Monday, May 17, 2010

Apostles camping season opener

We love our 'openers' here in the Great Lakes states. Fishing opener, opening day of deer season, the ski areas opener, and even the famous Spanish Stew opener at Ray's Place Tavern in Eau Claire, WI. Maybe its a manifestation of the changing of the season or our desire to have an official start and end to the seasons. All I know is that it's tough for me to miss an 'opener' and this years first island kayak camping adventure was no exception.

Working late precluded our using Friday nights permit at the Oak spit. We got a call in to the Park Service at around 4:30 to let them know we would not be paddling out in the dark and executed Plan B, which was beer and pizza at the Thirsty Pagan, sleep at the deer camp, and then an early start for Red Cliff. Not unexpectedly, we launched from Red Cliff at the crack of noon Saturday and island hopped out to Manitou, the traditional spot for the first overnight of the year. We took the scenic route and headed around the south end of Basswood, lunched on Hermit, touched the SE corner of Oak, and made a stop at the Manitou Fish Camp before heading up the shore to the lone site on Manitou. The weather was sunny, the wind from exactly 180 degrees opposite of the Weather Service had forecast, and we got to watch spring come to the northland for the second time.

Due in part to the cold lake water, things are just beginning to bud out on the islands. The Pin Cherry trees have white blossums, fiddlehead ferns are beginning to stick their heads out of the ground, most hardwoods have a combination of buds and mini leaves, and the beach peas are just starting to leaf out in the sand. I don't know how many colors of green we saw in the hills on Oak Island, but you can start counting yourself in the image below. The bears are all wide awake as well and we saw bear tracks ranging from yearlings to the big boys, on every beach we stopped at. Mergansers were paired up, we saw three eagles in flight at the same time off Baswood, and the loons were their typical looney selves.

In addition to the annual island camping opener, it was also the annual ManFromSnowyLegs birthday. Since he is from Australia, we felt that starting the celebration at the Pagan Friday night was proper, since it was indeed Saturday in Adelaide. We also had the annual meeting of the Lead Bananna Corp, LLC over a trio of Surly Brewing products and fine Dominican cigars. It was agreed that new deck lines and Sealine rudder pedals were authorized on the Aleut II (the Lead Bananna) but, like most federal programs, this was an unfunded mandate. Dusk provided us with a spectacular sunset and a perfect rustlers moon and Venus popped out right above the sunset. Temps dropped into the high 30's F for sleeping and I can't think of how it could have been a more perfect evening.

Sunday found us also taking the scenic route back to Red Cliff since we needed to check out the collapsed Hole in the Wall. We also noticed that the large slide where the hillside gave way on Oak several years ago had expanded and several smaller ones had occurred on the north side of the island. We made it back to Bayfield about the time Boreal Shores Kayak was closing and manged to lure the President and CEO of the operation to Mortys for beer and fresh whitefish caught that morning before saddling up for the drive back to the cities. Our carbon footprint was minimal since we stuffed 4 guys and all the gear into RonO's Jeep and put the boats on the SKOAC trailer. We had two boats on the way up and four on the way back. More on that development in a later post.

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