On Wisconsin: Pelican Lake and the Apostle Islands

My cousin Jean was 18 years old the day I was born, and she joined the army 8 months later. Two years after that, she married her sweetheart and moved to Wisconsin. Needless to say, I never knew my cousin. We met for the first time at her mom’s memorial service about 10 years ago. We decided we needed to connect and planned to do so at some time in the future which finally happened this week…

Pelican Lake
Pelican Lake

Jean and Dave, her husband of 55 years, showed us a great time in Pelican Lake, WI. Having lived in the WI ‘boonies’ (their term, not ours) for over 40 years, they were awesome tour guides and hosts. They know every hole-in-the-wall restaurant within a 30 mile radius and are able to make choices based on price, day of the week and any specific item one might crave for dinner.

The most fascinating event of the day was a trip to Jennings, WI where the entire town (population in the 100’s) was celebrating their history, including the Mecikalski Stovewood Building built in 1899. Stovewood? Think building a house by stacking cord wood and coating it with mortar. This style of architecture is uniquely found in small midwestern settlements of German and Polish decent, and we saw the best example of this building style in a commercial building still standing today. Back after our adventure and a great dinner, we settled onto the couch with the dogs and watched a video of Leonard Cohen’s 2008 London concert.

Check out these Pelican Lake photos…

Many people who heard we were going to Wisconsin suggested we visit the Apostle Islands, so we headed up to the Bayfield Peninsula. We found ourselves a campsite overlooking Lake Superior in the town park in Washburn and signed ourselves up for a few nights. Here we found some of the best biking roads we’ve seen on the trip so far – no traffic, good shoulders, rest stops every 10 or 12 miles… A 55 miler (a new record for the new hip, and including some hills!) took us up the north coast to Bayfield, across the peninsula to Cornucopia, and back home to Washburn. Bayfield is the center of activity for the Apostle Islands, so we spent some time investigating the town and decided it was worth a return visit the next day.

More Bayfield Peninsula photos…

The following morning we signed on for another cruise that sounded very similar to our Pictured Rocks tour. Each tour of these National Scenic Lakeshores was about 3 hours in duration, they were in similarly sized boats, and possibly even run by the same parent company. And that’s where the similarities end.

The Pictured Rocks cruise was intense. The captain narrated the sights, talking quickly and non-stop and leaving out detail because new and more awesome sights were coming faster than they could be narrated. People were taking photos (we took 627, between the two of us), running back and forth across the boat and up and down the stairs to get different views. Despite seats (and personal flotation devices) for all, very few people sat down for the whole trip.

The Apostle Islands cruise was like story time on the water, and totally relaxing. The 22 Apostle Islands in Lake Superior, off the coast of the Bayfield Peninsula, are known for their forests (and lumbering history), wild life (bears have been sighted swimming from one island to another) and underground caves. Needless to say, all photos would look, well, like trees and rocks. The 3 hours were total chill time on Lake Superior on a hot, cloudy day, with occasional narration breaking up the play list of boating songs that included The Ballad of Gilligan’s Isle and The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald

The highlight of the Apostle Island cruise was the captain’s stories about a few of the islands, and life in and around Lake Superior. Those lakers we keep oohing and aahing about? They’re slow, talking about 3 days to travel from Duluth, MN to Buffalo, NY. However, due to their huge scale they’re fuel and people efficient, enabling shipping costs of around $2.00 per ton. (It would cost us $12 to ship our RV that distance vs. $20 to take the ferry across Lake Champlain.) Coming from a long line of ship captains, our narrator’s dad worked with Captain McSorley who was in command of the Edmund Fitzgerald when it went down in 1975. His recounting of the story was chilling in a whole different way…

More photos of the Apostle Islands

Before leaving the Bayfield Peninsula, we noticed the Harvest Hosts’ Bayfield Winery/Hauser’s Superior View Farm was nearby and opted to try our relatively new membership. Harvest Hosts is an interesting concept, pairing RVers with wineries, breweries and other agricultural suppliers. Buy a bottle of wine or bag of apples from a member host, and the member RVer gets a free night’s stay on the host property. Brilliant! We spent a gorgeous, stormy night parked in a field high on a hill, overlooking Lake Superior, enjoying a fun apple cider wine – a quiet, peaceful and thoroughly enjoyable place to stay… If you’re interested, here’s more on Harvest Hosts and Bayfield Winery/Hauser’s Superior View Farm.

Bayfield, hub of the peninsula
Bayfield, hub of the peninsula


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