Road Trip: Apostle Islands

I met someone. We started talking in May after I returned from my Florida trip. There was an immediate spark. After two weeks of talking, we had our first date, a hike on the Red Cedar Trail in Menomonie, shortly before I left on my New York trip. Ever since I returned from New York in July, we have been spending most weekends together in Menomonie, where he lives. Weekends are sometimes turning into 7-10 day stretches so it was only a matter of time before we embarked on our first road trip together. We decided to book a public boat tour of the Apostle Islands, a place that has been on my bucket list for quite some time. While we were in the area, and since we had all day, we decided to also add in a hike on Madeline Island at Big Bay State Park.

We hit the road early on Saturday and quickly came across a picture perfect scene over Lake Menomin, where the fog hovered in interesting patterns just above the water while also creeping in a bit higher up too. I pulled the car off the main road and found a spot to pull over and snap a few photos of the majestic scene. I took this as a good sign that the day was going to provide plenty of opportunities to capture more beautiful scenery.

Lake Menomin

Before long, we were back on the road and just over 3-hours later, found ourselves arriving at the ferry terminal in Bayfield, Wisconsin. The online schedule had said that a ferry would be departing every hour on the hour and being as it was 10:15 AM, we figured the next ferry would be departing at 11:00 AM, giving us plenty of time to pick up a food order we called in to one of the local restaurants ahead of time. When the attendant came over to collect the ferry fee though, it was explained that the next ferry would be leaving at 10:30 AM. Suddenly there was a rush to pickup the food quickly and get back before the ferry took off. While I finagled the car in the ferry lineup, Luke ran a few blocks away to pick up the food. Shortly after he left though, the cars started pulling onto the ferry and I had no choice but to drive on with them. I started to worry about whether or not Luke would make it back in time before the ferry took off as well as worried about whether or not he would be able to get on the ferry since I held the ticket. I explained the situation to one of the staff on board and she explained that he would have no issues getting back on, just to let the attendant know that he was with me and I was already on board. Luke indeed did make it back just in time and soon we were headed off to Madeline Island, together.

Big Bay State Park, Madeline Island

It has been 9-years since I’ve been to this island so I was eager to explore a new section of the park. The original plan was to hike the entire outer loop of the park but we quickly realized that we would not have time to do that as I was finding way too many interesting things to stop and take pictures of along the way. We were both ok with that and just enjoyed taking our time exploring, where we found lots of cool mushrooms, scenic overlooks, and some beautiful fall colors in sections of the forest. We did have to make sure to keep an eye on the time though so we could catch the 2:30 PM ferry in order to make it back for the boat tour. Luckily we managed to do that with no issues at all.

Once back on the mainland, we had a little time to stop and grab a bite to eat. The first few places we tried had a long wait so we ended up at Greunke’s restaurant and both ordered a grilled cheese sandwich and soup, thinking it would be super quick and easy. Unfortunately, even that ended up taking a long time. By the time we were able to wharf down our food and run over to the line for the boat a couple blocks away, there were already lots of people ahead of us. I began to worry that we would not be able to get good seats on top of the boat where I could take lots of pictures. I tried my best not to stress too much and hope for the best but I’m not sure how successful I was at that. Once on board, there were only a few seats left on top of the boat in the open air section. We found two seats and crammed ourselves in between one person to my left and two people to Luke’s right. It was a tight fit and super uncomfortable and we were stuck that way for 2 ½ hours. Taking photos proved to be really difficult for several reasons. First, I didn’t have a lot of room to move around to angle my camera properly. Second, I had to shoot around the people to my left and over the boat railing. Lastly, with many of the islands, we did not get very close so getting a clear shot of anything meaningful was difficult, especially while wielding my camera up high over people while angling my viewfinder down to see what I was shooting, all while the sun reflected against the screen, obscuring my view. I ended up just taking lots of photos and hoping at least a few of them would work out.

Devils Island

The sun set shortly before we got back to dock. Despite the cold ride back, it was a pretty site as we were greeted by a big, beautiful rising moon amidst a purple sky. Once docked, I quickly ran to the end of the pier to get some photos of the sky before we hit the road and made our way back to Menomonie. Since our last dining experience in Bayfield was less than stellar, we decided to try to grab dinner somewhere outside of town while on the way home. Unfortunately, due to the time of night, we didn’t have a lot of options. We decided to grab a quick bite in Hayward, something that should have been uneventful but we ended up witnessing the strangest display of road rage between two trucks who were fighting over position in the drive-thru line, apparently they couldn’t agree who arrived first. It all seemed very petty but I don’t think either of us would have been surprised to see it escalate into something violent. We held our breath for a bit, hoping for the best, and luckily nothing too dramatic happened after that. Once back on the road, we had a few near misses with wildlife road crossings, a few deer and one bear. Luckily my brakes work really well and everyone is safe and sound. Exhausted, we pulled into the driveway around 11:00 PM and were glad to be home and get some sleep.

Moonrise (Bayfield, Wisconsin)

All in all though it was a good day. We learned a few valuable lessons for future travels, most importantly that we do better together when there is less on the agenda so one activity per day going forward. I’ll be sure to save my marathon excursions for my solo travels. Also, no more public tours as neither one of us enjoy being crammed in with a bunch of other people. If we do end up doing any tours in the future, they will be private ones as I think the added cost is worth the privacy and overall makes for a much more pleasant experience. Next up on the agenda: hiking at Hoffman Hills and kayaking at Lake Eau Galle. Stay tuned…

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