Hostile Apostle

We woke up in the Bayfield, Wis., to grey skies and concerned northern Wisconsinites. Apparently there was a big storm that hit the area in July, perhaps days before our arrival — we were never given a specific date, nor an intensity other than it being “a big storm.”

The bags of cheese curds in Wisconsin are no joke either. Those plastic sacks are filled to the brim with delicious misshapen orbs of cheese. It’s such a great deal, it’ll make an atheist exclaim, “Praise Jesus!”

“Yeah, well you know, gray is my favorite color.” – Counting Crows, “Mr. Jones”
[Photo by C. Malone]

This isn’t to discredit Wisconsinites and their apparent inability to expound on such an event. Like Covid-19, we knew it existed because everyone was talking about it. The science behind it all was still subject to speculation; it’s crazy how storms appear out of nowhere. The after effects, despite not seeing much damage and a lack of emergency vehicles, mainly consisted of fallen trees and scattered debris, according to a sunglass wearing National Park Ranger who was doing his best to emulate Captain from Cool Hand Luke.

What had here was definitely a failure to communicate.

Isaac and I headed to Bayfield for a morning of hiking and kayaking. Unfortunately, due to the big storm aftermath and the unpredictable, sea-like conditions Lake Superior boasts, the latter was kiboshed much to our chagrin. It turned out to be a beautiful day, so the two of us would have and could have kayaked, explored the islands without any issue.

Photo by C. Malone

We headed down to the shoreline of the park and walked about a half mile with the lake water crashing against and caressing our shins. After the three quarters of a mile walk, we gave up on trying to avoid the water and the incoming tide; it was like a game. Albeit cooler, the water felt refreshing Isaac decided we find the trail and led the way through the woods. The original idea was to take the trail; however, the head of the path was marked off by caution tape — yes, because of the big storm.

The spontaneous trek was worth it. The cliffside path proved to be stunning.Nothing like a little adventure and excitement, standing on the edge of natural, glacial, and aquatic, formations to get the blood moving. As stated, we would have been able to handle the personality of the water that day. Sure the clapping of the water as it entered the mainland caves resonated loudly; however, it wasn’t intimidating.

Those caves though. Why would you not want to participate in such explorations?

The Apostle Island archipelago’s sandstones were deposited during the late Precambrian era, about one billion years ago, and form the basement rock for all the islands. The upper and lower most layers (Chequamegon and Orienta formations) are in the Precambrian Bayfield Group and were deposited by northeastward-flowing braided streams.

National Park Service Website

A billion years ago — think about it. What did those explorers, many of which were 17th Century French-Canadians like Louis Jolliet and Fr. Jaques Marquette, a missionary to the Indigenous people of America, thought while stumbling upon such beauty? We learned a lot about Fr. Marquette when we stopped in St. Ignace, Mich. He founded the city of Sault Ste. Marie, Mich., and his benevolence is celebrated in many ways — one being a university named after him.

Who needs morning coffee with an experience like this? — I later realized. The lakeshore is beautiful and, honestly, I would have never thought about ever visiting. It’s nothing against Wisconsin, it’s just one of those places that, maybe, a Central New Yorker wouldn’t have at the top of a list of destinations. It wasn’t on mine because, well, for some reason I never really heard of it. Now I know of this beauty and anticipated adventures that didn’t happen I’d gladly go back.

We saw others on the trail, too, families and people of all ages. Clearly they didn’t get the memo either. The other trailhead probably wasn’t marked off. Still, unfazed, they continued their hike. There were a couple fallen trees to climb over or shimmy around, and the local public works team was clearing the fallen trees. These obstacles were nothing out of the ordinary, and the DPW team never said anything to us.

We took the trail back to the truck and trailer, where the park ranger met us. He was patiently waiting and salivating for the opportunity to confront us, which he did. He asked us where we came from, how we got back to the parking lot, why we chose and got to the route, and questioned our not paying to park.

We got out of the situation scot-free but had to endure the passive aggressive attitude and painted-on shit eating grin of the officer.

Lesson: The path less taken, no matter the circumstances or repercussions, is still the best path.

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