Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Bayfield, WI; Apostle Islands

We absolutely fell in love with this place last year.  Readers of the blog from back then may remember that we had never heard of the Apostle Islands until we stopped at Camp Mishawaka, the wilderness camp near Grand Rapids, MN where Jeremy had been a counselor when he was in college.  The director there suggested we go there rather than our initial plan to visit Isle Royale, so we followed his suggestion, thinking we'd stay a day or so.  But we were so taken with the place once we got here that we stayed a week--just so spectacularly beautiful and so many things to see and do.

When we left last year we thought we'd eventually visit again, but really didn't think it would be this year.  We originally planned to go to Glacier National Park after visiting our friends near Billings, and then head on up into Canada and then go east across Canada to the maritime provinces.  But, in keeping with one of the things we like most about RVing, we decided to change our plans when it became obvious we would not have much time to spend in Glacier, figuring we'd do that next year when we had more time.  So we looked at the map and decided to stay in the US for most of our trek back east before entering Canada when we're closer to New Brunswick and the other provinces.  Once we did that, we realized that it would be right on our new route to come back to Bayfield, and, since it would be our 46th anniversary, we thought what better place to celebrate!  So we did some concentrated driving once we left Wendell and Jennifer and boogied on over to what's become one of our favorite places in the country.

We arrived late Thursday afternoon and checked into the same campground where we had stayed last year, just outside of Bayfield.  Friday we drove into town and took a leisurely stroll around town, enjoying going into lots of the interesting shops here, and once again marveling at the beautiful flowers that adorn the downtown, and people's yards.  Stopped in our favorite fish shop to get a little smoked whitefish--have to step off the vegan express from time to time when we find such wonderful local delicacies!--enjoyed a sidewalk display of some of the large decorative pieces of  sandstone and brownstone that once was a major export item of the local economy.  Lots of this stone was quarried on several of the islands and shipped to the east--much of it used to make NYC's famous brownstones--until newer construction techniques and materials were found to be more efficient for making taller buildings.

Early Friday afternoon we just took it easy, lounging around the campground, reading and napping under the shade of the trees around our campsite.  After several days of driving, it was nice to just chill for a while.  Later in the afternoon we drove to Washburn, a little town just up the road, and went to see our friend, Mary Ross, who we met last year.  She has a studio there called Lake Superior Drifting Stone Jewelry, where she makes the most unusual creations out of driftwood and stones she collects along the shores of Lake Superior.  Last year we had heard about her work, but every time we went by her shop she wasn't there.  Fortunately, the last day we were in the area she was open and we got to meet her, and just connected immediately.  She is such a joyous person and puts so much of her love of life and beauty into the jewelry she makes.  She's so cute, she gets attached to each piece she makes, and it's almost like she's having you adopt one of her children when you get one of her creations.  We were so happy she was there on Friday, as I had learned earlier that she was going to Minneapolis for a show for the weekend, and was not sure we'd get to see her.  We had fun catching up on what we've all been up to over the last year, and found the perfect necklace for Trisha for our anniversary!  If you're looking for really unique jewelry, check out Mary's work on her website--really beautiful things.

On the way back we went to Blue Vista Farm, not too far from the campground, where we had picked blueberries last year.  We figured that, since we were here a month later last year, the blueberries might not be ready for picking, especially since we had only seen their sign for raspberries.  When we got there, though, they told us that some of the blueberries were ripe enough to pick.  Since it was late, we just picked raspberries, deciding to come back another day for the blueberries.  Boy are those raspberries scrumptious!  Trisha found a recipe for a vegan fruit pie and it's out of sight-mouth-watering-drip-down-your-chin-out-of-this-world delicious!!

Saturday we took the Grand Tour--a boat tour around all of the islands, which we had not been able to do last year.  It was a great day--clear sky, calm waters and really beautiful.  The captain/narrator was very knowledgeable about the history of the area and shared lots of facts and figures about the lake.  Since it was such a calm day the boat was able to get up close to the sea caves, which we had seen by kayak last year.  Brought back a lot of wonderful memories of that trip!

That evening we went to Big Top Chautauqua to a concert by Lyle Lovett and his Large Band.  Our luck continues to stay with us--last year we were able to see Leo Kotke at the Big Top, and this year Lyle Lovett--just super!  And it turned out that they had two tickets left in the section that turned out to be about the best seats in the house.  Lovett put on a wonderful concert--2 1/2 hours with no intermission.  We had never seen him in concert, but it was a great show.  He really showcases the individual talents of the 12 band members, giving them all a time to shine.  He is such a quirky guy--hair still looks like he stuck his finger in an electrical socket, and every one of them were dressed in suits and ties--been a long time since I've seen that with musicians, other than a symphony.  We met a lovely volunteer usher who gave us some great suggestions on where to find fresh cherries and some other places to see in the area, and we also saw our friend, Myra, who we met last year.  She's this energetic woman from Chicago who's been coming to the Apostles each summer for years, and is on the board of the Big Top.  We had such fun visiting with her last year, and were happy to see her again this year.

Some scenes from downtown Bayfield
 Just love the beautiful flowers they have everywhere throughout the downtown area

 Aren't these just spectacular??!!
 Pink sandstone pieces in a display downtown; examples of the carvings from the stone they did to decorate buildings
 Outside one of our favorite shops here

 At Mary Ross' Lake Superior Drifting Stone Jewelry studio in Washburn--she obviously puts a lot of effort into how the outside of her studio looks
 Mary has such an eye for driftwood when she goes collecting--this piece just outside her door brings to mind the Madonna and Child
 The flower gardens outside the sales barn at Blue Vista Farms--just stunning!

 Look at these raspberries we picked!!
 Saturday on the Grand Tour of the islands, leaving Bayfield Marina

 Some not too shabby houses, with a church spire behind them
 Some of the pink rocks on Basswood Island
 These big square rocks were originally quarried, but for some unknown reason were left on the island
 A little hard to pick out, but a bald eagle up in the tree
 Love these rocks!
 This tower was once connected completely to the main part of the island, but years and years of the water having its way, it's now almost completely separated
 An old encampment from when settlers first inhabited one of the islands; now a volunteer ranger lives there during the summer, without any electricity, living completely off the land
 Channel marker about a quarter mile off this island; the narrator said it's only 2 ft. deep from the marker to the island--quite treacherous
 C-130 doing maneuvers overhead

 Coming up to the sea caves
 Lighthouse marking the way between the mainland and Big Sand Island

 This is the area where we explored in sea kayaks last year--just love it!!

 Lighthouse on another of the islands

 Lighthouse on Raspberry Island--the actual light in the tower has been restored for historical purposes; this is the only one of the islands where you can get of the boat on one of the tours to explore.  The actual light is now a completely automated one, just on a pole by the small brick building next to the original lighthouse
 This was the building for the lighthouse, and also served as the quarters for the keeper, his family and the assistant and his family, equally sized units of a duplex.  The only thing that showed a difference in their ranks was that the path from the outhouse from the keeper's quarters was paved, while that for the assistant was just dirt--rank has always had its privileges!!

 Setting up for a wedding by the water on Saturday afternoon--some folks on the tour were here for the wedding--looks like a lovely setting
 The delicious fruit pie Trisha made, topped by Blue Vista Farm's fresh raspberries--YUMMY!!

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