My first encounter with Lake Superior was long back when I was in junior school in one of our Social Science classes as the world’s largest fresh water lake. While memorizing it then, I never thought that I would ever get a chance to see this lake in my life and as a very practical kid I did not want to see it as there was half a globe separating us.Frankly, I did not imagine how vast it could be or how beautiful it could be, like most of the other students I just by-hearted it. I saw Superior for the first time during my first flight journey to US. It was a cold January morning, just after the New Years and when the GPS in-front of my seat showed that we were above Lake Superior, I just peeped down through the window out of curiosity. There she was…covered in a blanket of snow, with patches of unfrozen water here and there. Though it was from a great height I just could not take my eyes off her and wanted to take her in as much as I can as I thought ‘What if I would never see her again’!
Life had other plans. As part of my husband’s job, we moved to Minnesota, one of the Northern most states of US which has a vast shoreline with Lake Superior. So as another long weekend was coming ahead ,as the official “trip planner” of our family I was surfing the net on where to go, Most of our friends around suggested to go to South Dakota for its amazing wild life. But it was like a 9 hour drive from our place and as my husband and I were lazy to drive that long, I started looking for options nearby. It was then I stumbled upon this place called Apostle Islands in Wisconsin. Having heard of The Twelve Apostles along The Great Ocean road in Victoria, Australia, I thought it would be something similar and immediately started exploring it on net. It was about 250 miles from where we stay and so only a 4 hours drive. So we decided to spend our Labor Day long weekend at Apostle Islands. After all, it was all about water and we both love it.
We started our journey from Minneapolis to Apostle Islands on a cloudy Saturday morning. The first few hours of drive were monotonous as there was nothing much to see on the road except for some occasional rivers. We went just before the fall and hence only very few trees had started changing colors. After a 3 hour drive, we reached Duluth, a beautiful city along the shores of Lake Superior in Minnesota. What caught our attention in Duluth was the Blatnik bridge -a beautiful bridge that connects the city of Duluth and the city of Superior, Wisconsin, popularly known as the Twin Port Cities. The view from the bridge was so spectacular with Lake Superior and its tributaries all around, a number of small ships at the dock and in water, a couple of factories with their chimneys peaking high. We stopped by the side of the road to enjoy a better view of the lake. There was a meadow just near to where we stopped with hundreds of seagulls, like white dots on piece of green cloth. So beautiful it was!!
We resumed our journey, stopping by the side of the road a couple of times to enjoy the different moods and colors of Superior. Sometimes she was happy and clear; we could see the other side of the shore, some other times she was dull and foggy and once she was angry and red; literally and figuratively as the water had taken the color of the red soil on the shore. After about an hour and half’s drive and a couple of small villages, we reached Bayfield, the gateway to the Apostle Islands. It is a very small town with all its warmth and innocence and there in front of us was lying the mighty Superior, with all its pride. For me it was love at first sight. The crystal clear water. .the clean beaches.. array of seagulls lined upon logs that lead to dock… white yachts gently moving to the tune of the waves.. the green silhouette of the Madeline Island against the horizon and above all the Superior itself, adorned with its jewels, the Apostle Islands.
We took a stroll along the beach while waiting for our cruise. While my husband was busy with his camera, I started reading about the Apostle Islands-its history and geology. So here is a gist of what I read. Apostle Islands is an archipelago of 22 islands spread across Lake Superior covering an area of 69372 acres.21 of these islands are part of the Apostle Islands National Lakeshore region. The largest of islands, the Madeline island is the only island with permanent residents, about 240 odd people and that is the reason that it is not part of the National Lakeshore region. The history of human activity on the islands can be dated back to 100 BC and from 950 AD onwards the islands were inhabited by native American tribes, predominantly the Ojibwe. In the late 1600s the European traders came to the islands and started settling there. The small town, La Pointe, in the Madeline Island got its name from its French connections. Geologically, the sand stones of the islands are more than one billion years old ;that means much older than the ice age and the age of dinosaurs!!
We had booked the evening Grand Tour at http://www.apostleisland.com which has many other tours and recreational shuttles. The cruise was almost for 3 hours and it took us near all the major islands. Our captain was a cheerful man and he kept on telling us the history and small anecdotes about each of those islands. Like how Madeline island got its name in honor of Mrs. Madeline Cadotte, the daughter of an Ojibwe chief who got married to fur trader Michael Cadotte who was a prominent leader in the island in the 1800s,that the Stockton island has the largest black bear population in the entire US and how the lighthouse keepers went mad in olden days, not because of loneliness and adverse conditions as thought by everybody back then, but by continuous exposure to Mercury which is used to help in the rotation of the lighthouse beacons.
Another remarkable thing during the cruise was about this lady Denice who is a volunteer park ranger in one of those islands. She receives 1 dollar a month from the National Lakeshore region authorities and lives alone in a cabin in the island. She does not have gas connection, heating or running water in her cabin and she mainly lives on those things that she harvests herself on the island. When our captain honked, she came out of her cabin and waved at us. What a spirit..I bow before that.
Next we went to see the sea caves at the Devils Island. “Breath taking”, literally. I was taken aback and like always could not stop marveling at wonders of nature. The caves were carved by the lake over millions of years and still continue doing that. They are so symmetric, mysterious and inexplicable. It was a like a miniature Grand Canyon in water. We tried to click as many pics as we could, but none of them could justify the beauty.
The cruise got over by 8.45PM and we grabbed our dinner and headed back to our hotel-the Winfield Inn and Garden, a beautiful, cozy place overlooking the lake with a huge garden which is open to public. It was very clean and we loved it there, especially the owner’s cat, Rosy. Oh yeah..I’m a cat person. 😛
So that was our first day at Apostle Islands .When I sat down to write, I thought it would be just one blog. But you know, a love at first sight affair cannot be explained in a few words, right? So stay tuned for my next post on our Day 2 at the Apostle islands which was even more exciting than Day1.
See you guys soon..!!