Sunday, September 02, 2007

Three day Itinerary to Stockton Island

Taking a well deserved (or not) break for 3 days is very rewarding, fun and easy to do. Here is a sample itinerary for Stockton Island that can help you plan your trip when nature beckons you…or whenever you feel inspired after watching too much “survivor” on tv!
DAY 1 – Get me to Bayfield on time!!
Yes – unless you have your own private boat (which we didn’t)…you need to get to the loading dock in time before the ferry leaves. There is only one ferry that leaves for Stockton Island at 1pm everyday. You are expected to load all your belongings, back-packs etc onto the boat, and eventually load yourselves too …and you are set to experience nature like it’s supposed to be.
On the boat, are also few day hikers who get to enjoy the island for a limited time, then return back to mainland with the ferry. We belonged to the ‘other’ group. If weather permits, the upper deck (which can get very breezy) is a lovely place to be…the sun, the wind and the sights…what more can one ask. It’s a short ride (1 hour) to get to Stockton.
The island itself has designated camp sites and group camp sites. Although you are not given a specific campsite number, rest assured that one is reserved for you. Its first come first serve …so head out to seek and claim yours before anyone else does. The campsites itself are very spacious, and come equipped with picnic bench, bear-proof (yes I said BEAR) food lockers to store food etc, and a large tent-pad to pitch tent on. Probably the most important asset of the campsite is a clear and un-obstructive lake view with your own private beach (am I sounding like a real estate agent yet?).
The rest of the afternoon is spent setting up camp…pitching tent, and getting a fire going to cook dinner. On a hot day, don’t even hesitate to jump into the lake for a swim. The water is clean, and the bed is very shallow near the beach. Its wonderful to just relax and let the experience of it all sink-in.

DAY 2 – Hike the trails – watch out for Bear-poop!
Stockton Island has the largest density of black bears anywhere in USA. There are said to be more than 30 bears on the island…but let that not deter your plans in anyway…because in the three days that we were there, we didn’t spot a single one. This ended-up being the only big disappointment for ‘men’ in our group!! Come-on guys…I am thinking, thank goodness we didn’t spot one!

The island also has 3-4 different length trails that you can enjoy. Some of them skirt the beach and bays, while others are more interior to the island, and completely wooded. Either way – you can select whichever one you most fancy. Wherever you go…watch out for Blueberry looking bear poop. No we didn't find a ginger bread house at the end of the trail! The quarry trail is what we opted for day 2. It’s about a 4 mile trail one way…leading to a Brownstone Quarry. The trail runs through deep woods and grassy meadow areas, as well as along the beach for a short distance.

The return trip could be tiring, because of the time of day, which is perfect since the lake looks even more inviting for a dip and a swim. Swallowing water and not having to taste salt, is something one has to get used to…since the lake looks just about the size of an ocean!
Wrap your evening, sitting with friends around a campfire making smores, telling jokes and enjoying the star-studded night sky. It’s that unforgettable “wow” feeling every night as you look up and SEE the starry sky.

DAY 3- Hike some more, build sand castles, take a dip, play Frisbee on the beach, whatever your heart desires…
The island has beautiful trails that are vastly different from each other. On our last day, we hiked the Tombolo trail that leads to Julian Bay…one of the most beautiful beaches with soft fine sands, and completely deserted (not after we were there!).
It’s a short fun hike, which goes through some brilliant scenery and ends in an even more spectacular one. At the beach, you can relax, sun bathe, take a swim…build castles literally in sand…and soak in all that surrounds you. When you feel like you never want to leave the place, is when you know that you have thoroughly enjoyed your stay, and not once have thought about the laundry pile waiting at home!
Heading back to camp lacks brusqueness because you know the adventure is almost over. Tearing down the tents, packing all your belongings is a crude reminder that all good things must come to an end.
The Apostle Islands is one place where you let the sun be your timepiece and the lapping of the waves, your pace to explore it. Enjoy it!

TIP:Make sure that you get to the dock on time, and there is only the one ferry leaving the island, and although I wouldn’t mind being left behind….it would make a poor excuse for the boss! The ride back is as enjoyable as the one to the island, and do take advantage of these last precious moments to add to your ‘stock’-pile of memories collected from the island.

Saturday, September 01, 2007

Launch Pad to Apostle Islands - Bayfield, Wisconsin

The visitor center for the Apostle Island National Lakeshore is located in Bayfield, WI – a small fishing village that is charming, delightful and friendly. Only an hour’s ferry ride across from the Victorian town of Bayfield, WI – the 21 islands of Apostle National Lakeshore, form one of the most beautiful and unique landscapes in nature.

It is here that all is forgotten, and you live entirely in the moment absorbing the beauty that is the lake, the soft sandy beaches, the wooded forests, the big blue sky and the peace and quiet that is so rationed anywhere else in the cities.

There are many websites that have detailed information to help with planning for such a trip. But preparing for it is one thing, experiencing it, quite another!
Although reservations are necessary for camping at the islands, the camp sites are taken on a first-come first-serve basis. With private boats that are allowed to dock at various times, you are lucky if you catch a camp site that is close to the dock. Regardless, the minimal back country camping is not difficult and in fact quite a fun exercise to do…since your excitement is already on overdrive.

Each campsite has its own appeal, with exclusive vistas of the large Lake Superior and the beach flanking its one side, the wooded trails and forests, its other. All complete with a spacious tent pad area, bear-proof food lockers and excellent fire rings and grill…the campsite became a second home tucked into nature.
Three days on the island, gives you plenty to do and loads of memories to make that will last you a lifetime. There is hiking, kayaking, boating/sail boating, swimming, chilling out and much more. Its entirely up to you to make your memories, and experience nature up-close.
Stockton Island, being the 2nd largest amongst all the other islands, offers almost all of the above experiences to take in. For a detailed three day itinerary, proceed to read the next article.