"The lake and the mountains have become my landscape, my real world."
State 10: Wisconsin - August 17, 2017
Occasionally, our cross country trip requires us to briefly cross over to adjacent states we are not yet scheduled to visit, or have already previously visited, to see points of interest not included in our path through a specific state. Since our path through Wisconsin will not take us through northwestern portion of the state, we briefly crossed the state border from eastern Minnesota’s to visit the “National Park” for the state of Wisconsin.
We just finished 3 days of camping in the beautiful Eastern Minnesota wilderness, and were relaxed, recharged, rejuvenated, and ready to once again hit the road. Also, we were both extremely excited, because today was the day we would once again visit Lake Superior! We crossed over the Minnesota/Wisconsin border after leaving the town of East Bethel, MN. From there, it was a 3 ½ hour drive to Bayfield, WI to visit the National Park featured on the state quarter for Wisconsin: Apostle Islands National Lake Shore. The Apostle Islands are one of only 4 National Lake Shores in the National Park System. The park consists of 21 islands off the state’s northern tip on Lake Superior. The Apostles feature 8 lighthouses (more than any other National Park), 4 historic shipwrecks, old growth forests, sea caves, pristine beaches, and sandstone cliffs, all just waiting to be explored by the Cross Country Couple!
Our research showed the best way to explore the Apostle Islands was via a cruise dubbed the “Grand Tour” offered by Apostle Island Cruises. The cruise lasted 3 ½ hours, cost $44.00 per person, and were offered twice a day at 10:00 am and 5:30 pm. Since our previous stop ran a little later than expected, we ended up arriving at the docks in Bayfield, WI at 6:00 pm, and just missed the last tour for the day. Bayfield is quite a remote town on Wisconsin’s northern most tip. There were no nearby Walmart’s or Cracker Barrels. To make matters worse, there was a city ordinance banning overnight street parking. Where would these two frugal vagabonds park Rosie, and lay down their weary heads for the night? There was a nearby Hilton Hotel, but if you have been reading this blog than you already know that we would rather stay in a homeless shelter than at a Hilton. Time for plan C, which is casinos. Casinos are located all over the country, are open 24 hours, and people who visit them often do so for many long consecutive hours. It is extremely easy to blend in among the masses of parked vehicles, and no one ever questions why you are there. We try to avoid casino’s in general since they are smoke-filled, present negative energy, and neither Nate nor I are gamblers. However, with no Walmart’s or Cracker Barrels in a 60-mile radius, The Legendary Waters Casino in Red Cliff, WI 7 miles outside of Bayfield would be our new home for the night.
When we arrived at the casino, we were actually shocked at how small it was. When I think of casinos I think of the massive hotels of Las Vegas, or Mohegan Sun and Foxwoods in Connecticut. The Legendary Waters Casino was the cutest casino I had ever seen! We quickly found an inconspicuous spot to park Rosie for the night in their parking lot. Next, we headed into the casino to survey our surroundings, which has become a daily ritual for each place we spend the night. This casino was one floor consisting of 75 slot machines, 5 table games, and had a small hotel attached. There was a also a small restaurant, and an even smaller snack stand. To the left of the hotel was a small marina, and just beyond the marina was an small RV park with small campsites right along Lake Superior. Since the casino had tent sites available, we did not feel right about parking for free in their parking lot. For the first time in almost 3 months on the roads, we paid $28.00 for our first paid campsite on the shores of Lake Superior. When we got to our site, we opened Rosie’s side door, put up the bug net and sat on the couch enjoying the cool and gentle breeze that sporadically swept through the van. Nate and I sat there for over 2 hours watching a beautiful sunset over the lake Nate and I had both previously fallen in love with before we slowly drifted off to sleep. Here is a picture of our view.
In the morning, we packed up, and headed to back to Bayfield to catch our Saturday morning tour of the Apostle islands scheduled to depart at 10:00 am. We parked Rosie on a side road, and then walked 2 blocks to the docks. We arrived at 9:20 am, since seating was a first come first serve basis, and we were shocked at the length of the lines. There had to be over 300 people waiting to board. We try to avoid popular attractions on the weekends, but we were both surprised by the epic turn out. Neither one of us had seen 300 people in the past 5 days, and the population of Bayfield, WI, is only 487! We thought by arriving early, we would be able to grab a seat on the upper deck of the boat, which promised to have the best photo opportunities. However, we ended up seated in the ships interior cabin for 3 ½ hours sandwiched between a screaming toddler with an embarrassed and apologetic mother, and an 85 year old repeatedly sneezing Texan named Austin who swore it was just seasonal allergies.
Soon our ship was under way! We were finally off to explore the 21 Apostle Islands, and enjoy a Saturday morning cruise on beautiful Lake Superior. I will not go into a review of each of the 21 islands. That would be a book by itself, and would ruin the surprise when you one day visit the islands yourself. However, I will share my personal favorite of the 21 Apostle islands, which was Devils Island. Devil’s Island is the outermost island of the Apostle’s, and the northernmost point of the State of Wisconsin. It is 318 acres, 1 ¼ miles in length, ½ mile in width, and is made entirely of sandstone. Devil’s Island was named by the Native Americans who inhabited the region centuries ago. As the legends goes, the sounds of the waves of Lake Superior crashing on the sandstone shores of the island made a loud “HISS” resembling a snake. The natives abandoned the island believing it was cursed, and named it Devil’s Island to detour others from visiting! The island's most noteworthy feature, separating it from all of it's siblings, is the sandstone sea caves on the north shore of the island which were naturally carved by the crashing waves of Lake Superior over millions of years. Please view the absolutely beautiful pictures below, and try to find the one with the bald eagle. I heard the sea caves freeze over in the winter, and are even more gorgeous!
What I found most surprising about the Apostle Islands, was although the islands are geographically proximal, each one could not be more different from the other. We only toured the islands from the boat, and I could even see the drastic differences between them without docking. The “Grand Tour” cruise was an excellent introduction to Apostle Islands. However, you could literally spend years exploring each of the 21 islands, and still not experience all the Apostle’s have to offer. There were a couple additional islands I wouldn’t mind further exploring at some point in the future if I ever happen to find myself on the southern shores of Lake Superior again.
After our tour boat docked, we drove 2 hours to cross back over into Minnesota at the border city of Duluth, MN.