Apostle Islands

After this post, I will no longer be behind in terms of shoving all my vacations down the throats of the 5 people who even know about this blog.  I think this year has been the record amount of trips.  I am not even writing about the multiple weekends I’ve taken for bachelorette parties either.  Bachelorette and wedding events could be a completely new blog.

A few weekends ago, was our Apostle Islands trip that Tom has wanted to do for 3 years.  He spent a lot of time researching for this trip and even made and laminated his own map.  It was, basically, adorable so there was no way we were missing out another year to do this.

First, though, I feel like I need to go over my outdoorsy history.  When I was younger, my parents did take us camping.  We slept in tents and then eventually got a pop up camper that we camped in over the summers.  The problem is, I hated it.  I hated the bug bites.  I hated waking up sweaty in a tent full of bugs.  I hated peeing in the woods.  I hated that I got poison ivy every single year. I just hated camping.

I kept this attitude on camping for a long time.  Then I met Tom.  He loves to be outdoors, loves adventure, loves hiking, and absolutely loves camping.  He has spent more money on camping gear than he has on anything else in his life.  He has a special place in the apartment for all of his camping gear and is meticulous about the organization of it all.  I once joked that if the apartment were on fire you would find Tom outside with all his camping gear while I was, burning alive, inside.

I needed to love camping and to my surprise Tom actually got me to really enjoy it.  We have gone on hikes up in Manistee National Forest and camped 2 nights in the woods.  I have invested in some good camping gear and Tom has helped me, when packing, for these trips so that I’m comfortable.  I’m pretty good with the hiking aspect since I’m an avid runner.  My legs do not quit easily and I find the hiking part of it all easy.  We have gone on several camping trips together and I have had a great time every time.

When Tom brought up the Apostle Islands the first time, I thought it sounded pretty neat.  I hadn’t really heard of the area before but was quickly interested after the google search yielded pages of sea caves and lighthouses.  We thought doing a trip like this with Kurt and Julia would work out nicely too since they were also campers.

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Tom made all the reservations and before we knew it we were driving up the Washburn Inn to stay the night before we took off on actual kayaks.  Very trusting kind of place.  We arrived late and they left our key under the mat.  The next morning we headed for the Trek & Trail place for our training and then we were on our own for the next three days!

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This all happened without a hitch.  The 3 hour training session seemed ridiculous at first but in retrospect was a good thing to do before venturing out by yourself on a kayak.  We learned a lot and had a fun time throwing out all the new words we learned like “fetch” and “back wake”.  We also rented a radio and tuned in every morning to find out how many knots the wind was blowing at.

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Bear Island was a great place to camp and we ended up finding the perfect spot on the beach.  The sand part was annoying since you can’t seem to escape it.  I had sand everywhere for the entire trip.  It’s really lovely waking up with sand in your ears and belly button.  How does it get there???  I’ll never know.

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Julia and I collected a bunch of wood while Tom worked on a mechanism to hang up all of our food.  Bears were actually a real threat there so anything we had that had any sort of scent had to go up in a tree.

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We all woke up itchy.  Our first night and all of us had a decent amount of insect bites.  Fun!  We also discovered the joy of water flies.  These flies are just as annoying as regular flies but also bite.

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Once we got packed up we paddled to the north part of the island.  We heard there was pretty cool places to cliff jump.  After finally finding an actual cliff to jump off of, I got too scared to do it.

We then left for Devils Island.  The paddle to Devils was tough because the chop was much more intense being that far north.  When we got to the southern part of Devils, we noticed that the loading dock there was partially collapse.  We couldn’t’ see the camping area at all but figured maybe the entrance was somewhere else.

Since it was still relatively early, we decided to paddle up along the west side of Devils to see the sea caves.  It was a touch paddle but once we got to the sea caves, it was totally worth it!

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We finally get the lighthouse and figure we may be able to find a campsite up there.  No beach at all.  Just rock.  We pulled our kayaks up onto the rock and Tom went to look for a campsite and/or person to ask about a campsite.  He finally ran into the old man that worked in the lighthouse.  He told us that all camping was closed on Devils Island and that we would have to go to another island if we wanted to camp for the night.  Since by this time it was 6 PM, we knew we did not have it in us or the time to paddle to another island.  After some back and forth, the man told us that he wouldn’t be going down to the southern part of Devils so he wouldn’t know if we camped there.

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An hour later, we were pulling our kayaks up on the small rock shore and breaking into the closed campsite on Devils Island.  It was through a construction site and up a hill through a million mosquitos.  We hurried as fast as we could to set up the tents and gather wood.  We each took turns taking baths in bug spray to help but they were brutal.

Once we got the fire going the bugs chilled out and we all got drunk.  The campsite came with a gross bathroom and a bear box.  This was huge since Tom didn’t have any time at all to come up with a rig for the food.  Since the temperatures dropped this ended up being the night I got the best sleep.

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This was probably the best day for everyone.  The paddle was smooth and the water was great to swim in.  At this point, we all had at least 250 bug bites among us, so swimming in the cold water was a life saver.

We also went back to the cliff jumping point.  I ended up jumping off the shorter one and felt much better about myself.  Tom and Kurt took turns jumping off the higher cliff and having us take pictures of them midair.

I smoked a bit before we got back into the kayaks and I think I recommend that.  That paddle flew by.

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Setting up camp for the night was easy.  We just went back to the campsite from Thursday night.  The bugs didn’t seem to be as bad either.  Or maybe I just got used to be eaten alive.  Either way, our last night was really great.  Julia and I finally made the smores I brought on the trip to surprise everyone!

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When I first read the entire itinerary, I was thinking this was very easy and doable.  Reading this and actually doing this though proved challenging for me.  I had greatly over estimated my upper body strength (I have none).  I found myself struggling to keep up with my group and frustrated by my limitations.

My physical limitations combined with the fact that this was the longest duration I have camped in recent years definitely took its toll on me.  We saw some really cool things though and despite me having my issues I did have a great time with everyone.

I think next time we plan a trip like this, I need to be more realistic about what I can actually do.  My upper body is not something I should ever depend on that much again for that many days.  I was pretty banged up by the time I got back:  60+ bug bites, sunburn, broken toe, bee sting, huge bruise on my leg, and a sore wrist.  In the end though it was all worth it and I cannot wait to do a similar but shorter trip again!

Some Favorite Pics…

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The End.

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