As the story goes, Martin Hanson, the great northern Wisconsin conservationist, raconteur, and Progressive Democrat, helped orchestrate President Kennedy's trip to the Apostles in 1963. Sen.Gaylord Nelson, for whom the wilderness area is named, talked Kennedy into visiting the area in hopes of gaining national park status. Apparently Martin got in touch with every marina owner in the area and told them to kick the sailboat owners in the ass and get them out on the water when Kennedy, an avid sailor, flew over the area. It must have helped because we now enjoy the Apostle Islands National Lakeshore. Last Saturday high level national political attention returned. While a bunch of us were paddling for Madeline Island, herding swimmers, the Secretary of the Interior, Ken Salazar, and the House Appropriations Committe Chairman, Wisconsin Congressman Dave Obey were beginning a tour of the park.
The VoiceOfReason and the MayorOfTurtleRiver encountered the entourage at park HQ in Bayfield while picking up their permits. Predicatably, the exhibits in the small museum held more interest for them than the talking heads in the auditorium. That was probably a good thing because if the Mayor had struck up a conversation it could have severely delayed the start of the politico's tour. This was also the start of the 3rd Annual Womyn's (no men)Weekend Trip and they were on their way to meet MadCityMary at Red Cliff for the crossing to Oak Island, the first prong of a three wave female assault on the Oak spit. From reports in the Ashland Daily Press it sounds as though things went well on the tour. They hit the Raspberry Island light,Sand Island, the mainland sea caves, and the stunningly beautiful Julian Bay on Stockton. Park Super Bob Krumenaker wisely prepared a few different itineraries, being well aware that the Lake is the Boss. The forecast, which turned out to be slightly off (!) called for 20-25 knot northeast winds with waves 3-5'. What actually showed up at 6am was mild temps and a light breeze out of the NNE, perfect weather for the Point to LaPointe swim, wild Womyn, and politicians. My guess is that having the Interior Secretary and Congressman Obey heaving over the side of a park service boat might not have given them the best impression of the park. I had that happen to me during a UWEC geology Stockton Island field trip in 1975, where the perfect storm of large waves, a small boat, and a quart of blackberry brandy led me directly to the rail for most of the crossing back to Bayfield. It's no fun ladies and gentlemen. I guess the only thing I questioned about the report in the paper, as a militant omnivore, was the choice of hummus and veggie sandwiches for lunch. In an effort to promote local industry I think I would have offered a venison sausage sandwich from Jim's Meat Market in Iron River and a choice of either South Shore Brown Ale from the brewery in Ashland or some mead from the White River Winery in Iron River. I would have been honored to donate some venison beer sticks had I known, and Superintendent K could have used those savory and tangy treats to illustrate and educate Secretary Salazar on the deer predation problems for the Canadian Yew on York and Sand Islands. Check out the guilty looking Sand Island Yew killer below.
Its great to get some national recoginition for the park and also some greenbacks. It sounds like Congressman Obey has managed to secure $5 million bucks for lighthouse restoration as well. That is wonderful because they just ain't making lighthouses any more and we need to preserve the ones we have. The light on Outer, which takes a real effort to visit via kayak, seems close to falling into the lake because of the shore erosion. One would hope that the staffing, infrastructure, and lighthouse issues will benefit from the trip. The park is on my short list of things I don't mind spending my Federal tax dollars on and I can't help but think that people who have visited the area, including even politicians, feel the same.
UPDATE/NEWS FLASH: Apparently the Daily Press reporter must have received or saw someone receive a hummus and veggie sandwich. I just learned from one of the occupants of the three boat convoy that everyone got to pick their sandwich. This would make complete sense since Secretary Salazar is as rancher out in Colorado and, I would assume, a guy who has more than a passing acquaintance with a rare roast beef sandwich. I still like the idea of venison sausage and South Shore Brown Ale but a horseradish roast beef and swiss is much more soothing to my psyche than the idea of a bunch of guys eating hummus on Stockton Island.