The Travels of a Journalist-ABOUT BOWERS, BOATS AND BUDDIES:Camping and Yachting on Apostle Islands (PART 5)
Posted on September 18th, 2010

By Shelton A. Gunaratne ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚©2010
Professor of mass communications emeritus, Minnesota State University Moorhead

ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ A six-hour drive east from Moorhead, Minn., covering a distance of about 322 miles along U.S. 10 and U.S. 2, will take one to Bayfield, Wis. (pop. 611), the gateway to Madeline Island and the Apostle Islands National Lakeshore (AINL) ƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ¢¢”š¬‚a popular sailing, boating and kayaking destination on the southwestern corner of Lake Superior, the largest freshwater lake in the world by surface area (31,820 square miles).

On the invitation of the Bowerses (Jim and Kathleen), weƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ¢¢”š¬‚Carmel, Junius, Yoke-Sim and IƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ¢¢”š¬‚visited the AINL on two occasions. Our first visit was on the last weekend of August (25-27) 1995. Our second visit was on the first weekend of September (6-7) 1997.ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚  On both occasions, our base of operation was Madeline Island, the largest of the 22 Apostle Islands and the only one in the group with private residences. For this reason, Madeline Island, except for its Big Bay State Park, remains outside the AINL so as to avoid the rules and regulations of the National Park Service.

The Bowerses shifted their yachting activities from the modest Lake Minnetonka to the much larger Lake Superior in the early1990s to accommodate a 21-foot long ƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ…-Sea WindƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ”š‚ boat they acquired from the Arnesons (Dick and Diane) when the Arnesons left Spring Park, Minn., to take up residence in Ohio.

ƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ…-The Arnesons offered me the boat on terms I could hardly refuse,ƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ”š‚ Bowers told me later.

The Bowerses joined the Madeline Island Yacht Club, and rented a slip on the La Pointe marina to dock their boat, which they subsequently replaced with a 31-foot long Tiara named ƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ…-Xuxa.ƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ”š‚

Apparently, Bowers had a fascination for the letter x. ƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ…-I named my first company ƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ”¹…”IntexƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ¢-¾‚¢ [enter X], the second ƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ”¹…”Stonex,ƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ¢-¾‚¢ and the last ƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ”¹…”ExtexƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ¢-¾‚¢ [exit X],ƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ”š‚ Bowers filled me in. Because his was a crushing company, the second name [stone X] was also appropriate. Neither the distance between their home on Lake Minnetonka and Bayfield (231 miles) nor the time involved traversing the distance (about four hours and 20 minutes) had a bearing on their selection of Madeline Island as their playground for yachting.

Later, as BowersƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ¢-¾‚¢ business prospered, he bought a 43-foot long Tiara, and named it ƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ…-Ishel.ƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ”š‚ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚  This is the yacht we used to cruise the Mississippi in 2009 and 2010.ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ 

On our first trip in 1995, we reached the Bayfield harbor about 2.40 p.m. on the last Friday of August.ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚  Although we started the day driving on wet roads under cloudy skies, brighter weather greeted us as we reached our destination. The Bowerses were waiting for us at the Bayfield harbor on the ƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ…-Xuxa.ƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ”š‚ After transferring our baggage to the ƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ…-Xuxa,ƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ”š‚ we parked our Toyota Camry on a downtown street and returned to the boat to eat our lunch.

Foray into AINL

Then, Bowers steered his boat off the harbor toward the northeast in the direction of the 69,372-acre AINL, which the federal government established in September 1970 to preserve its pristine ecology and its sanctity as the spiritual home for the Lake Superior Chippewa.

Bowers docked the boat at the 536-hectare Manitou Island, where we began our foray into the 21 islands and 12 miles of mainland, which ƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ…-host a unique blend of cultural and natural resourcesƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ”š‚; whereƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚  ƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ…-lighthouses shine over Lake Superior and the new wilderness areasƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ”š‚; and also where ƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ…-visitors can hike, paddle, sail,ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ or cruise to experienceƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ these jewels of Lake Superior.ƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ”š‚

As we landed on Manitou, park ranger Jim Moyer greeted us and took us on a tour of the Manitou Fish Camp, declared a national historic place in 1983. Moyer showed us the remnants of what used to be the ƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ…-GovernorƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ¢-¾‚¢sƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ”š‚ Cabin, the smokehouse, the bunkhouse, etc. A two-mile trail leaves the Manitou Fish Camp and follows the west shore of the island through several hemlock groves en route to the island’s only campsite.

Exploring Otter

Upon leaving the Manitou, Bowers allowed Carmel and Junius to steer the boat on Lake Superior under his supervision in the direction of Otter Island, the spot the Bowerses had chosen for our overnight stay. One hectare smaller than Manitou, the uninhabited Otter offered us the privilege of being its sole overnight occupants. After duly docking the ƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ…-Xuxa,ƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ”š‚ we used the boatƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ¢-¾‚¢s dinghy to explore the vicinity. We cooked a fantastic dinner over a campfire that lulled us into deep slumber on the boat.

The next morning, all of us used the islandƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ¢-¾‚¢s toilet and other amenities liberally before subjecting ourselves to a hearty cereal-and-fruit breakfast. Then, all of us, bar Bowers, took off on a cross-island walkathon along the 1.9-mile Otter Island Trail from the dock to the north end of the island. It took us at least 40 minutes each way to complete the walkathon. Kathleen, who led the walk, let it be known that as a Wisconsin native she had a sound knowledge of Apostle Islands, which she had visited from her childhood.

Upon returning to the dock, Kathleen succumbed to the temptation of lying on the shores of ƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ…-X IslandƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ”š‚ (as Otter Island is known among those who know the ƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ…-secretƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ”š‚ of its relative isolation) to get a suntan. All, except me who already had a natural tan, decided to put on their swimwear to take advantage of the sunny weather and bathe in the waters of Lake Superior. They tanned themselves until another boat arrived to disturb our exclusive enjoyment of the ƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ…-X Island.ƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ”š‚

Sea Caves Adventure

We left the Otter Island after eating our lunch about 2 p.m. Our next stop was the North Shore of the 126-hectare DevilƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ¢-¾‚¢s Island, one of the best spots in the AINL to view the dramatic rock formations and sea caves ƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ…-sculpted from the billion year old sandstone bedrock exposed through the island’s surface. The red and gold sandstone was deposited over the area by wandering streams from western hillsƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ”š‚ (Wikipedia).

After the Bowerses anchored the ƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ…-XuxaƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ”š‚ close to the sea caves, we had to use the boatƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ¢-¾‚¢s dinghy and paddle it in pairs to get a close-up view of the diverse rock formations. Perhaps Carmel and Junius derived the better enjoyment by paddling the dinghy on rocky water rather than viewing the sea caves. This was the most exciting adventure of the day.

Next, the Bowerses steered the ƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ…-XuxaƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ”š‚ out of the AINL and into the 6,216-hectare Madeline Island, where they anchored the boat into its rented slip at the La Pointe marina.

On MadelineƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ 

Bowers was keen to flaunt the magnificence of Madeline, his posh vacation spot, before we called it a day. So, he bundled us into his all-terrain Land Rover and drove it roughshod over the bush, the slush and the mush, but mostly on County Highway H, to the boundary of the 2,350-acre Big Bay State Park. The park has a 1.5-mile beach, which attracts many young campers.

Back at La Pointe, we ate a very pleasant dinner at the Island CafƒÆ’†’ƒ”š‚©, which offered island potatoes as its specialty. Restaurateur Ed Hartig, ƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ…-a very peculiar human beingƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ”š‚ (according to my diary), chatted with us over dinner. That done, we returned to ƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ…-XuxaƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ”š‚ to sleep.

Sunday (27 Aug.) morning, I left the boat and ambled my way to the nearby cemetery before joining the rest of our company to walk to the yacht club for the morning ablutions. Bowers took Carmel and Junius to the clubƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ¢-¾‚¢s gift shop and bought each a pullover bearing the club insignia. All of us went back to the boat for breakfast.

Our introduction to yachting (or is it yacht-camping?) ended when the Bowerses brought us back to the Bayfield Harbor on board the ƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ…-Xuxa.ƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ”š‚ About 10 a.m., we left Bayfield for Moorhead on our Toyota Camry.

1997 Tour

Two years later (6 Sept. 1997), we came back to Bayfield Harbor about 1.30 p.m. on a Saturday. The Bowerses were waiting for us on the ƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ…-Xuxa.ƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ”š‚ This time, they took us straight on to Madeline Island. At the yacht club, we moved our belongings to another boat, ƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ…-Renegade,ƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ”š‚ for our overnight stay.

It was drizzly. Kathleen and Yoke-Sim repaired to the Woods Hall Craft Shop, where Kathleen practiced weaving as a hobby. Meanwhile, Bowers took Carmel, Junius and me on board the ƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ…-XuxaƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ”š‚ to visit the 4,004-hectare Stockton Island, which has one of the densest concentrations of black bears in North America (up to 35 bears in 10,054 acres). After docking on Stockton, we crossed the island to Julian Bay, known for its singing/whistling sand, and returned to the dock along the southern Anderson Point Trail around the Presque Isle Point. However, all the black bears on the island had apparently connived to give us a wide berth for reasons unknown to us. Our only encounter on that memorable walk was with two other Homo sapiensƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ¢¢”š¬‚Dan and Steve Clare.

Back at La Pointe on the Madeline, all of us again went to Ed HartigƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ¢-¾‚¢s Island CafƒÆ’†’ƒ”š‚© for dinner.

The focus of this trip was the Madeline itself. Therefore, after an oats-and-bread breakfast on ƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ…-XuxaƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ”š‚ Sunday morning, Bowers got us on board his Land Rover and drove south to see the Ojibwa Indian cemetery and the surroundings. Then, he bought us the admission tickets to visit the Madeline Island Historical Museum. Thereafter, we stopped at the craft shop to see samples of KathleenƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ¢-¾‚¢s weaving.

About 12.30 p.m., Bowers brought us back to the Bayfield Harbor on the ƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ…-Xuxa.ƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ”š‚ We were surprised to receive a treat of free corn-on-the-cob as we landed on the dock. The reason for the free distribution of food was the presence of Gov. Tommy Thompson to address a meeting in the vicinity.ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚  In short, we ate a free lunch, courtesy of the governor of Wisconsin. We left Bayfield about 2.30 p.m. for Moorhead.

Flora and Fauna

I can sum up KathleenƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ¢-¾‚¢s pronouncements on the flora and the fauna of the Apostle Islands in a few bullets for those who have a faint knowledge of botany and zoology:

  • The AINL accommodates more than 800 diverse and unique plant communities, including those listed as threatened and endangered.
  • Boreal forest, also known as taigaƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ¢¢”š¬‚a biome characterized by coniferous forestsƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ¢¢”š¬‚dominates the Apostles.
  • Mostly white spruce (Picea glauca) and balsam fir (Abies balsamea), often mixed with white birch (Betula papyrifera), white cedar (Thuja occidentalis), white pine (Pinus strobus), balsam poplar (Populus balsamifera) and quaking aspen (Populus tremuloides) make up the AINL boreal forest. (Wikipedia)
  • The deep bays and the enclosed lagoons associated with Madeline Island, Stockton Island and several other islands have a unique bog-dune ecosystem.
  • The AINL is also an important nesting habitat for herring and ring-billed gulls, double-crested cormorants, great blue herons and cliff swallows. Gull and Eagle Islands, which we could not visit, are well-known breeding grounds.

We were the beneficiaries of the BowersesƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ¢-¾‚¢ hospitality on both trips. But what did we really doƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ¢¢”š¬‚yachting, cruising or camping? ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ I still wonder.

(To be continued)


ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ Figure 1:ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚  The Apostle Islands are a continuation of the Bayfield Peninsula in Wisconsin. On the first trip (1995), we camped on Otter, visited the fish camp on Manitou, and paddled to see the sea caves on DevilƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ¢-¾‚¢s. On the second trip (1997), we walked the trails on Stockton, and focused on amenities and sights on Madeline.

(Source: National Park Service)


ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ Picture 1: We camped on Otter (or X) Island. The Bowerses (Kathleen and Jim) are on the right. The Gunaratnes (Junius, Carmel, Shelton and Yoke-Sim) are on the left.


ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ Picture 2: Father (Shelton) and son (Junius) get a close look at the sea caves on the North Shore of DevilƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ¢-¾‚¢s from their dinghy

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