Wednesday, October 3, 2012

A Three Hour Tour

We got out on the big lake last weekend and hit about a half dozen islands in the Apostle chain.  It was the absolute peak of color in the Bayfield Peninsula (sorry Applefest fans.....), and the fall weather was sunny, crisp, and absolutely perfect.  Our collective butts were not sitting in the water however, but several feet off it in the Superior Queen, a tour boat just built and purchased this year by the Apostle Islands Cruise Service.  The reason said butts were not in the water is that TheLegend and GraciousPartier, parents of the VOR, were in town for a weekend of fall color, apples, and some R&R.  We thought about breaking out the double, the Lead Banana (Aleut II) but figured the tour just might cover a bit more ground than we could paddling.

I had been on this tour before.  When the AINL was created  by the hard work of Senator Gaylord Nelson and a stroke of Tricky Dick's pen in 1970, the Old Man decided that we needed to head north and check this new park out.  My grandfather used to fish out of Cornucopia but the St Lawrence Seaway, also known as the sea lamprey/invasive species highway, pretty much put an end to that before I was old enough to tag along. This was my first real trip to the area.  As a sullen, uncommunicative, and preoccupied 16 year old, I had minimal interest in heading up there with my two younger sisters, but the terms of my indenture required my attendance.  I do vaguely recall it was kind of fun and that the islands and their sandstone outcroppings impressed me.  Little did I know.......

Saturdays trip was a nice change of pace. A person can see a lot more 15 feet off the water than sitting in it.  The VOR and I both remarked that it was like fast forward on a DVD.  Things moved a lot faster at 20mph than they do at 4mph.  TheLegend volunteers at a nursing home, where he actually 'outranks' a few of the residents and immediately realized that a tour of the Apostles would make a perfect topic for the Monday men's club gathering. Immediate research began. One of the aspects of the trip that we both enjoyed was seeing the islands through the perspective of people who had not been out there a hundred times.  Questions about the quarries on Hermit, the Manitou Fish Camp, and Devil's island caves and lighthouse, made us realize other views that people might have about the park that don't involve hammering a kayak into 15 knot winds to get to the next campsite.  The GP also remarked that after years of hearing about the various islands that we found ourselves on, it was fun to see them and appreciate just what we were talking about.

The tour was very good, well narrated, and absolutely worth the forty bucks.  I was more than a little amused when I read some of the comments, most of which were very positive, on the TripAdvisor website.  One only gave the tour three stars because it was' chilly and blustery out'.  On Lake Superior?  No shit??  One woman awarded one star and complained that she bought a coupon, drove 90 miles, and was told she needed a reservation.  On a cruise boat that holds 120 people, in a national lakeshore, during tourist season? Ya think!?  Another complained that the glass bottom boat didn't have a 'real' glass bottom, just two viewing wells, and furthermore the wrecks just were not very interesting.  I imagine she envisioned an entire glass hull as the boat cruised over wrecks of Spanish galleons, doubloons scattered on the bottom, with pirate cutlassess and skeletons littering the deck.  Oh wait, I guess we are on Lake Superior.  Our Saturday group of 'tourii' did not exhibit any of this sort of angst or cluelessness however.  It was an upbeat and jovial group and on a glorious fall weekend like the last one, a person would be hard pressed to find anything to complain about.

During this trip we did not see a single kayak, either at any of the campsites (believe me I checked with the binoculars) and we passed Basswood, Oak Spit, Manitou, Otter, Rocky Spit, York, and Devils. I don't think all the paddlers were on the boat ride with us but it felt like lots of paddlers missed the perfect fall weekend.  While I don't think the boat cruise will become an annual event, it was great to show the in-laws our little Lake Superior playground.  While I'm far too lazy to throw a comment up on TripAdvisor, I would have to give this cruise the maximum number of stars.  Its a wonderful three hour overview of the island, lighthouses, history, and natural beauty that make the AINL one of our favorite places.

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