This years incarnation of the ISKS was almost perfect. The weather, crowd, facilities, food, and yes, even the beer supply all cooperated quite nicely. I figure I can squeeze at least 2 or 3 posts out of this event and the first one, properly enough, should involve getting there.
A lot of folks came a long way to attend this event. I did my normal 3 hr 45 min drive via the Thirsty Pagan (growler stop), set up my tent at the beautiful Memorial campground in Washburn, and then headed back downtown to see what all the cars with kayaks were doing in front of Patsy's Bar. To be honest, I had a pretty good idea what they were doing before I walked in. The next morning I overheard some folks from Illinios complaining about the drive at breakfast until a couple fellows at the next table leaned over and told them they had driven all night from Sudbury, ON. The gang from Naturally Superior Adventures in Wawa, ON drove halfway around Lake Superior to attend. One of their guys complained that when he was driving everyone slept and that when he was trying to sleep they were all awake talking. The hazards of car pooling I guess. Many folks came early or stayed late to take advantage of paddling the islands while they were in the area. We took a very nice paddle south of Washburn on Thursday morning with Pod, the BearWhisperer, and CatamountWalt. As we sat in Patsy's, critiquing the morning's paddle over Summit Pale Ale and half pound burgers, a fellow from another table walked by and commented, "nice blog". I don't think I was sitting there asleep with my mouth open as I am in the blog shot, but he recognized me anyway. They were a group from Indiana that, coincidentally enough, I had seen before but didn't know it. They were coming into Stockton Island on a strong tailwind from the thunderstorm squall line the Saturday before last as we were hunkered down on the beach. We saw a guy go over twice and figured they were taking the opportunity to practice rescues. It was actually a member of their group that was a relatively new paddler, getting a crash course in handling his boat in following seas.
By far the most interesting route to the symposium belonged to RickH, a fellow I'd met up in Grand Marais at the GLSKS a couple years ago. He's a regular guy, a former farmer from south of Rockford, IL, and very passionate about kayaking and paddling Lake Superior specifically. He picked up one of the brand, spanking new Wisconsin water trail maps at Canoecopia last fall and studied it carefully. One of the events at the symposium this year was the official unveiling of the water trail map, which my buddy RangerMark worked on extensively. An insanely addictive interactive version can be found here. I met the guy that set that mapping portal up. He was forced to visit and photograph every site listed on the map, another job that I think I would be perfect for. In any event, Rick looked at the map and figured he would take the week off and paddle to the symposium from Wisconsin Point in Superior, the westernmost point on the trail and scene of many smelting adventures during my misspent youth. He began paddling on Thursday and on Friday reached Port Wing and felt he needed a traditional Wisconsin fish fry. He was directed to the Port Bar, the northernmost outpost of Summit Porter in the state, but it's a couple mile walk from the marina. Rick determined that it would be much closer if he paddled up the Flag River, left his boat under the Hwy 13 bridge, and walked the two blocks to the bar. Now thats resourceful! It must have been a great fish fry because he wound up camping there on Friday night. He continued his trip along the south shore, through the Apostles, and along the south shore of Long Island, past Ashland, and up to Thompson's West End Park where the symposium was held. Very appropriately, he spoke about his trip at the water trail kick off on Thursday night at Stage North in Washburn.
The bottom line is that roughly 180 folks made it to Washburn, some by more interesting means than others, and it made for a great symposium. More to follow.