Winter wonderland

When I grew up in Detroit we had long snow-filled winters.  Weekends and holidays were filled with building snow forts, throwing snowballs and ice skating on the frozen pond in nearby Palmer Park.  This winter brought back these memories because snow, ice and frigid temperatures were this year’s story of the lakes.  Nearly 90 percent of the lakes froze solid and satellite images and updates of the percentages filled the news.

For me the best part were the photographs of the ice caves in the Apostle Islands in Lake Superior.  I so wish I could have done the walk to the ice caves across a frozen Lake Superior!  I saw and photographed the caves from the boat tour I took in 2012 like the one below.

apostle island ledge eyelet-4174

But what a thrill to see the images captured by those who walked the mile across Lake Superior to experience the ice caves and photograph them.  I enjoyed so many images and found a nice collection of 18 by photographers Eric Miller and Paul Johnson in Alan Taylor’s photography blog in the Atlantic.  Starting with the journey over the big lake to the caves, below are a few of my favorites from Miller and Johnson (hover over the images with your mouse for the name of photographer and click for a larger view).  I hope you enjoy them as much as I do!  And, of course, I trust  you will respect the copyright protections of these photographs as well as my own.


Eric Miller s_s06_RTX18Y6N

Eric Miller s_s15_RTX18XY6

paul johnson s_s17_00011280

paul johnson s_s18_00031280

After the Apostle Islands

A few interesting things happened after I returned from the islands.  I was pretty foggy-brained, but it was only 2 in the afternoon and beautiful so I decided to explore an area that I hadn’t yet.  So I drove north on 13 through the town of Red Cliff and the big Legendary Waters casino complex.  This is on the reservation of the  Red Cliff Band of Lake Superior Chippewa Indians.  Near the casino is also the Buffalo Bay Campground on Lake Superior, but I don’t go to casinos so haven’t check this campground out.

I kept going on 13 and decided to find Little Sand Bay on Lake Superior.  I knew Apostle Islands National Lakeshore had a kayak launch there and I assumed there was a beach.  For some reason I envisioned sleeping on a beach.  I saw and followed National Lakeshore signs turning right off of 13.  The county road was paved although narrow and sloped.  I kept driving and driving and wondered if I had taken the wrong county road.  But I kept going even down a steep decline where road crossed a rocky stream then a steep incline back up.  I took a photo of this sign for my sister, Wendy, the equestrian:

I just kept driving through coming to a more forested area and then my reward!  What I first thought was a huge brown hawk flew not more than ten feet above my motorhome!  There were other birds around it and there seemed to be a commotion of some kind.  I couldn’t identify what hawk it was, but it kinda took my breath away.  I actually wondered if it wasn’t an immature eagle.  Naw.

So I continued driving and finally saw another sign so knew I wasn’t lost.  At Little Sand Bay not only does the National Lakeshore have kayaking and other facilities, but the Town of Russell has campground called the Little Sand Bay Recreation Area.  The campground has self-registration and it was very nice.  On their website they list 32 RV campsites with electric,  tent sites, and one group site.  Here is more information from their website: Reservations by calling  (715) 779-5233, e-mail or by mail at Little Sand Bay Reservations; PO Box 79, Bayfield, WI 54814.  And I’ve inserted their campground map.  It’s amazing quiet place for kayaking, boating, and swimming and right on the big lake.

Not actually being a beach sleeper, I parked and Henry and I just ate a late lunch and relaxed a little.  Then I decided to head back to Bayfield to buy a few things at the IGA and maybe buy some postcards and a tshirt.

Back on the county roads and up and down by the creek I came again to the area where I had seen the bird.  There was a red truck pulling a pop-up headed in my direction, but stopped.   And then I saw the huge brown bird again!  I paid close attention to its size, length of tail, and other identifying features.  As it flew across the street back into the woods I noted it had a relatively short fan tail with white feathers and looked sort of like this, which is an immature golden eagle:

Immature golden eagle

But not quite, and I don’t know if golden eagles are in this area.  I’ve seen these magnificent birds in Arizona and even videotaped a pair.  When the sun hits their brown feathers they turn to gold in the sunlight!  At that moment the mystery of why these brown birds are called Golden Eagles was solved.

I had stopped Ecovision to observe carefully and experience this huge bird (can you tell I’m a city girl :-) as had the red truck.  When the bird flew back into the woods, the red truck came forward.  I rolled down my window and signaled the driver and he opened his window.  I asked him if he knew what kind of hawk it was, and he said he didn’t but he thought it was an eagle because of its size.  I gasped and said I thought so, too!

I’ve been searching images on the Internet and just don’t know if it’s truly an immature bald or golden eagle (under age three) or another raptor of some kind.  I’m going to ask around here and then when I get home ask my cousin experts Margaret and Robert Walter.  I have enough details for my cousins to be able to figure it out.  Whatever bird it was, I felt gifted to see and feel its presence.

So I continued on and just went back to Bayfield.  I looked but didn’t buy a tshirt then did buy a few things at the IGA.  Then back to my campsite to hookup and settle in for the evening.  I thought I would only stay that one more night so only hooked electric up.  I added some freshwater to my storage tank and made a little dinner.

In the early evening I spent time planning my next couple nights of camping.  I kept striking out with Minnesota State Parks on the north shore of Lake Superior.  Many don’t have hook-ups or sites were non-reservable.  I was able to reserve for Thursday night in Grand Marais, which is only about four hour from here so could stay here another night if need be.  So I decided to see if the Two Harbors campground would get back to me and decide in the morning.

This morning I decided to just stay put another day.  I’m going to hang out a little with Henry, rest, do this posting, find a laundromat to wash my bedding, and maybe have a meal in town.  So I paid for another night here at Apostle Island Campground and found out that the only laundromat is in Washburn a little south of here.  Like the idea of a new town so it’s time to end this posting and head south.

Tomorrow I’ll drive to Duluth and hope to get to the Whole Foods Co-op. I’ve been to Duluth several times including when I worked for Michigan Sea Grant and later when taking a travel writing course through the Split Rocks Art Workshop.  It is lovely with steep cliffs and a wonderful walkway along the lake right downtown.

Lakewalk in Duluth, MN

My first experience of Duluth was driving into a parking lot for a meeting and seeing large electrical plugs in front of every parking space.  I had no idea what they were for so I asked someone.  I was told that because it gets so cold in Duluth, people plug in their car’s engine block heaters while they are working to make sure they can start the car when they leave!  Boy, that’s way too cold for me!  It’s a pretty city though and well worth visiting.

Boat tour amongst the 22 Apostle Islands

Apostle Islands tour boat the Island Princess

For some reason I was wide awake at 5:30 this morning.  I finally got up and into the campground shower at 6:30.  By 8:30 I was driving to Bayfield to put Ecovision and her precious cargo–Henry Boy–under a couple of large shade trees on Second Street that I found yesterday.  I had the air conditioner blasting on high the entire way to cool it down as much as possible.  Then I completely closed up Ecovision by putting insulating panels on every single window, sun shades on the front window, and turning the ceiling fan on.  Then I had to let the worries go and trust that Henry would snooze and be comfortable. Of course, a couple times during the day I had to reject visions of coming back to a wildly panting or even passed-out dog.

I was one of the first five or six people in line at 9 a.m. for the 10 a.m. cruise on the Island Princess.  We watched this little Yorkie run around a yacht while we waited to board.

Being that early was a good thing because they can only let 50 people on the top deck.  Top deck is necessary to take photographs and in my mind to truly enjoy the experience.  I grew up boating with my family on Lake St. Clair and come alive when on boats of any kind.  Get my sea legs quickly and press my face into the wind.

And yes, another perfect day.  I took over 300 photographs so I’ll only post a few here, and they won’t be fully processed.  I took extensive notes during the narration and think I will be able to identify most of the individual islands, but not tonight.  First, it might be helpful for you to see a map of the tour of the Apostle Islands:

I took the orange “grand tour” and was able to view all 22 islands

This is the view of the hilly and picturesque town of Bayfield as we pulled out of the dock:

Bayfield, Wisconsin

Sandstone cliffs, ledges, and caves are the identifying feature of the Apostle Archipelago.  I believe this is Basswood Island that was extensively quarried.  The second image shows quarry remains.

The islands are so much larger than I imagined and the distance between them wide.  You can a sense of it by finding the powerboat on the left side of this image of some of the islands in the archipelago.  (I should mention that the images in this blog are copyright protected so if you would like a copy please contact me for information on archival-quality prints.)

Apostle Archipelago

The National Park Service has preserved a fishing village where up to a dozen–but more likely two or three–fishers would stay.  Supplies of fresh ice would be brought to them each day, and some diehards would be out there in November for the herring.

Preserved fish camp on Manitou Island

Someone was nice enough to offer to take a photo of yours truly.  So here I am feeling a little lost without my camera, but with notebook in hand.  Forgive the Lake Michigan tshirt while I’m experience Lake Superior islands.

Karen Vigmostad enjoying the Apostle Archipelago aboard the Island Princess
August 14, 2012

I’ll share a couple more before I go to bed.  This shows an island where the sandstone cliffs form beautiful caves that kayakers seek.  This photo also includes one of the six lighthouses in the archipelago.

Unique sandstone caves and an island lighthouse

I’m crazy about clouds and caught many images of the few clouds of the day (I keep meaning to join the Cloud Appreciation Society based in Britain).  This is one image from today:

It actually wasn’t a great day for sailing because there was almost no breeze.  But a few came out toward the end of our four-hour cruise and of course looked as lovely as can be.

All of us on the top deck were a little weary at the end of the cruise.  But satisfied!

As for Henry, I practically ran to Ecovision.  When I opened up the back door Henry yawned, stretched, and wagged his tail.  It was even pleasant inside.  Whew.  So I treated him to a nice walk along the waterfront, and I’ll share this one last not-so-great photograph of him. Tomorrow I may take the ferry to Madeline Island, or I may just head to Duluth then points north!  But for now, it’s our bedtime.

Henry Boy near Bayfield Marina

From Copper Harbor, Michigan to Bayfield, Wisconsin

Funny but on this trip every day seems so long.  Not in a bad way, but it feels noticeably different.  It’s nearly 10 p.m. and I feel like I left Copper Harbor a couple of days ago rather than just 12 hours ago.

It was a gorgeous morning and I woke at 8.  My cold seemed much better.  I determined to leave earlier than 10 so I left Henry half awake to take my shower first rather than care for him right away.  That meant I got in the shower before it got busy.

Campgound showers often are in short supply.  One campground I stayed at this trip–Wandering Wheels in Munising–had only two showers for all the women!  There was a line up of frustrated women each day.  I won’t go there again.  State parks in Michigan tend to have more showers and they are clean.  Overall, I have found private campgrounds to vary from pretty awful to pretty marvelous.  They often have more amenities that I’m not interested in like pools, cable tv, and shuffleboard, but usually lack the more natural setting of public campgrounds.

I did take the time to walk Henry down to the lake.  He remains fascinated yet those precious feet of his still have not touched the water.  Lake Fanny Hooe was calm and lovely.  Campers were ready to go fishing.

Last look at Lake Fanny Hooe

Here’s my co-pilot right after I put on his safety harness and hooked him into the seat belt.  He knows the drill.  Cute, eh?  We were on the road by 9:30.

My co-pilot Henry Boy on duty

One of the campers–who has been coming to Fort Wilkins for 18 years–told me about a monastery and its jam store on the M-26 shoreline road to Eagle Harbor and Eagle River (click here for a write up on Hunt’s guide about this drive).  She raved about the monks’ baked goods and preserves.  I am so glad she told me because not only did I eventually get to the monastery and store, but came upon the marvelous town of Eagle Harbor.

Eagle Harbor, Michigan

What a gem, and I will go back.  It felt happy and friendly, and the women volunteers I met at the lighthouse were just that.

I’m not that interested in lighthouses, but I did go to the one here.  It’s a very narrow and steep entry for a motorhome and I was glad mine is small and nimble.  The reward was seeing a saltie (an ocean-going ship) and a laker (a ship that stays in the Great Lakes) going by at the same time.  While I realize it is difficult to see the boats on the horizon in the image below, if you click this (or any image in this blog) you’ll get a larger one.  [By the way, this image (and all the images in this posting) is from my iPhone.  I have much better images taken with my Nikon, but haven’t process them yet.]

In the distance, a saltie on the left and laker on the right.

As you can see, it was another glorious day. Here’s the lighthouse.

Eagle Harbor lighthouse

Back on the road I stopped once at Great Sand Bay then at the monks’ shop, the Jam Pot, and the monastery.

WordPress is not behaving itself right now so I cannot add the Jam Pot’s hyperlink, but here it is  And here is the one for the Society of St. John monks:

A monk with a very long beard helped me (sorry for the very poor image quality).  I liked that he was fully present and our eyes truly met and exchanged kindnesses.  I asked if taking photographs of the monastery was alright and enthusiastically he said yes.  I left a small donation and when he thanked me I shared that I am a Quaker and respect those seeking to live a holy life.  I bought seedless blackberry jam and plum jelly plus an apricot muffin.

I had seen the shiny golden monastery from Big Sand Bay.  The monastery is right on Lake Superior and surrounded by flower, fruit, and vegetable gardens.  It’s lovely although I couldn’t help but think of how rough winters must be.  I had seen a very tall red sign in the shape of a measuring stick saying the record annual snowfall was something like 305 inches!  Of course, the snow would provide quiet and isolation essential to monastic life.

I finally pulled myself away from the monastery around noon.  I only stopped once more to get gasoline and walk Henry in Wakefield, Michigan.  We walked along Sunday Lake next to the gas station.  Nice name, nice little lake.

I drove under one rain cloud and a second cloud that wanted to be a rain cloud one day.  So a tiny bit of rain for a couple of minutes.  The rest of the way was smooth traveling with only one area of construction that didn’t even slow us down.

Arrived at Bayfield around 4 p.m.  I had called the National Park then the Bayfield Visitor Center to confirm the nearby campgrounds.  I tried the public one just north of town first.  It was on a steep, narrow, roughly paved road and the campsites were awkward and small.  Right on Lake Superior though, but with me needing to get in and out every day it just wasn’t practical.  So I drove north and registered at Apostle Islands Campground ( for two nights and possibility of a third.  Wifi works great and my site is just fine and is an easy in and out.

After checking out my site, I drove to Bayfield and bought a ticket for the “Grand Tour” of the Apostle Islands tomorrow.  It begins at 10 a.m. and takes three-and-a-half hours.  Weather is supposed to be great and this tour gets out to the most number of islands.  I’ll leave Henry in town in Ecovision on a shady street and try not to worry.  My focus will be on taking photographs and notes and just experiencing the archipelago.  Oh, I so love being on the water like I did so many summer weekends on Lake St. Clair with my Dad (and later me) at the helm of our small wooden powerboat.

I had an unremarkable and expensive broiled whitefish dinner.  The fish was good though everything else ws forgetable.  I have decided to have one dinner out a week.  I really prefer to eat lunches out and be settled into the campground to eat dinner in Ecovision.  But on travel days (which is almost every day!) I don’t like to stop for lunch and I have plenty of food on hand.

After dinner Henry and I walked around the marina then headed to the campground.  I had to use blocks on one side to get level then I hooked up the water and electric.  Each campground and campsite is different so each time it takes some juggling.  RVing is amazingly physical.  But we’re all cozied up and now it’s time for bed.  I’ll leave you with a photo of Ecovision, who likes to have her picture taken in pretty places like Eagle Harbor :-)