At the second Duluth hotel I stayed at, I considered my schedule for the next two days of my Midwest Great Lakes trip. Due to the tight booking at hotels and tour transportation that I had already experienced during the Isle Royale National Park and Voyageurs National Park segment of my trip, I felt that I needed to book both nights to cover myself during this time. According to the website, the Apostle Islands grand tour would cover three hours, and I surmised that I would then be able to travel across the Michigan Upper Peninsula within the afternoon to arrive at St. Ignace, where I figured I would be able to take the ferry over to Mackinac Island and enjoy a dinner in a horse-buggy town before ferrying back to St. Ignace. I found a room available online at a small hotel in St. Ignace and booked it for the next night. I then considered that the next day I would be able to cross the Mackinac Bridge, head down to Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore for a quick view, then make it down to the recently re-designated Indiana Dunes for a quick stop before checking into my next hotel. I found an available room for that second night in a hotel in Chesterton, right next to Indiana Dunes, and booked it. I felt I was ready for the next two days.
The next morning I got ready to head over to Bayfield, Wisconsin, where the tour boat was scheduled to depart at ten, but I would need to check-in early at nine-thirty. Since Apostle Islands National Lakeshore is actually closer to Duluth than the Isle Royale departure point I dealt with two days ago, I did have the opportunity to enjoy the hotel breakfast amenity before checking out and heading east to the Wisconsin border. Since Isle Royale was considered to be a part of Michigan, the moment I crossed the state border into Wisconsin, I knew I could technically consider that I had now been in all fifty states, but I decided to hold off on the celebration until I had crossed into the Michigan Upper Peninsula later that afternoon. Even though I was driving along the upper lakeshore of Wisconsin, I still noticed a few dairy farms along the way giving me the agricultural perspective of the state. I circled around small Bayfield Peninsula jutting off the north side of Wisconsin into Lake Superior and reached Bayfield, a much larger town and take-off point than Grand Portage in Minnesota. Instead of a small pier, the tour boats were taking off from a larger marina harbor with multiple piers and a car ferry dock for visitors seeking to get over to the largest Apostle Island, Madeline Island, for a chance to drive around an island. I parked on an unlimited parking side street, grabbed my last tote bag lunch and camera backpack, and then headed to the check-in center next to the marina.
The tour boat was much larger than the Isle Royale transport boat, and I found my seat on the open upper deck on top of the center cabin, just behind a young family. Our boat slowly backed out of the harbor and started up North Channel between Madeline Island and Basswood Island. As we traveled through the various islands, we experienced the sandstone cliffs next to the luscious forests on the islands. One island had been the site of a sandstone quarry, and we were shown a place where blocks of sandstone had been left when the quarry was closed. As we went further north, we saw where the lake had created sea caves into the sandstone cliffs and was shown one of the sea stacks, a jutting rock islet from one of the islands. As we reached the northernmost island on our tour, the island’s name, Devils Island, showed itself as the lake waters began to rock our boat as well as splash against the sea caves under the lighthouse on the island itself. As we turned and headed back, I took the time to bring out my last tote bag lunch and enjoyed it. We found quieter waters as we headed around Raspberry Island and admired the quaint lighthouse along the side. The islands were an amazing perspective of the power of Lake Superior, and an interesting comparison to the ridge island of Isle Royale.
The three hour tour actually came closer to being four hours in length, so after a quick stop in the gift shop after leaving the boat and heading out the marina pier, I found my car and headed off east for Michigan. However, besides the extra hour on the boat tour, I also realized that I had not taken into consideration that I was changing time zones at the Michigan border, losing another hour on the afternoon trip. In addition, besides the Michigan Upper Peninsula not having a smooth interstate expressway across it, I continued to experience the Midwest summer road repair season on the US and state routes along the way. This led to me finally arriving to St. Ignace by ten that night, way too late to take the ferry to Mackinac Island for a relaxing horse-buggy dinner. Since I had already booked my hotel room for the next night down in Indiana, I knew I would not have time to enjoy Mackinac Island the next morning and would have to apologize to my friend for having to pass up his recommendation. I headed for my night stop and found out it was a small old-fashion comfortable motel with the owner living on the property. I parked in front of my room door and used the old-fashion metal key to enter the room. In a way, it was good that I had booked the next night’s hotel room back in Duluth, as I did not need to worry about having a Wi-Fi connection. Instead, I jumped into bed and relaxed into thinking about my next day heading into the Michigan Lower Peninsula.
To be continued…