Monday, March 25, 2013

The Other Side of the Island

The last line in the previous post was prophetic.  I hit 'publish' on the post and almost at the same time received a text from ChrisG in Bayfield asking if I was up for taking the ice road over to Madeline and launching at the Town Park on Saturday.  I figured I might as well since the boat would be sitting on the roof rack waiting to go down to Iowa to paddle Red Rocks over Easter weekend.  The plan was firmed up and we met at the Beach Club in LaPointe at one pm.  You have to like a joint that doesn't mind three guys pulling on dry suits in their bar room, no matter what the bartender and patrons are quietly thinking about their sanity.

The normally arduous boat hump from the parking lot to the beach at the Town Park was made much easier by the fact that kayaks could be pulled like sleds in the snow.  The ice berm where the waves had piled up the plate ice on the beach wasn't too high and launching wasn't that tough.  ChrisG opted for the seal launch and RobR and I just jumped in the water and into our boats.  This was not Meyers Beach on a July weekend; we did not have to wait for a launch or parking spot.  We cut across Big Bay to the  point where the ice sculpture and mini caves began.  ChrisG had a pebble in his skeg and asked if I'd reach down and free it.  Being the good friend that I am I said hell no, my gloves aren't that waterproof.  We stopped on the edge of the ice for some knife work, freed the skeg, and then continued up the shore.

The ice was amazing.  It was so clear and so blue that the images don't do justice.  Breaking waves had coated the shoreline and everything on it with a skim of ice and that alone was worth the price of admission.  When we reached the point and the cave area, a constant feature on all islands and mainland areas where sandstone rock faces the northeast, we found a miniature of what is typically seen at the mainland sea caves, a wonderful park feature that once again this year  had inadequate ice to walk out for a visit.  We played in the caves for a bit and then continued on around Madeline Island in a counter clockwise direction.  We heard a shout from the top of the cliff and found RangerMark, former Czar of Big Bay State Park, along with the GreenThumbChef on their cross country skis.  It is most definitely that 'tween season' on Gitchee Gumee.  At some point we expected to hit the pack ice between Madeline and the point of Long Island but we didn't get that far.  We did hit a 30-40 yard wide band of floating ice pack that stretched east as far as we could see.  There was a light swell out of the northeast and the ice undulated as we attempted to use our craft as ice breakers and punch through. It's fun for about two minutes and then it gets old.  At that point we decided it was a good time to head back to Town Park beach and then the welcoming arms of the Beach Club and some lovely South Shore Nut Brown Ale.  There was a failed seal landing attempt and then we all just jumped in the water, water that even with two pairs of socks, a dry suit, and neoprene booties was very brisk. More boat schlepping and in no time we had a cold one in front of us, which tasted great even though we were admittedly a bit cold ourselves.  We made it back to Bayfield on the ice road, which can close at any time. This might be for a few hours, days, or the season and it had closed mid week last week due to blowing and drifting snow.  At that point you get a ride to Bayfield on the windsled and can come back and get your car when the road opens back up in a few hours, days or weeks when the ferry begins to run.

It was a fine adventure and I'm glad Chris and Rob  thought of me when the scheme was hatched.  It's always a bit shaky when getting back into that 21' wide boat after the winter layoff but it only takes aa hundred yards or so before the muscle memory kicks in and it all comes back.  When at sea the number is three and it was good to have that paddling troika in place.  My drysuit worked great, my glove and headgear were perfectly adequate, and it was a very comfortable first paddle of the season. This is the third Palm Sunday paddle on the big lake, previous ones being with GalwayGuy and ChrisG and one with MrEngineeerGear.  With Palm Sunday a moving target conditions can vary greatly.  I guess that's just part of the fun living  in this part of the world.  I wouldn't have it any other way.


John and Linda Cory said...

Great photos, fun guys are a little nuts. jdc

troutbirder said...

What an adventure with such beautiful icy scenes...:)