Monday, June 16, 2008

Apostle Islands bear (box) update

A group of seven of us did a little 30 mile swing up in the Apostle Islands this weekend and touched Oak, Stockton, Hermit, and Basswood islands on the trip. When we arrived at Stockton on Saturday, it was apparent that the campsite we had reserved was actually a NPS designated Mosquito Breeding Natural Area. Fortunately we were able to make contact with the Park Service and get our campsite switched to the lovely site in the photo. Unfortunately this change was not communicated to the patrolling rangers in their Zodiac boat with twin Honda 4 stroke outboards because they cut their engines about a half mile offshore, eyeballed us with binoculars, and then docked and strolled the 400 meters through the woods to check us out. We were illegal of course. An individual site is only allowed 7 people and 3 tents. We had the seven people but five tents. We had most tents on the designated pad and had erected the extra tents on the sand beach, and avoided any impact on the grasses or beach peas growing in the area. The rangers forgave our minor violation and complimented us on our foresight. They commented on our extensive canned beer collection as well and really liked RonO's pint beer glass; they felt it added class to the camp. They also gave us the Apostles bear update for early 2008.

As readers may recall, three kayak clubs, the Prairie Coast Paddlers, CASKA, and SKOAC, along with some matching funds from the Friends of the Apostle Islands group, collected enough money for 3 new bear boxes. I spoke with Randy Ross, the maintenance guy at AINL, and he said the three boxes were ordered and when they arrived they would be installed on the Outer Island spit, Hermit Island, and Long Island. Outer needs a bear box badly and Hermit has been closed since sometime last year, due to bear activity, and only has wilderness camping available. Maybe the bear box signals a new official campsite in the offing. Long island is actually connected to the mainland and has been for the last 30 years or so. It is more of a spit or a point and is mainly used by local folks and boaters rather than paddlers. The two rangers that stopped to check us out told us there were a number of bear wandering on Long Island and that the reason the bear(s) on Hermit were so bold was because some idiots had thrown food at them to make them go away. Pitching an alcoholic a bottle of whiskey to make him quit pestering you would usually be thought of as a short term and short sighted solution and in this case it most certainly was. No one seems to know when Hermit will open for camping again.

Wisconsin has plenty of bears, a lot more than they thought 12 months ago. A new census method which made its debut this year, seems to indicate that the Badger state has twice the number of bears, 25,000 or so, that we were supposed to have last year. Three of these bears, mom and her two cubs, have closed the mainland trail and campsite near the Meyers Beach sea caves in the AINL as well. We were told they were hanging around the parking lot feeding on a deer carcass and 'acting aggressively' toward visitors. This should be short term once the deer is devoured, unless some moron decides to throw a bag of marshmallows to the bears.

After a pleasant and informative exchange, the NPS rangers fired up their boat and headed back toward Bayfield. We made supper, switched from Newcastle Brown ale to Guiness Stout, and settled in to watch the moon come out over camp. Another wonderful evening on Lake Superior with a fine group of kayakers. More details on this mini-trip to follow....

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