A Paddle Way Up North
By Lily Durand
Benny and I made the impulse decision to head up north to camp. We had no tent, no service and no clue what we were going to do once we got there. All we had was a mission to paddle board on one of the greatest of the great lakes. Superior. About 2 hours away from the Canadian border, Siri started giving us a million alternate and “faster” routes that ultimately saved no time, in fact I’m pretty certain she added an hour to our adventure. I didn’t mind because that just meant more time to serenade Benny with some romantic Justin Bieber throwbacks.
A jumbo size cup of dill pickle sunflower seeds later, we finally arrived at our destination. The apostle islands. All we saw were cows, grass, trees, dairy farms, grass and more dairy until all of a sudden, we rolled down a hill to the cutest little town of Bayfield. It’s one of those places that feels like a cabin town mixed with Maine. Bennett hadn’t been here in years, so we drove up and down the streets. He was showing me all the shops and cafés he loved as a kid (none of which were open anymore, thanks Siri). We found a restaurant still open, and devoured cheeseburgers while we watched the sun set to a full moon.
It was finally time to face the reality we had avoided, where were we gonna park our home, sleep, and not get a ticket? We had seen a couple signs for public campgrounds on our way in, so we headed back towards the closest one. The sign said we could set up shop anywhere that was open, and didn’t have a reservation for a small fee a night. I, for one, had no idea these things existed. All the pretty spots were taken so we rolled over to the big paved parking lot, parked right in the middle, and set up shop. True nature camping right here.
We laid the seats down in the back of the hummer, rolled out a million sleeping bags, tried to blow up the air mattress, realized the batteries were shot, and settled down to a less than perfect bed.
I woke up at 5 in the morning with plans to try and scare Bennett cause lord knows he does it to me every chance he can. I was just about to wake him up frantically saying a bear was outside when he wakes up and goes “I’m so uncomfortable”. It was then that I realized this 6’3 Sasquatch was curled up into a ball, knees to his chest, just to fit in this car. Gotta love the guy for the shit he goes through for a fun weekend adventure.
We headed back into Bayfield and had eggs Benedict at the Many Penny Bistro, and wandered through the various shops as we waited for the next ferry to head over to Madeline Island.
Can we just acknowledge for a second how heavy those ferries gotta be? I mean, they have at least 30 cars on the deck and a good 50% of them were mini vans.
I miss my mini van.
Once we got to Madeline Island, we headed straight for the beach. We set up our Two Tree hammock (and yeah, that’s a plug. Quality products, check them out! But not before you finish this blog), and I sat reading my Harry Potter book that has taken me a year to finish while Benny settled into his chair.
We were on our merry way to relaxing when the horse flies decided they wanted our ankles for a midday snack. We escaped them with a walk down the beach, taking in the beautiful island and the sunny day God blessed us with. After a full day of beach bumming, we headed back to the ferry. I was leaving my dignity on Madeline Island because I was sticky and defeated by an ice cream cone. I had to throw it away because I was getting destroyed in this sugar bottle. Bennett had no problem finishing his in 2 minutes though!!!
Back at Bayfield we watched the sun set with cotton candy colors, and the most serene lake view. I was with my best friend, with a stunning view, and a full heart. Once the sun dropped below the horizon, we headed back to our campsite. Tonight, it was vacant and we had the spot of our choosing under a tree, overlooking the lake. But what we were most excited about was not the stellar location, but rather the brand new pack of batteries we picked up at the hardware store earlier. The air mattress was back in play. Oh yeah. We were sleeping good tonight kids.
We cracked our A & Ws, opened the bag of Chicago mix, and watched national treasure as the wind blew around us. We slept like kings that night. Not waking until 11 the next morning. We woke up to the trickle of rain on the roof of the car, wrapped in our comfy blankets, and hearing birds chirping from the forest. We laid there for a while, just enjoying the simplicity of the situation, and soaking up the peace of getting away from the regular chaos of life.
When the rain stopped, we got out of our home on wheels for the weekend, unstrapped the Paddle North board, and headed down to the lake. The water was still, and fog coated the surface. It was so vast yet so calm, I was in awe of this rare sight from the normally active great lake. Bennett was questioning why on earth he chose Lake Superior to paddle on, since the water temperature never seems to rise, but the view was more than worth it.
Once out from the shore, the water was so clear that you could see to the bottom, where the sand forms ripple lines from the waves. It was so quiet. all I could do was keep looking around at the horizon hoping to never forget the colors of the sky, the sounds of the water on the shore, the simple happiness of being outdoors, and the sound of my boyfriend screaming from land “YOU OKAY?”. Bennett had this idea that I didn’t grow up on a lake and didn’t know how to handle a paddle board. He was convinced I was going to fall in, but he wasn’t nervous about my safety so much as he was worried about having to jumping in the piercing cold water to come save me. All is well though, I was athletic enough to pull it off and came into shore unscathed. It was the perfect morning, and the best way we could have ended this weekend getaway.
Until the next adventure, keep living my loves.