A Visit to Outer Island

In all the years we’ve been vacationing in Bayfield, Wisconsin, we’ve visited almost every one of the Apostle Islands that can be accessed by boat. This year marked our eleventh annual trip to Bayfield and Captain Bill informed us that there was only one island we hadn’t visited – Outer Island. It would take forty-five minutes to get to Outer Island by boat, and since it was such a long distance away, the weather had to cooperate if we were going to go. Lucky for us, we had perfect weather every day.

040bWe were good and windblown by the time we arrived at Outer Island, but no one cared because the scene that greeted us upon our arrival was so amazing. The Outer Island lighthouse stood proudly before us, framed by a spotless blue sky. And there were no other boats docked at the pier. We had the place to ourselves. We all climbed out of the boat and began the long ascent up a huge flight of steps to reach the lighthouse.

In years past, when we’ve visited some of the Apostle Islands and their lighthouses, there were often volunteers stationed on the islands to provide a bit of history and a tour of the lighthouse. Not at Outer Island. I would imagine that being as far removed as it is, there are few visitors to Outer Island and therefore no need for volunteers. We couldn’t go inside, but we could look in the windows and wander the property. It was amazing. What a lonely, rugged life it must have been for the lighthouse keepers.

052We walked around and marveled at the old structures before heading back down the stairs to have a picnic lunch on the pier.  It was a perfect day to sit out in the sun and I seemed to have worked up a serious appetite. (Must have been all that stair climbing!) After we finished eating, everyone went off to explore. We climbed over the big rocks on the shoreline and made our way to the beach on the other side. We walked barefoot in the hot sand and dipped our feet in the cold water of Lake Superior. We collected rocks and took in the beauty of the majestic lake. Such a beautiful place, Lake Superior. I never get tired of looking at it and never cease to feel in awe of its size, depth and sparkling clear waters.

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098After exploring the lighthouse side of the island, we all piled back into the boat and headed to the other side of the island to hang out at the beach. The water was so clear and sandy that Bill could beach the boat and we could all just hop out into the water and wade to shore. It was beautiful there. It almost felt as if we were on a tropical island. If the water wasn’t so cold, I might have believed I was.

The beach itself and its views were spectacular. Mark trekked to the far end and made his way out onto a sandbar.

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I played in the sand.

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We marveled at the driftwood scattered all over the beach.

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And laughed at the surprises other visitors left for us to find.

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No one was in a hurry to leave, but we’d been out in the sun too long. Our faces were showing signs of sunburn and there was salmon marinating back at the condo for dinner. It was time to go.
206bWe all look forward to another year and another island adventure!

Just Ducky

One thing we can count on each year when we return to Bayfield is the ducks. Just outside the back door of the condo is a deck that looks over a quiet little bay. Beyond the bay is a spectacular view of Lake Superior, but inside the bay, there are herons, turtles and sunfish. One year there was a family of otters. This year we saw geese. And always, there are the ducks.

006bWe always make sure to have plenty of food to share with them. The ducks only need to hear the sound of the screen door sliding open to know that food is on the way. They paddle in the shallow water below the deck, racing each other for bread crumbs, pretzel bits and handfuls of cereal that we toss down below.

014bMama duck had babies with her this year. She hung back when we broke up slices of bread and she allowed her little ones to enjoy all they could eat. Julie walked down the deck stairs to the dock and laid down on her belly, holding hunks of bread out to Mama. She was hoping that Mama duck would eat from her hand and if she’d had a little more time and patience, it may have eventually happened. But Julie gave up and joined us in the side yard for a game of bean bags instead.

As we tossed our bean bags back and forth, talking and laughing at our lack of bean bag skills, we noticed movement in the grass along the shore of the bay. Mama duck and her babies had come up the bank into the yard, looking for Julie. If they could talk, I’m sure we would hear them ask, “Is there more bread?”

Julie set down her bean bags and looked at the little duck family. “Wait right there,” she said. “I’ll be right back.” Julie hurried into the house and quickly returned with an enormous bagel which she began to crumble and toss toward the ducks.

012bMama duck was getting comfortable with Julie, enough to bring her babies up into the yard where all of us “girls” were playing the game. We all stopped to watch the duck family come closer and closer to Julie and the big bagel. They were so cute!

024bWhen the bagel was gone, Julie returned to the game. Mama took her babies back into the water where they all swam in circles nearby, probably hoping that another bagel or slice of bread would be brought out. In a last-ditch effort, they made one last trip up the bank into the yard, but when no more bread was produced, they waddled back to the water and swam off to wherever home is. We knew they would be back the next morning.

Back from Bayfield

Mark and I have just returned from our eleventh annual visit to Lake Superior and the Apostle Islands by way of beautiful Bayfield, Wisconsin. The weather was sheer perfection. We couldn’t have asked for better days.

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Mark walking along the beach on Outer Island

Shortly after our arrival, I stood on the deck of our rental and took in the stunning view of the lake. The shimmering sun glinted off the water and a feeling came over me, as if my whole body had been wound into tight knots and was now relaxing in a way I’d forgotten I was capable of.

It was good. I needed a break. It gave me a chance to step back from everyday life and remember what’s important. And I came home with a new resolve – to make it a point to relax more often and generally, to try to get back to doing the kinds of things that fulfill me, like writing, reading, exercising, photography and cooking. (Did I really just say “cooking”?)

More pictures to come after I’ve had a chance to do some catching up…

Relaxing in Bayfield, Wisconsin

We’ve just returned from our tenth annual vacation to Bayfield, Wisconsin with Bill and Tammy, Dennis and Julie, and Dave and Julie.  Lake Superior looks the same, so beautifully intimidating, so majestic. The time away was nice.

As the years go by, we find ourselves reminiscing more about past years.

“What year did Dave’s tongue swell up after eating walleye,” someone will ask?

“Remember the year we rented mopeds and did a photo scavenger hunt on Madeline Island? How long ago was that?”

“When did we … tour the fish camp? … climb the lighthouse on Raspberry island? … go on the ghost tour in town? … start visiting all of the apple orchards?”

“How long ago was it that the boat engine quit and we had to get towed back to the marina by that family with the huge boat?”

We should have started writing these things down from the very beginning, but honestly, I don’t think any of us thought this would become an annual thing. We started out as mere acquaintances, our only common bond being Bill and Tammy. We’re not sure why they chose three couples from different circles of their friends to spend several days together on vacation with them, but we’re glad they did. It worked out so well the first year that we did it again a second year, and again and again. And now it’s been ten years that we’ve done this together. We are all very different people, but each year when we return to Bayfield, we have the best times!

Every year when we travel to the resort, the guys ride together in Bill’s truck and tow the big boat. The girls all ride together, behind the guys, keeping an eye on the boat and trailer. This year’s trip started off with a bang as we watched a trailer tire blow and fall to shreds on the road ahead of us. Bill managed to safely pull the trailer on to the shoulder and within twenty minutes, the guys had the tire changed and we were back on the road. Not long afterwards, we stopped at a small-town restaurant for lunch. We had the best burgers I can remember in a long while, with buns soaked in butter and then toasted. YUM! This is when Tammy pulled out a sheet of notebook paper and we started to jot down memories from years past.

Every year when we go on vacation, each of us has a partner for games and activities. My partner is always Dennis. Mark is always with Tammy. And then there’s Bill with Julie W, and Dave with Julie G. Dennis and I, both being somewhat the quiet type, have a quiet and respectful partnership. Dave and Julie G are the ones to watch. They poke fun at each other and make like they’re mad at one another. On our last night while playing cards, Dave was making fun of Julie’s allergies, mimicking her and inserting loud, obnoxious SNIFFS between words. She, in turn made fun of the way he held his cards. They kept at it, scowling and scoffing at one another until the rest of us were crying with laughter!

The weather this year was cooler than last year. The sky was overcast much of the time, and sweatshirts were necessary attire. But we got a little sun too. We made a trip out to Stockton Island, docked the boat and had lunch and walked the beach. Bill and Julie W braved the water and actually went for a swim despite the cold. Not me! No thanks!

We visited Madeline Island, as we do every year, and paid a visit to Tom’s Burned Down Cafe, as we always do. We shopped in town, where Mark and I bought “Bayfield” sweatshirts, as we always do. And we visited several apple orchards, one with a quaint little gift shop and a bakery that filled the place with the delicious aroma of warm apple donuts!

The mornings this year, though, were my favorite part of this trip. I tend to let up on my morning runs while I’m on vacation here, but am often joined by one or more of the girls for a good walk to start the day. This year, Mark, Tammy and Julie G felt the draw of the local casino each morning. And it was worth it. Mark won a couple hundred dollars one morning. Julie G won almost five hundred the next. And while they were busy gambling, Bill, Dennis and Dave were out in the boat, hoping to catch some fish. (They never did catch any this time around.)

With everyone else otherwise occupied, Julie W and I would take off for a walk. Last year, we discovered the The Brownstone Trail not far from the condos where we stay. It’s a beautiful trail that meanders through the trees along the shore of Lake Superior and it is filled with beautiful scenery. We stopped to marvel at the beautiful mansions and quaint country homes along the way. We paused where the trees opened up, finding ourselves speechless at the majesty of Lake Superior before us. We greeted friendly strangers along the way. An older couple, each walking a dog, stopped to wait as we approached. As we came upon them, the man nodded to his dog and said, “Friday wanted to say hello. Her name is Friday, as in TGIF, thank God it’s Friday.”

We paused to show Friday some love, and give some to her pal, Sophie as well, whose leash was held by the man’s wife. We continued along the path for several miles until we reached the town of Bayfield, and then turned around to go back. On the return trip, we again ran across the man and his wife.

“Hello again,” we said to them. The woman smiled and continued walking, but the man paused again, saying, “Friday wanted to say hello. Her name is Friday, as in TGIF, thank God it’s Friday.”

Julie and I exchanged a quick glance, shrugged and smiled at the man again, and paused to pet Friday and tell her how pretty she was before we continued on our way.

Throughout our walks each day, Julie and I would talk. I don’t see Julie but a couple of times a year, but when we’re in Bayfield, we share a connection. A few years ago, we discovered that an uncle of hers was the brother of an uncle of mine. Her mom’s sister, Lois was married to Keith, whose brother, Ben was married to my mom’s sister, Elaine. Julie and I visited the same family farm when we were growing up, yet never knew each other. And maybe this is part of what connects us, but I think we felt a connection even before we knew we were sort of related. We’re able to talk to each other about so many things, like struggles we’ve faced with our kids and the importance of family and knowing our roots. I don’t mean to take anything from anyone else in the group. I laugh harder and relax more with these people than I do any other time of year. There’s just something about Julie W that really touches me. We’ve discovered a trust and an affection for one another that has come to the surface a bit more than that which I feel with anyone else in our Bayfield group. I cherish those walks we would take together, an hour and a half of time to really talk and learn more about one another. Those walks were the highlight of our trip this year and Julie told me she felt it as much as I did.

With all of our talk about trying to remember the events of each of our past vacations, I wanted to be sure to commit to writing all the things that made this another memorable trip. I’ve done just that since 2006 when I started blogging and as soon as I got home today, I looked back on all of our memories and jotted down what I remembered from those years, then sent it off by email to the group. Next, I need to gather all of my photo files from all of these years and fill in some of the gaps. Then we’ll remember the stories in so much more detail! So here is this year’s contribution to the collection:

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Away from it all

Four whole days we had to get away from reality. Four days of kicking back and sleeping in. Four days of beautiful sunshine and warm temperatures.

It was our ninth annual vacation to Bayfield, Wisconsin with a group of good friends. When we first started doing this, some of us barely knew each other. We had no idea then that we’d come back together and do it a second time the following year. We had no idea that nine years later, we’d still be coming together at this time of year for what had become an annual event.

We ate together and laughed together. We had in-depth conversations, talking about things as simple as our favorite sandwiches when we were kids and about things as complicated as the realization that you never stop worrying about your kids, no matter how old they get. We visited beautiful Lake Superior and the Apostle Islands again. Their beauty never ceases to amaze me, no matter how many times I’ve seen it. We had a wonderful afternoon on a quiet, nearly empty beach, soaking up the sun, taking in the scenery and playing games. I took my camera and explored the beach for a while.

We reconnected with friends we see only a few times a year. We caught up on each other’s lives over the past year and I marveled at the ways we are so different from one another and yet still share so much in common. I realized things about my friends that I hadn’t seen before; things that make them such amazing, strong and good people.

We relaxed and let ourselves forget about things like work and worries and dates and times for a little while.

The beach on Stockton Island

And it was wonderful. But no matter how good it is to get away sometimes, it’s always good to be back home again.

Weekly Photo Challenge: Light

Piglet in Portugal’s photo made me of this one, so I went digging in my files to find it. I took this from the deck of our condo while vacationing in Bayfield, Wisconsin in August of 2008. That was the year I gave a kidney to my dad. I was on vacation two weeks later. I was feeling good but still a little tired during those days, and in spite of that fact, couldn’t seem to sleep in the mornings. This was the view of Lake Superior in those early morning hours.

Back from Bayfield

I’m back!

Had a nice few days off on our 8th annual vacation in Bayfield, Wisconsin and the Apostle Islands in Lake Superior. We couldn’t have asked for better weather. It started out hot and humid, just perfect for a boat ride over to Madeline Island and a day at the beach. The rain held off until the evenings and by Sunday, the temperatures had cooled off a bit and the humidity had vanished. We had a nice breeze, just perfect for a morning of golfing.

The four-hour road trip started off as usual. The men piled into Bill’s big truck, the women into Julie G’s van. The women spent the drive talking and catching up as some of us really only see each other during these few days each year.

As we came into Washburn, Wisconsin, we made a stop at a restaurant called The Rustic Roost. We’d never been there before. Bill just thought it looked like a good place to stop for lunch. True to its name, it was rustic alright, with knotty pine walls and a north woods atmosphere. Our waitress, Marlene was an engaging woman, clearly not used to serving parties of eight. But she did her best to get the orders straight even while Bill was doing his best to tease and distract her. She gave him grief right back and wasn’t even flustered when she served the food and realized she’d never given Dave and Julie’s ticket to the cook. The rest of us tried to eat slowly but were mostly finished by the time Dave and Julie’s food came. Much fun was made of their predicament, and no one really minded having to wait a little longer. Interesting place. The beer and soda were served right in the cans, with an empty glass in which to pour them yourself. I’ve never been served a canned beverage in a restaurant. Must be a Wisconsin thing.

After lunch, it was only a short ride to the condos we’d be renting for the next few days. We checked in with Susie, the proprietor, and heard a few stories of the other guests she has encountered this summer, one of whom managed to shatter the glass on the oven door in her condo. How does one manage that? We promised Susie we wouldn’t break any appliances if we could at all help it.

Soon we were unloading our gear and getting settled in our condos. It was a beautiful day, so after we had settled in, we all piled into Bill’s boat and headed over to Madeline Island. We enjoyed some cocktails at the Beach Bar, then walked a half mile or so to The Inn, where they had a fantastic menu. I couldn’t decide whether or not to try the house special, whitefish, or the fish chowder. My mouth was watering looking at all the options. I finally settled on a Caesar salad with grilled shrimp. The sun was slowly beginning to set over Lake Superior and we had a gorgeous view from our table inside the restaurant. The beach was filled with people enjoying a fabulous summer day on the island and I could feel a much-needed calm beginning to settle over me.

Day two, Friday was another stunning day. First thing in the morning, I wandered out onto our deck to take in the lake and feel the sun warming me as it shimmered on the water. It was beach day. Unfortunately, Tammy had injured her back  the previous week and was feeling in no shape to take a bumpy ride across the waves. Bill said he only planned to stay a couple of hours, so I stayed back at the condo with Tammy while the rest of the group went off to find a new beach and enjoy the water. Tammy and I put our suits on and each grabbed a book. We settled on the deck and immersed ourselves in other worlds for a while until the group returned.

On Friday night, we were supposed to go into town for a ghost tour, but the skies decided to let loose and the tour was delayed. We enjoyed a night of board games instead. Dave wanted to play Cranium, and in spite of a few good-natured protests, I was ready to play. We were paired with partners, and mine was Dennis. Dennis refused to do any charades or acting when our turn called for it, so it was left to me to call on whatever acting skills I might possess. I gave it my all, even singing at one point… “The sun’ll come out… TOMORROW…. bet your bottom dollar that TOMORROW….” Do you think Dennis could guess that the answer was Little Orphan Annie after such a performance? He couldn’t. I embarrassed myself and everything, but he couldn’t remember her name. We lost, but it was fun.

When Saturday arrived, the sun was once again in the sky and it was another beautiful day. The day’s agenda included a trip into town where the women browsed the shops and boutiques, picking up a few mementos to take home from the trip. The guys made themselves comfortable in Morty’s Bar where they shot pool while waiting for the ladies.

The ghost tour had been rescheduled, and after dinner on Saturday night, we loaded ourselves into the vehicles and headed back to town. Our tour guide was “Mad Maud”, who lived in Bayfield in the early 1900s. She met us in front of the old Bayfield library and was ready to scare us with tales of the ghosts of the town. Maud wasn’t a frightening ghost, though. She kept us quite entertained as she led us on a tour of the town, pointing out historic homes and buildings and describing in great detail the history as well as the ghosts who still live within. She was quite a character and she kept me intrigued the entire time. I was sorry to see the tour come to an end a few hours after it had begun, but darkness had settled in and it was time to go back.

By Sunday, it was cool and breezy, a perfect day for golfing. Tammy, with her bad back, and Julie G, with her dislike of golf had decided on a few hours at the casino instead. That left me to enjoy a round of golf with Julie W. and Dave. I only learned to golf a few years ago and I learned specifically so I could golf during a vacation in Bayfield. We didn’t golf the last couple of years and the last time I did was probably the last time we golfed in Bayfield. I wasn’t sure I’d remember what to do. Dave and Julie were patient and helped me with what clubs to use, but by the fifth hole I was feeling bad for holding up the group and I apologized to Julie for being such a drag. She told me not to apologize. She was having fun and she even said that I was “a natural.” I laughed at that, but by the sixth hole, things started to come together and I was only one over par. Once I started to remember everything, I really started having fun and wished we could golf another nine holes. Good thing we didn’t though. The next day, muscles that hadn’t been used in a while reminded me why it was probably best to stop when we did.

After golfing, we met back at the condos where Tammy and Julie G soon returned from the casino, having won little to nothing. The rest of the day was spent relaxing out on the decks and enjoying some cocktails. Instead of dinner, we rounded up all of our snacks and hors d’oeuvres and had a smorgasbord. At one point, some of the guys were out on the deck and began to excitedly call everyone outside. Out in the bay, just below our decks was a family of six otters swimming, diving, splashing and catching fish. They seemed to be performing for us and we watched with amazement at how close they came to us. Mark had his spotting scope set up and we were able to take turns watching the otter antics as if we were only a matter of inches away. I had my camera out and snapped picture after picture. The otters were so amazing, and when I walked down the dock to try to get a closer viewpoint, they actually swam toward me as if expecting me to feed them. This gave Bill the idea to toss some shrimp out to the otters and they dove right after the treats he tossed them.

Later on, when the sun had set and we were all full from grazing on the hors d’oeuvres, Dave decided to take a bag of trash out to the dumpster behind our units. He returned shortly afterwards, looking a little pale and said, “I think I saw a bear.” Now Dave is quite a jokester, so everyone just laughed and said, “Yeah, right.” But Dave soon made it clear he was not kidding. He said he had opened the lid on the side of the dumpster closest to our condos and then tossed in the bag. As he slammed the lid closed, the lid on the other half of the dumpster popped open and he saw the silhouette of what he suspected was a bear. The disbelief soon turned to belief and the guys headed out with a flashlight to get a look for themselves. Mark asked if I cared to join them, but having a deathly fear of large animals, I politely declined. Julie G apparently shares that same fear, but her curiosity got the best of her, so she stood on the back steps while watching the crazy brave guys go in search of their prey. I was glad I hadn’t gone when I heard Julie shouting, “Oh my god, you guys, that’s huge! Oh my god, it’s huge!”

As the group came back inside, they talked excitedly about the bear and not long afterwards we had settled into some card games for the night. It was our last night of vacation and there was a reluctant sort of feeling in the room. But I was missing my kids and in spite of the stress I had been feeling before vacation, I was ready to get back to home and routine.

It was another wonderful vacation. See you next year, Bayfield!

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