The Apostle Islands National Lakeshore was by far one of my favorite places on this trip. Top 3, for sure. I'd go back in a heartbeat, and I would even live there, despite knowing that the winters are at least as tough as home. Maybe it's because it was so much like Maine with its ferries, big water, small cottages, lupines, and quiet, small towns, but I just fell right over in a faceplant of complete love, pretty much immediately. Add to that the apparent hall pass I got for dairy while in Wisconsin (I have celiac and, related, I'm not supposed to have dairy either, blah, blah, blah, boring, boring, boring, because it makes me feel terrible) and you have a cheese-fog-filled dream of a great trip to northern Wisconsin.
Christa came back from a long, hot trip to Washington, D.C. with her students early in the morning. The plan was to get some sleep, but instead we ended up grocery shopping, going to Chill on the Hill, and then getting up early the next morning and starting in on the long drive to Bayfield. Thankfully, there are cheese stores all along the way, so we had plentiful, fresh cheese curds available at all times, because we have our priorities in order.
It's possible to camp in many places in the islands; some sites are accessible by car ferry, while others are primitive and involve paddling a boat. We opted for Little Sand Bay campground on the mainland, where we set up for 2 nights on a large lawn overlooking the water and right in the perfect spot for sunset views.
Outside of that one time in Texas, I haven't bothered to build campfires during this trip, partly because I am too lazy, and partly because it seems like so much for just one person, never mind the price gouging for firewood bundles in most places. Traveling with Christa made the effort worth it, so we built a fire, got it roaring, let it go out, got it going again, and then Christa made dinner: 2 coal-roasted potatoes and a can of coal-roasted vegetarian chili, with slow melted s'mores for dessert. It was pretty spectacular. Also, my campfire skills have really taken a beating with lack of use. Time to get back to it!
The next morning we discovered Big Water Coffee Roasters in Bayfield and took advantage their electrical sockets while mowing through gluten free pumpkin chocolate chip muffins and coffee. We basked in the sun for a bit, then took a leisurely stroll around town, poking into a bookshop and some galleries before eventually heading over to Trek & Trail to get fitted for wetsuits.
After the fitting we made our way to Meyers Beach, ate some lunch, and met our group for a 3-hour sea kayak tour of the cliffs and sandstone caves along Lake Superior. We had a tandem kayak, so Christa steered while I took a photos. Our guides were really well-informed about the area, very enthusiastic about kayaking, and provided us with a quick geology lesson as we bobbed around in the lake. We got to go into several caves, one of which was more like a canyon; it got so skinny at the end that we were pushing forward with our hands on the cold walls. The range of color was staggering - some of the cliffs looked like rainbows, set in stark contrast to the aqua blue and bright green of the lake. We popped through several tiny tunnels by bending over the deck of the kayak and pushing through. The beauty of this place cannot be understated.
The next day we took the ferry out to Madeline Island, arriving late enough that a startlingly large inline skate marathon was just finishing up. We walked down a long road before cutting into the woods, and snaked our way back to town on a winding, wooded trail. We stopped for a cool drink at Farmhouse, a lovely little house that serves things like foraged mushroom grilled cheese. I had kombucha with Tulsi (Holy Basil) in it, which I was fully prepared to dislike, but ended up loving, especially because it was unexpectedly sweet. We visited several shops in town, waited out a crazy rainstorm, and searched for agate in the freezing cold lake before catching the ferry back.
We left early the next morning, just barely ahead of a huge rainstorm, and headed for Chequamegon-Nicolet National Forest for one last night of camping. The women in the spot across from us were headed to a hotel after dire warnings from the camp host, but we opted to brave the weather, which turned out to be pretty tame. The next morning we hit Angie's for breakfast on the way to Green Bay, where I had my first ever photo in front of a stadium (sportsing not being my thing).
More coffee was procured, and then we headed for Cedar Creek to taste moonshine before heading back to Milwaukee and a very long nap before heading out to see Wilco that night.