We got to see daughter Nicole who was home from Italy for the summer.

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We had a scrumptious lunch one day at my niece's house in WIsconsin Rapids. Jen and her husband Matt and their 4 kids (Ethan,Katja, Mya and Landon) bought a 100+ year old solid brick home and are restoring it. Very cool.

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We enjoyed a pig roast at my sister and brother-in-law's house.

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That was quite the operation, starting with the butchering a couple days earlier, to the early morning start of the roasting last Saturday. It was very, very good and we were even the lucky recipients of some of the leftovers :) Yum!

That about covers it for now. It was a very nice, relaxing time for us. We are currently en-route to the Indianapolis area where we hope to meet up with friends and visit with  Rick's sister, Louise and her husband, Glenn.

Thanks for stopping by.Turtle

Sunday, August 5, 2012

Madeline Island

Saturday morning we took the ferry across to Madeline Island. Madeline is the only populated island of the Apostle’s. They do a booming tourist business in the summer but things die down in the winter. Surprisingly, Lake Superior is quite shallow around the Apostle Islands and it freezes solid in the winter. Once the ice is nice and thick, a road is plowed from Bayfield to Madeline Island for the 200 hearty residents that stay all winter. (I can’t imagine!) In the summer, that number increases to around 2500 and a ferry service runs back and forth. We decided to take the trip and see what Madeline Island was all about.

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It had rained a good portion of the night before and the skies were still very gray and overcast with a sprinkle here and there. The temperature was threatening to pass the 70º mark (please don’t hate me! It’s been wonderful!). We thought the crowds would be smaller with the cloudy weather but that didn’t seem to be the case :)  We purchased our tickets. We chose to go on foot. Round trip tickets are $13 per person. If you take your car, it’s an additional $24. We were pretty sure we could walk anywhere we wanted to go. It’s not a very large island. If, by some chance, we underestimated our abilities we could always rent bikes or scooters :)

The ferry pulled into the harbor at La Pointe on Madeline. Homes and cottages dotted the shoreline with boats anchored offshore.

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The Post Office is the first building you see when you walk away from the ferry landing. It’s been there awhile. The date on the building is 1832.

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We were not disappointed in our decision to do the walking tour. We turned right onto the main drag which took us past bungalows, restaurants, shops, condos, the Yacht Club, marina and the golf course.

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Of course, we had to check out some of the boats at the marina. Rick says if he ever gets tired of paddling, this will be our replacement for the Sea Eagle. Isn’t it cute?

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This is truly the land of many kayaks but I thought this was a bit over-kill. I don’t think I’ve ever seen kayaks trailered before. Seems a roof rack would be so much easier…or maybe not.

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We wandered onto the side streets where we came upon this.

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The FOR SALE sign enlarged

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Well, Tom’s Burned Down Café was right next door!

Tom's Burned Down Cafe'

The story is that Tom’s burned down in 1992. The owner never rebuilt, but never closed down either. The place is now tents and awnings with hand-painted signs of catchy sayings and quotes. We wandered in the front, looked around and wandered out the back. They were doing a great business. There was no place to sit! :) Apparently the place is pretty famous. Who knew?

We back tracked to our starting point and continued on to the left this time where we found the museum, the school and a mostly residential area.

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We concluded our time on Madeline with a late lunch at the Beach Club. They served some of the best fish tacos we’ve had. Gotta love that fresh Lake Superior white fish!

Today we are winding things up to leave in the morning. We loved our time here and, hopefully, will return someday. It was very relaxing and a beautiful place to visit. Rick even bought a fishing license and spent several hours fishing off one of the piers.  He didn’t catch anything but he sure enjoyed the time he spent there. The next couple weeks will be down time for us as we travel a couple hundred miles south and enjoy some family time.

Thanks for stopping by. Turtle

Friday, August 3, 2012

Apostle Island National Lakeshore

Thursday morning at 10:00 we left the Bayfield Harbor on the Island Princess for our cruise through the Apostle Islands, or as we affectionately dubbed it, the 3 hour tour :) Gilligan and his crew might have been comfortable here in the summertime but I think they might have had a problem surviving in the cold northern Wisconsin winters.

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The Apostle Islands consist of 22 islands with 21 of them belonging to the Apostle Island National Lakeshore. No one knows how the Apostle Islands actually got their name. One would think there would be only 12 islands but that is certainly not true. The largest of the 22, Madeline Island, is not included in the National Lakeshore. Madeline Island is the only populated island of the group and it is believed that it was too expensive for the NPS to buy all the land and buyout all the people, so they stopped with the 21. There were a few people on a couple of the other islands. They were given the choice to lease back their cabins once they were bought out. There are but a handful of these cabins still in existence and eventually, all the leases will expire.

If you do not know where the Apostle Islands are located, see the yellow star below. The Apostle Islands are in Lake Superior, the largest body of fresh water, by surface, in the world.

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These islands have been owned by many different companies/people over the years. Many were logging companies. Logging was a big industry in northern Wisconsin. The National Park Service purchased the 21 islands and created the Apostle Islands National Lakeshore in 1970.

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Our tour route is the red line below. From this route we were able to see all of the islands. Sorry for the double map. The route map was too small to actually see the islands (senior eyes) so I added the one above. If you also have senior eyes, it is a little easier to see :) Thank you Google!

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As we took off, I snapped a photo of Basswood Island. This set the bar. They all, pretty much, look alike. They are different sizes but other than that, all heavily wooded and sand stone based.

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Sandstone was shipped from quarries in the Apostle Islands at the end of the 19th century to Midwestern cities like Chicago, Milwaukee, Detroit, Cleveland, Minneapolis, and St. Paul where it was used to build some of the cities' most distinctive landmarks. For awhile, it became the building material of choice after the Chicago fire and the Peshtigo WI fire. Eventually, steel replaced it and demand decreased.

The islands may have all looked alike, but I loved the ride! The lake was calm, the sun was shining and it was +/- 80º. The sun glistening off the water was beautiful!

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We eventually ended up at Devil’s Island which has a wonderful  lighthouse and was the Apostle Island’s last manned lighthouse. It was automated in 1978.

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The sandstone wears with the wave action, freezing and thawing of the waters and creates sea caves. Devil’s Island is the best example of these sea caves. The boat captain slowed down and turned around a couple times so everyone could get their fill and their pictures. We watched a couple motor over to the caves and anchor. They were all outfitted for some diving.

Devil's Island Sea Caves

Another of the islands, Stockton, is known to have the densest concentration of Black Bear in North America. There are bear found on all the islands, but none in concentrations as dense as Stockton. The latest reports put 40 bear on that island of 10,000 acres.

We ended the tour with a viewing of the lighthouse on Raspberry Island. As we came around the point the stately lighthouse came into view. The chief light keeper lived on the left in this house and the 1st and 2nd assistant lived on the upper right and lower right. It was automated in 1947.

Raspberry Island Lighthouse

Our tour took 3¼ hours and covered 55 miles. Other than boating or kayaking, it’s the only way to see the islands. Some islands have open lighthouse tours, some have hiking trails, some allow overnight primitive camping with a permit. There are water taxi-like shuttles to get you to those destinations. Lucy will not be participating in those camping opportunities :)

We plan to take the  car ferry to Madeline Island and check it out this weekend.

Walking back to the Jeep we came across these beautiful bushes. Can anyone tell me what they are? They looked good enough to eat but I didn’t dare :)

What is this? 

Thanks for stopping by. Turtle

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Hello Wisconsin!

As much as I wanted to spend more time in Minnesota, we had to move on.  On our way to Wisconsin, we spent a little time at Barker’s Island in Superior.

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Superior is the port that the Edmund Fitzgerald left on its final voyage in November 1975. All 29 crew members perished. The link will take you to the Wikipedia version of the event.

Our destination for this leg of the trip was the Apostle Islands. The “gateway” to the islands is Bayfield, WI but we scored a nice first come, first served site at West End Park in Washburn, 12 miles south. This is a wonderful city park that offers electric sites on the shore of Lake Superior. Awesome.

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The other thing that’s great about this park is that it’s fed by an Artesian well. The water tastes wonderful and people come from all around to fill buckets and jugs with the water. It’s free. What more could you ask for?

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Something we’ve found is that in the northern Midwest, many of the campgrounds offer electric only. Water is usually available to take on before you park and there is usually a dump station for your convenience when you leave. After an initial adjustment period, we found that this works just as well as electric/water hookups. We are even more aware of our water usage and our tank levels (for you RVers). For the rest of you, feel free to ignore the “waste tank” comments. I’m sure that’s probably TMI for many of you :)

After we got set up, we took a walk through the campground on the shore of Lake Superior. Beautiful!

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The next morning, Rick took the top off the Jeep and we took a drive to Bayfield to check out the harbor and see what the town had to offer. What a treat to ride in the open air! It’s been so long since that top had been off and we didn’t want to miss this chance! 80º and sunny :)

Bayfield Harbor and Marina

Bayfield is a charming little town and I mean little. Population: 530 according to the 2010 census. The town is much larger than a population of 530 would indicate and it all appears to be based on the tourist trade. As the gateway to the Apostle Islands, it’s a world famous sailing, boating and kayaking destination on Lake Superior. We wandered the harbor area, took a few pictures and picked up some brochures to help plan the rest of our week.

On our way out of town, we apparently missed our turn and had to turn around when we realized our mistake. That is when we were greeted by this sign :) Guess we weren’t the only ones…or maybe we were :)

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With the day young and the weather beautiful we launched our Sea Eagle and paddled beautiful Chequamegon Bay, an inlet of Lake Superior, in the afternoon. The water was crystal clear and surprisingly not too cold :) I was expecting frigid waters but they were, instead, merely refreshing :) It was a great paddle. The shore was lined with little beaches everywhere. There were even apple trees on the shore. You could paddle right up and pick a snack, but they weren’t ripe yet.

Kayaking Chequamegon Bay

We’ve booked a cruise through the Apostle Islands for tomorrow.  There should be plenty of photo ops on that cruise.

See you next time and thanks for stopping by. Turtle