Tuesday, July 8, 2008
Day trip to Devils
After a visit from some of our Renegade buddies on Rocky, our crew saddled up for a day trip to Devils Island on unbelievably calm seas. The main draw on Devils is the sea caves, by far the best in the islands, and if there are any seas at all from a 180 degree radius from west/north/east you realize very quickly how they were formed and why they are so large. If you attempted to venture inside with any sort of wave activity you would be like that pair of colored underwear that you watch tumbling around in the front loading washing machine at the laundromat. We were psyched by the calm waters and a chance to play in the caves.
Devils Island is farthest out in the lake as well as the farthest north of the Apostles archipelago. The climate is so inhospitable for most of the year that the entire north half of the island is true boreal forest. Like a true northern latitude area there are fewer species but more individuals. No deer or bear out there and plenty of the increasingly rare Canadian Yew ( like candy for the deer) to prove it. They do have black flies however. We had GurneyGranny on suicide watch but she made it through the lighthouse tour without going insane. The lighthouse volunteer told us of two guys from Missouri who came to fix the NOAA weather station, which seems to always be on the fritz. Even though they had heavy repair gear, they literally ran the mile from the south landing up to the lighthouse to avoid being consumed by black flies.
The lighthouse has been there since 1891 and had a third order Frensel lens installed in 1901. the US Coast Guard removed the lens in 1989 and local citizens and friends of the park got it returned, as I understand it, by sueing in Federal court. Since no one seems to know where most of the Fresnel lenses went after the Coast Guard removed them and they are irreplaceable, this was a good move. The tower itself was reinforced after light keepers complained that the fall and winter winds made it sway so much it was impossible to get up there to service the light. The keepers quarters are two very nice Queen Anne style houses and the view across the lake to Minnesota's North Shore are spectacular.
And then there are the caves. RonO and BemidjiIntelOfficer have some great shots of the caves on their blog; that crew was there the day before (BessemerConvivialist, ManFromSnowyLegs, and BemidjiIntelOfficer) were the ones that paid us the morning visit on their way to Oak. Rather than babble more, here are a few shots.
On the rocks where you haul out there are etchings, including one of a stylized Devil. According to my ultimate Apostles history source RangerBob, the devil was there in 1925 already and was described in an interview with the son of lighthouse keeper Hans Christensen,who arrived on Devils with his family in 1925. He also stated that the carving had been done by a woman but we have no way of verifying that statement. On the tip of the island is an eagle (photo from RangerBob) that we likely walked right by, as well as the 13 with the swoosh which seems to allude to devilish activity.
Its a great spot made better by the effort that it takes to get there plus the uncertainty of the weather once you actually do. We got lucky, the stars aligned this time and we were able to land, tour the light and its up close Fresnel lens, and also paddle the caves. We also got back to camp which can sometimes be dicey since the weather out there can turn in an instant. A wonderful all around day.