Posts Tagged ‘Apostle Islands’

Lake slippery as silk. Gentle tailwind puffing me along. The biggest quiet I’ve been in in a long, long time.

 

stillwater

 

The day started with a walk around sleepy Cornucopia with Lucas Will, who let me stay on his sailboat, Si Como No, last night, which was one of many kindnesses he extended over the brief time we were together. He also cooked up some brats, filled me with fine Wisconsin beer, and passed on a boatload of insights he has about getting around Superior, based on a kayak circumnavigation he and a friend completed four years ago. He also unhesitatingly offered to loan me a battery for my solar charger, as mine isn’t holding a charge like it used to.

 

Lucas Will and Tisha

Lucas Will and Tisha

 

Lucas had emailed me a few months ago, after finding greatlakescanoe.com. He wants to paddle around the other Great Lakes, too, and wanted to talk with me about my experience. I wrote back to tell him I was going to attempt the south shore of Superior, and he said I should look him up when I made it to Corny. He and his girlfriend, Natalie, recently bought the sailboat, and he’s living on it this summer while he leads kayak trips to the Apostle Islands for the local outfitter, and Natalie’s off leading a small group of high school girls on a 45-day backpacking trek through the Brooks Range. At least that was the original plan.

The morning I arrived, Lucas found out he’d been selected for a job running an outdoor education program at Northland College, in Ashland. The job starts in early August, and he said he was pretty sure he was going to take it. A regular paycheck, a chance to pay off his student loans, insurance, and it’s actually in his field of study.

I said goodbye to Lucas at the outfitter, and headed back to the sailboat to collect my gear. Seaweed was also tied up at the dock, so I went through my ritual of laying prone on the dock, reaching down to pull off the cover, stepping down into the seat, reaching back up for the drybags, camera box, water containers and the rest of the flotsam, and smushing it all into the bow and stern. Then I pulled the cover back over, zipping open the space around the cockpit for yours truly.
An Army Corps of Engineers’ pickup truck arrived at the launch ramp near me as I was wrapping up, dropping a big aluminum work boat into the marina basin. A smiling guy in an ample blue work shirt walked along the dock, looked down and asked, “Travelin’ light?” “Trying to,” I said. “What a beautiful day, eh?”
“Yes sir, sure is. We’re just gonna do some survey work in the channel. It’s my last day, and it’s her first day,” he said, nodding toward the young woman in an orange life vest at the boat’s wheel, as she backed the boat into the steel sheeting lining the ramp. “You retiring?” Big smile. “Yes sir, sure am.”
They motored out, she at the wheel, he leaning back in a seat at the stern. I unmoored Seaweed, and floated away, snapping a couple of photos of Si Como No as I glided past her. The work boat was banging into the channel rip rap as I left, and the man who wasn’t coming to work tomorrow gave me a big wave.

 

SiComoNo

Si Como No (Why Not?)

 

I crossed a two-mile bay and entered the Apostle Islands National Seashore. Tall, red sandstone bluffs jut up from the lake 50 feet. Countless waves have carved smooth caves into the base. I paddled through a 20 foot wide fissure 40 feet into the bluff. High above, a massive slab of rock spans the chasm. I ogled, the lake gurgled.

 

sandstonebluffs

 

cave

 

Over the next couple of hours I encountered three groups of kayakers, their bright colored boats brilliant against the dark water and burnt red rock. I considered heading out to one of the islands, but saw a lovely stretch of sand beach on the mainland, and was lured in. It was still early afternoon, but the beer last night and the heat today had tired me out. And it was so quiet, I just wanted to stop and listen.

 

quiet