We were Easin’ Along on our retirement road trip and had just begun our second week. Our plan had been to spend the weekend in Duluth, MN but we received an email from some friends who encouraged us to stay in Bayfield, WI instead (you gotta love technology). Our friends who, like us, are very active people. To stay active, they spend most of their summers as volunteers in the campgrounds of our National Parks. Their email described a wonderful experience they shared while kayaking on Lake Superior along the Apostle Islands National Lakeshore…a National Park that was new to us. (link here)
Helen (adorable wife) went to work immediately and jumped on Trip Advisor (more technological stuff) and secured a condo for us at the Reiten Boatyard in Bayfield. We later told our friends that we couldn’t thank them enough.
Bayfield, WI (pop. 530) is a charming village about 85 miles northeast of Duluth, MN and sits on the shore of Lake Superior. It is the Gateway to the aforementioned Apostle Islands National Lakeshore and we made plans to explore them the next day. Other friends had shared their experiences on Madeline Island, a large island in the Apostle group which has many bike trails and beautiful vistas. We hoped to explore that as well, but time constraints would not permit us to make that trip.
Our condo was large and had a deck looking out to Lake Superior and, after unpacking, we sat for a bit before walking to Maggie’s, a restaurant recommended by the desk clerk for Reiten Boatyard. As mentioned in our last post, we had driven from International Falls, MN, hiked around Gooseberry Falls, and walked to Canal Park in Duluth on our way to Bayfield. After all of that, we were ready for a short break. Maggie’s was just the place. We were hungry—so hungry that I forgot to take pictures of our meals as I usually do, but we both ordered a fish dish. I just remember it being good. We hit the bed and were asleep before the lights went out.
The next morning we walked into the town of Bayfield and purchased tickets on the Apostle Island Cruise Line for the 55 mile Grand Tour. It was a cloudy and cool morning with the threat of rain and we were both carrying raincoats. We were a little bummed out by this because we had been spoiled by good weather so far on our trip, and this was a day where we really wanted good weather. We sucked it up and got on board; taking seats on the open top deck…it wasn’t raining yet.
The ship captain came over the PA system and began describing what we were about to see on our voyage. He explained that the Apostle Islands were formed millions of years earlier when huge rivers deposited sand in the area that later cemented into sandstone. Thousands of years ago, glaciers sculpted the sandstone into the beautiful and picturesque cliffs that overlook the shores of Lake Superior.
The Grand Tour followed the route shown on the map pictured here and the captain narrated the entire voyage.
He steered the vessel close to the magnificent rock cliffs as he explained how the waters of Lake Superior created loud booms or “thunder” when driven into the caves by strong winds. He also painted a picture of what winter is like in the Apostle Islands when temperatures drop below 0° F for extended periods and the lake can freeze as much as three feet thick. Ice formations cover the caves and create stunning scenes for the visitors who hike out on the ice to witness them. After some research, I found an image to show here.
The water is cold even in the summer with surface temperatures in the 50° degree range and in the low 30’s just ten feet below the surface. After hearing that, I gripped the hand rail a little tighter while taking pictures.
Our tour continued as we passed by Stockton Island which has one of the greatest concentrations of black bears in North America. Black bears are found on just about any of the Apostle Islands. At Devils Island we came very close to the shore and almost everyone stood to take pictures. Several kayakers came near the tour boat–much to the angst of the ship captain. Devils Island also has one of the six lighthouses on the Apostle Islands which is the most found in any National Park in America. After rounding Devils Island we headed back to the port, passing by another lighthouse at Raspberry Island just as the sun came out to greet us. It was a fantastic ending to a lovely morning.
Helen suggested we do a little touring (and shopping) around Bayfield and stretch our legs a bit. The homes here have very detailed architecture on the exterior and I found them quite stunning. I have posted a picture of the Old Rittenhouse Inn, a 20 room bed and breakfast as the most outstanding example. We also went by the National Park offices to add another stamp to our National Park Passports. I love doing this, and we have amassed a good collection of stamps on our road trips.
That evening we capped off a great visit to Bayfield by dining at the Fat Radish, a small restaurant that specializes in farm to table food that is produced locally and prepared and served fresh. They described their style as the “slow food movement”, meaning don’t be in a hurry. Even with that disclaimer, I didn’t think the service was unnecessarily slow. Our server, Melissa, was both friendly and helpful with the menu, as well as being fun to chat with.
I went with a small bowl of fish booyah, the Fat Radish version of bouillabaisse. I’m a big fan of fish stews and this one was out of this world delicious. For an entrée I chose baked trout with cilantro-lime sauce, and served with spinach-mushroom risotto. This was so good it was dangerous. The fish was fresh and cooked to perfection. The sauce was perfect as well and the risotto was brimming with flavor. The Fat Radish (link) had served up the best meal I had on this road trip.
Helen started with a House Garden Salad topped with fresh feta cheese and a wine and vinegar dressing. Her entrée was a pan fried whitefish with whipped sweet potato and squash risotto. She said that her meal would be hard equal anywhere. We passed on desert, even though the selection was tempting, but we did get Melissa to agree to have her picture made with us in front of the restaurant. I had to record this trip to make my friends back home very jealous. She was a great sport about it.
The next morning we packed up Heidi (adorable wife’s car) and took a short walk around a park and marina next to our condo before hitting the road.
Green Bay and the frozen tundra of Lambeau Field were next on the itinerary and it was time to be Easin’ Along.