Spring Kayaking – Apostle Islands

Well… we made it. A couple of weeks ago when we first talked about going on this trip the weather was beautiful with temps in the 60’s and 70’s. At the time the thought of going on a paddling trip on Lake Superior sounded like a completely awesome idea. So, we scheduled the time off, did some research, and established some objectives. As our departure date got closer the weather went from crappy, to not so crappy, back to crappy, and in the end looked just slightly unpleasant to tolerable. Finally Thursday arrived and I woke up at 5:30 to pack the car, load the boat, eat breakfast, and drive up to Calumet to pick Matt up by 6:30. As we were leaving town it was looking like high’s around 40, 15-20 knot winds, with 2-4ft waves subsiding to 5-10 knot winds and calm to 2ft later in the afternoon. We figured we’d get down there, check things out, and wait for conditions to settle down. When we arrived in RedCliff around 10:30 we decided to wait for things to die down so we weren’t spending the entire first day paddling into a headwind. Around 1:30 we got on the water and things were looking pretty good. The wind had stopped gusting, the sky was starting to clear… it was actually quite nice.

apostleBlog-1Matt waiting for me to get my shit together…

 

On our way in we had stopped at the Park HQ in Bayfield to let them know we were going to be out and to pick up camping permits for two nights. The objective was to get out and explore the sea caves on Devil’s Island. We had planned 3 days of paddling with 1 weather day. At the Park HQ we told the ranger that we planned on spending two nights on the north end of Oak Island. The truth was, we knew that would be a fairly easy paddle, and the actual plan was to continue on to the campsite at the south end of Rocky Island. We figured that would put us in perfect striking distance from Devil’s and would make for a nice easy first day. Day two would mean having as much time as we needed to explore Devil’s without feeling rushed then camping on Oak, and day 3 was to be an easy paddle back to the car… easy, easy, easy. Little did we know that things wouldn’t quite work out the way we planned.

As we were approaching Oak Matt and I started commenting on how nicely things were turning out. The weather was looking up, the wind was down, there was no one out on the islands but us, and neither of us had anything to prove. One of us actually said something about how nice it was that neither of us were pushing to paddle all the way out the Devil’s Island that night.

Anyway, as we approached the north end of Oak island we decided to take a break, grab a snack, take a leak, and consult the map. When we got out of the boats we were reminded what time of the year it was, as it was not warm any longer. I don’t know if it was because we hadn’t eaten much or because we were freezing from having to strip down to pee, but when we left Oak Island we headed for Bear Island instead of Otter. I’m sure the problem resulted from us thinking that we were pointing North, when in actuality the beach we were on faced more to the west. We should have consulted a compass, but at the time we just wanted to be back in our boats and paddling so we could warm back up. So we’re paddling along anticipating another island around each point. It really didn’t set in that we were heading the wrong way until we checked the compass and were headed ever so slightly south of west. At that point we conceded that we had screwed up and got out the map. The funny thing is, we weren’t totally sure that the place we stopped to pee was really Oak Island. Fortunately, we could see the dock and the lighthouse on Devil’s island so, we turned around and paddled the last three miles over there.

 

apostlesRoute2Planned, and actual routes…
(click to see bigger – different colors indicate different days)


By the time we reached the dock on Devil’s island the sun was quite low on the horizon and there was a steady cool breeze. Stripping out of our paddling equipment was probably the most uncomfortable thing I’ve done in a while. When you are already freezing, the last thing you want to do is strip down to nothing… even if it’s just for a minute to two. Fortunately, I had packed my poofy pants, down booties, and down sweater. Once dressed in dry clothing it didn’t take long for feeling to start working it’s way back to my feet and hands. After 20 minutes of so I was actually feeling pretty good. We set up camp made some warm drinks, had some dinner, and went to bed.


apostleBlog-4Sun setting on our first day at the Apostles…

 

The next morning we were again reminded that there is typically still a lot of snow on the ground at this time of the year. There was a thin sheet of ice over all of our equipment and kayaks. It was actually pretty cool, until I realized that it meant our wetsuits would be frozen as well. In the end it wasn’t a problem. We laid everything out in the sun and pushed our departure time back a bit. By the time we decided to get dressed everything was dry and some of it was actually quite warm.

apostleBlog-7Frost with a little sun flare on my kayak…



apostleBlog-8Frost on one of Matt’s hatch covers…

 

 

apostleBlog-10Matt holding up his frozen skirt and gloves…

 

 

At this point we were ready to go, so we loaded everything up and struck out around the island. There was a bit of swell, but nothing horrible. It did keep us from getting through many of the medium and small sized openings. Regardless, it was a ton of fun and I will definitely have to make it out there again sometime. Maybe, we’ll have to go back this summer. I’m sure my wife Mari would love it. Anyway, it was only three miles around the island, but we took our time. There were all kinds of nooks and crannies, pedestals, arches, and the addition of all the hanging ice and snow made it really special. My little point and shoot doesn’t really do it justice. This is one of those times when my other camera would be nice to have out. I wish there was a better solution for bringing an SLR out on the water… at least something more cost effective than one of the housings used to shoot things like surfing. How cool would it be if Nikon revived the Nikonos line of cameras, but with D3s internals… that would be sweet! Until then, or until I have enough money that I could afford to sacrifice some equipment… my little POS P&S will have to do.

apostleBlog-14Matt putting his Aquapac waterproof case to good use…

 

 

apostleBlog-16Looking up at the sun I noticed this halo and the contrail almost splitting it down the center. Too bad my little P&S doesn’t have a wider lens.
The halo is indicative of the lack of warmth we were experiencing. That’s not water vapor up there… that’s ice!



apostleBlog-22Matt playing in one of the more extensive set of arches/caves…

 

 

apostleBlog-25This place is just too sweet. It make me kinda glad that it’s a little difficult for people to get to.

 

Eventually, we made it all the way around and took a moment to grab a little bit to eat and drink before we started the journey back towards the mainland. From here it was roughly 16 miles back to RedCliff. Fro the most part it was an easy cruise. It was pretty warm, very little wind, eerily calm… not horrible at all. We did eventually take another break on Oak Island, and afterwards ran into a pretty stiff east wind. We ended up plowing into it for about 3-3.5 miles until we could move into the lee of one of the other islands. At that point it was a pretty leisurely jaunt back to the marina.

apostleBlog-29Matt sipping on a warm drink before leaving Devil’s Island for the last time…

 

 

apostleBlog-34Working our way back towards RedCliff…

 

 



apostleBlog-36Ahhh… back at our starting point



Here’s a pretty crappy/short video clip just so you can get an idea of what it was like.


And here are some additional images if anyone happens to be interested.

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