We finally left the cabin! We originally wanted to leaved July 9th, then July 12 but due to rain we waited until Friday, July 13th. I am a little superstitious so, I wasn’t thrilled with the idea of leaving on that day but, lucky for us everything turned out just fine. We were on the open road with the cabin at our backs and had to stop for gas 10 miles down the road. Ok, so after that we were really cruising toward the Apostle Islands National Lakeshore! We were passed by only 4 cars as we made our way to our campsite for the night, Dalrymple Campground in Bayfield, WI.
We set up camp: leveled the van, put out the awning, our camp chairs and table. We celebrated our first night of #vanlife with Spotted Cow beers (a going away present from Jason’s mom- thank you Barb!) and a roaring game of seven card rummy. We were feeling giddy and had to pinch ourselves, this was really happening! This wasn’t a dream, we’re not on vacation, we have no house or cars let alone jobs to go back to, all we have is this beast of a van.
Everything was absolutely perfect for our first night until a loud family rolled up and decided to camp next to us (one family member also enjoyed chain-smoking cigarettes). First night sleeping in the van wasn’t too bad, minus the 5 a.m. wake-up call from our lovely neighbor’s two dogs who incessantly barked for what felt like an hour.
Saturday morning we drove to Meyers Beach to hike the Lakeshore Trail. We were nervous going there on a Saturday with the weekend rush of people on the trail. Lucky for us most people come Meyers beach for sea cave kayak tours and we were there pretty early do to our dog alarm. The only downside is you must pay $5.00 to park whether you are hiking or kayaking, but the $5.00 fee is good for the entire day if you were to leave and come back. The hike was spectacular!
According to the National Park Services’ website the Lakeshore Trail is about 4.5 miles. It is not a loop, so however far you hike into the trail is how far you must hike back. We hiked about 2.5 miles in. About the 2 mile mark is when you hike out of the woods toward Lake Superior and get amazing views of the sea caves.
Definitely bring bug spray and consider wearing long pants/sleeves. You will sweat, but you will hopefully avoid the 20+ mosquito bites like Katie got. After the hike we drove to the Visitor Center downtown Bayfield. We wanted to purchase our Annual National Parks pass that was a Christmas gift from Katie’s granny (thank you Granny!). We talked to the gal there and she said they were out of annual passes. Are you serious?! Luckily there was nothing that we could have used it on at the Apostle Islands anyway, so we will just have to wait until we go to Voyagers National Park. Once back to our campground, we found a little trail leading down to the water so, we decided to take a very chilly dip into Lake Superior aka a shower.
Rookie Mistake #1: If you’re paying over $20 a night for a campground make sure it has a shower.
After our lake shower is when we visited with a mother-daughter duo camping next to us. The daughter showed us pictures of a bear that was spotted about 3 campsites down from us just that morning (yikes)!
Jason and I prefer self-guided things over a potential “tourist trap.” We are also on a budget (aka jobless) and couldn’t afford a private water taxi to take us to one of the Apostle Islands so we settled on doing an Apostle Island Cruise. We chose to do the Stockton Island Dayhiker. It was about an hour ferry ride out to the island, we got to spend 2 hours on the island and then an hour ferry ride back. On our way over the captain gave us various facts about the islands but, the only one Katie seems to remember is: Stockton Island has the largest population of black bears compared to any other Apostle Island. With that information we chose to hike the combined Tombolo and Julian Bay trails. The ranger said this was a little under 4 miles, so if we kept a good pace we should be able to get it done in under 2 hours (challenge accepted). He also said that this route will give you the most diverse views of the island (woods, marsh, beach) but, it is EXTREMELY buggy.
Rookie Mistake #2: “extremely buggy” = pants and long sleeves both of which we did not wear.
Rookie Mistake #3: Bring bear spray when going to an island full of bears
As we began our hike every noise Katie heard she thought was a potential bear, so we were booking it through the woods. The ranger was not kidding about the bugs, not only were the mosquitoes terrible, the flies were just as bad if not worse.
After hiking through the woods for a bit the trail opens up to Julian Bay beach. We were the only two people on the beach, but Katie insisted on keeping our brisk pace so we wouldn’t miss the ferry back to the mainland and be stuck on Stockton “Bear” Island forever. Katie also came to the realization that if we were stuck on Bear Island we would have had 3 cookies, and a small sack of nuts.
Rookie Mistake #4: Not a good idea to carry delicious snacks on your back with potential bears lurking.
We made it back to the dock with 40 minutes to spare! We were sweaty, thirsty, hungry and a bit irritated with each other. We decided to sit by the dock and eat our 3 cookies and mixed nuts knowing we wouldn’t be stuck on Bear Island. If you’re still reading you might have figured out that we didn’t see any bears (which is just fine with us). We felt that we had earned ourselves a cold beverage and some lunch so we headed to Maggie’s. This place was recommended in our Road Food book, it was a great little lunch place and had some must-see flamingo decor.
After lunch we needed to find another place to camp for the night, Jason had researched a few places ahead of time. We drove to Buffalo Bay Campground. This place was part of the Legendary Waters Casino (yes, you read that correctly) We literally hit the jackpot with this camp spot (secluded, not too buggy and a short walk down to see a Lake Superior sunset)! With our camp site we also got access to hot showers, flushable toilets, the pool, hot tub, ice, free firewood and free casino bucks! We didn’t want to press our luck so we didn’t do any gambling but, definitely enjoyed the other perks. Monday morning we drove the Apostle Island Country Scenic byway (for anyone that enjoys taking the back roads this National Geographic Guide to Scenic Highways & Byways book is wonderful) heading toward Superior, WI. Katie had read about Amnicon Falls State Park in South Range, WI so we stopped there to hike around. Definitely worth the stop! Rookie Mistake #5: Do not leave your phone in your back pocket when hiking, you might want to squat down to take a photo with your camera and fall back onto a rock therefore shattering your phone (any further questions can be directed to Jason).
As we were leaving Amnicon Falls, Jason noticed our bike rack sitting our on spare tire mount was bending our mount due to the bouncing of the bikes. We decided to bring the bikes into the van and continue to our lunch stop and talk about what we would do with them. My Uncle Dan recommended we stop at Anchor Bar in Superior, WI (thanks for the recommendation Uncle Dan!). It was also another “must eat” in our Road Food book. It was everything a dive bar should be. We each got a $5.00 burger and $1.25 PILE of fries! Katie got the green olive and cream cheese burger and Jason got the jalapeno and cream cheese burger. We just happened to be there on a Monday and their drink special was a $3.00 pitcher of Keystone Light or Grain Belt. Katie LOVES Keystone Light, so let’s just say she was in heaven.
Back to the bike situation. The picture below sums up how we feel. We left Superior, WI and made the short trek to Duluth, MN. We decided to ditch Jason’s bike at a thrift store, but Katie’s bike we would send back home. Well, a trip to the Fed Ex in Duluth, MN and we found out it would be about $185 to ship a bike (um, what?). Other shitty things that happened as we were in Duluth:
- The local brewery that we wanted to try was closed (oversight on our part, but still shitty)
- A giant (possibly a queen) bee flying into our van as we’re stalled in road construction (Jason got the bee out safetly, no bees were harmed #savethebees)
- MichelVangelo and the Duluth roads (hills with lots of starting and stopping) he lets us know with a funny smell that he wasn’t enjoying himself either.
Cheers! Katie & Jason