Northern Wisconsin and Minnesota 15th–22nd September

3 Oct

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A new State for us to cross off our map of the US! Northern Wisconsin, our destination Bayfield a small town beside Lake Superior.

 

 

 

 

 

 

We drove through the town on our way to the camp ground 3 miles north, it looked like an interesting place to spend an afternoon and as the sun was clearing away the heavy clouds of the morning we were more  tempted to explore. We had chosen the Casino campground simply because of its location but we did wonder when we arrived to find the large car park under construction, the campground lay beyond this and we had tarmac laying vehicles to negotiate to get to our site. This however proved to be worth the effort as we had an ‘eyrie’ over the lake. Perched high on a cliff we looked out at the inner most of the Apostle Islands with a 180 degree water view!

A shuttle mini bus ran from the Casino to town every hour, we took the 2 pm bus down and asked about the return journey, the driver said he would be around at half past each hour, just to catch him in the car park or flag him down on the road. Off we went to explore. Ferries and pleasure tours leave the small harbour for trips to the Apostle Islands, a National Park site. The Visitor centre was just a few blocks out of town so we walked up to take a look at the information there. We were unsure if we wanted to actually visit the island and after talking to the ranger decided without a car we really did not want to make the trip, the area accessible without transport was the town, all the walks and beaches were on the far side of the island.

We strolled back into Bayfield and walked down to the harbour, the wind was still cold enough to need a fleece but the sun warm and bright making the small craft around the harbour quite a picturesque site with the town as a backdrop.

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As we sat on a bench beside the boats, sheltered by the harbour wall, we could watch the comings and goings in the harbour and also the ferries in the main channel behind us crossing to the islands.

Just after 4pm we spotted the shuttle bus coming down the hill so we walked back to the car park to meet him. We were surprised that he began the return journey with only us on board but we think we may have been his only passengers that afternoon. We asked about buying fish locally and he agreed to stop at a small store on our way back. Unfortunately this was closed, our driver did no more than turn back into town to take us to another shop almost back at the spot he had picked us up. We were very grateful to him as I was able to buy some fresh whitefish, lake trout and some smoked fish too. He then took us back to the campground – a personal service thrown in with our camping fee!

Bayfield has many apple orchards above the town, it is just coming into apple season and in three weeks time the town celebrates its 50th apple festival. Apparently thousands of people will flock to town for the celebrations, we were sorry to miss the fun but not the people and crowds. We liked it the way it was. However, before we left town we decided a visit to one of the farms would be a good idea and drove up the minor road where in the fields either side of the road apples were glowing red in the orchards.

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It was a little early at 9am but we found the Bayfield Apple Company store open and soon were sampling some of their produce of apple juice, jams and mustard. They also, much to my pleasure, produce a hard cider…. we of course bought apples which hopefully soon I will make into apple pie.

We followed the highway thirteen around the headland with the intention of visiting the sea caves at Meyers Beach. We checked with the ranger which was the best route and he directed us to walk along the shore then up a short flight of steps to join a trail along the cliff top taking us to an overlook of the caves. The shore walk was as always pleasant, just like walking the beach but knowing the tide will not be coming in anytime soon. We enjoy scouring the pebbles for ‘treasure’ hoping like others for something special.

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Again an interesting path with ups and downs and twists and turns through the woods. Eventually we arrived at a point above the lake and looking down saw our first glimpse of the caves.

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The water here has cut deep into the soft rocks carving out caves which it laps into with loud glugging noises.

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Above the water, the undercut precipice of rocks jut out. Trees, precariously, it seemed, growing on the edge. People also look slightly precariously positioned but having stood where this couple are standing I can assure you it feels very safe until you look across and realise .

It is hard to do justice with photos to the natural features. Even harder to imagine what they are like in winter when covered with ice they draw many more visitors to view their spectacle.

 

 

Kayaking around the shore to get a different view is a popular pastime, dangerous too as undercurrents and sudden waves can, and have bought life threatening situations to pleasure seekers. Thankfully today was calm and we chatted to this couple back at the beach after they had called to us from the water as we walked the path above.

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In our brief visit to Wisconsin it surprised us, but then we were still beside Lake Superior, which has been full of surprise locations. Now we crossed another State line and entered Minnesota at Duluth almost the most westerly point of the Lake and one of its important shipping locations. A huge freight harbour here and in Superior (Wisconsin) serves the large container vessels which ply the lakes carrying grain, coal and stone.

IMG_0199To get to the campground we had chosen, we had to cross the huge lifting bridge which carries the road over the canal entrance to the harbour, the camp ground was at a marina just the other side of the bridge. After a quick lunch we took a walk out with the intention of visiting the October fest taking place at one end of town, we got way laid however as just as we approached the bridge bells began the warning signal for the it to lift. As we had to wait it gave a good opportunity to watch the process. The bridge will rise to ? feet to allow the bigger boats access but this time it was a small pleasure boat needing passage and not a lot of extra height.

On the opposite side of the canal was the Corp of Engineers Visitor Centre for the bridge but we decided that due to the forecast being wet for the next day we would save a visit until then. We also decided the cold and windy weather of the day was a little inclement for outdoor visiting and as the main aim of visiting the October fest was to sample the ale brewed by the local brewery, Fitger, it may make more sense to walk to the brewery and restaurant buildings and sample indoors. So after a bracing walk around the lake shore it was pleasant to get inside, even more pleasant for Robert sampling the ale especially since I have discovered that I don’t dislike wheat beer so could join him. We had not intended to eat out but the menu tempted us, we needed to walk back after all our treats.

Unfortunately the forecast was correct and not only did we get rain next day but fog too. We stayed indoors for a while but a lull in the rain tempted us out, we had only got to the bridge when it began to pour again. So, the museum visit seemed the best option.

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The dismal weather had not kept the visitors away and of course the boats sail whatever the weather. This was one of the 700ft long vessels leaving the harbour to sail across the lake, maybe to Sioux St Marie and the locks to gain access to the Saint Laurence Seaway.

Indoors we viewed exhibits ranging from management of the waterways, the cargos and vessels to ‘bits of old machinery’ – sorry – very non technical term but I am sure Robert can be far more technical when he gets around to writing up his blog entry www.roadvoyagers.wordpress.com

Typically next day was bright and sunny, if a little chilly. High above Duluth is a 25mile Parkway with overlooks of the City, we thought it would make a nice exit for our visit.

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We sat high above the lake and had coffee looking out for the last time on Lake Superior – until we come again….

The day continued warm and sunny and we ended it at a Corp of Engineers camp ground beside another lake this one much smaller even if it is called Big Sandy Lake.

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It was a lovely spot, it was just for overnight, but we made the most of our view.

Next day we were back to rain, we had expected it again and had therefore decided to use the day to top up our groceries and travel to Itasca State Park, the following day should be dry from late morning and allow us to walk some of the many trails within the park. Hmmmm this time the forecast was less than correct and it was still very dismal , we spent our morning on chores but after lunch braved the conditions outdoors. This required, on my part several layers of clothing topped with two hoods and my mittens (take note Elizabeth, they are getting lots of use lately!) It was cold and damp, very few other visitors were venturing out on the trail but we had come for a special reason and we intended to accomplish it.

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Within the park lies the headwaters of the Mississippi River, it flows from Itasca Lake and begins its long winding journey to the Gulf of Mexico being joined along its length by many other tributaries. Having seen and crossed it in many southern locations we really wanted to see its origins.

 

 

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Crossing one way

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Then back another!

We are now the proud possessors of a badge which states “I crossed the Mississippi Headwaters” and we have also crossed as it makes its exit into the Gulf of Mexico at New Orleans.

 

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