Thursday, August 9, 2012

Return to Ironwood Island

When our intrepid foursome finally launched from Red Cliff on Monday morning en route to the Ironwood spit, we experienced the easiest and fastest paddle that I can ever recall.  A 15 knot southwest wind that had been pretty much blowing since noon on Saturday provided surfable 2-3' swells and a leisurely, sunny paddle to Ironwood via Oak and the Manitour Fish Camp.  Lunch and a personal tour of the fish camp by Denise, the resident volunteer who had been there since mid June, provided a nice break in the paddle.  Although we saw a juvenile bear on the beach near the camp, the bear problems that had closed the island for virtually a year, well documented in this blog, seemed to be a thing of the past.  It's a pretty short paddle from the Manitou Fish Camp to Ironwood and it had been a number of years since I'd visited the spot that many of us referred to as the desert island, named for its thick inland vegetation and Sahara-like, vegetation free sandy spit.  I was very surprised by what we found when we landed.

The last time I was on Ironwood Island was with Pod and the KingOfIronwoodIsland in 2007.  That is where the King was christened with his blog name.  After camping on Basswood the night before and paddling out to Ironwood in some serious heat, we landed on the 'desert island' and jumped into the lake.  Camp was set up on a tent pad in the middle of the sand.  What made that sand different from all the other sand so that it was utilized at a tent pad was beyond our deductive capabilities, but what we did know was that nothing could possibly be better than an ice cold beer.  We had cans of lake temperature Heineken which we thought would have to do until the King sprung his surprise.  In the back hatch of his CD Storm was a very nice soft sided cooler full of Leinies and South Shore Nut Brown, nestled in a bed of ice.  He was instantly crowned King of Ironwood Island and his beer disappeared as if by magic. 

The actual Ironwood campsite though, was pretty boring. It was a good thing we had plenty of beer to keep us occupied because there really wasn't much else.   Sand and a few scrubby trees on the spit.  When we pulled in earlier this week it was almost like we were on the wrong island.  There was a small sign warning us to not trample the vegetation on the west side and to land on the east side of the spit.  There we found a nice floating boardwalk that led through abundant beach grass to a nice campsite further back in the woods.  We also discovered a Voyageurs Park style toilet, just a stool, or throne in keeping with the Royal theme of the island, a bit further back in the woods. The site had three built up tent pads and a nice grated fire ring which we used to fire up the dutch oven for supper.  I found the transformation to be both amazing and impressive.  The camp had a great feel to it, the view of the setting sun in the west was still impressive, and we got the added bonus of watching a thunderstorm develop to the north.  The fact that we had our own private island in the middle of a National Lakeshore in August was not the least of the great features of the site.

We left Ironwood the next morning en route for a rendezvous with ProfessorLichen and his party on the Raspberry spit.  Work is underway here as well and picnic tables and toilets are off limits until the work is complete.  Just off the Raspberry Island light we ran into a group from Lost Creek Adventures in Cornucopia, WI.  One of the women on the trip told us that she had volunteered and gone out to Ironwood with a work party to plant the beach grass and help with the boardwalk.  We assured her that her efforts were both appreciated and successful.  At that point I headed back to Little Sand Bay to reluctantly go back to work and my three compatriots headed to York to bask on the beach.

Its great to see positive improvement, improvements based upon enhancing the ambiance and natural environment of the island sites.  Even the eroded area at the top of the launch at Little Sand Bay has been roped off and planted with grasses and is looking very lush at this point.  Things are looking pretty nice and I hope the effort, both by volunteers and the park staff is ongoing.  It most certainly is appreciated.

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