Unspoiled Beauty – Apostle Islands

Unspoiled Beauty – Apostle Islands

After a very stormy night, we awoke to an eerily calm, fog-covered morning. Lake Superior’s water was as smooth as glass; a rare treat to behold. Even though the campground is located on Lake Superior’s Chequamegon Bay, creating some protection from the open waters of this Great Lake, a mere few hours earlier, she was showing her true personality with large whitecaps, waves crashing over the shoreline, and ominous clouds swirling overhead. Lake Superior is a force that demands respect.

As we sat in the comfort of the RV enjoying the view while sipping our morning coffee, Al and I discussed the plan for the day. There was still a heavy layer of cloud cover blocking any sight of the sun rising. Thus, when I suggested we take a scenic cruise of the Apostle Islands, Al thought I wasn’t thinking clearly and proceeded to fill my coffee cup in hopes more caffeine would improve my logic.

I was serious though and thought the day would be perfect for a three-hour Apostle Island cruise on Lake Superior, not that I didn’t have my doubts considering how the visibility was currently poor and the overall feel was very gloomy.

Kreher Campground
Our view of Chequamegon Bay from the RV. Lakefront site at Kreher Campground in Ashland, Wisconsin

Visiting the Apostle Islands had been on my bucket list for as long as I can remember. I’ve always loved looking at maps and am intrigued about places the more I study a map. That little passion of mine has lead us to explore some beautiful locations and this part of northern Wisconsin fits that bill.

As many times as we’ve driven along Lake Superior’s Northshore, her south shore eluded us until the summer of 2019. And believe me, she did not disappoint … Apostle Islands National Lakeshore.

Lake Superior and the Apostle Islands

Visiting the Apostle Islands

The picturesque little town of Bayfield, Wisconsin, is the gateway to this national lakeshore. The Apostle Islands consists of 22 coastal islands in Lake Superior that feature lighthouses, sea caves, hiking trails, camping, sailing, and amazing kayaking. It’s said that the area offers some of the best kayaking in the world allowing kayakers to weave in and out of dramatic archways of sea caves.

Tent camping is allowed on several of the islands, but you’ll need to hire a water taxi if you don’t have your own watercraft. There is a vehicle ferry available for visitors interested in touring or camping on Madeline Island. Voted as one of the coolest small towns in the U.S., this Apostle Island is not technically part of the national lakeshore but worthy of a mention. (Personally, I feel¬†the ferry is a tad pricey. Vehicle price is based on length with an additional per person charge.)

During the winter when the waters along the lakeshore freeze over, hikers are able to hike to these ice caves that are adorned with windswept icicles. Although northern Wisconsin winters are no longer something I feel a need to experience, I might change my mind in order to photograph these ice caves. It looks like a really stunning sight and adventure.

(In reality, I’ll stick to viewing pretty images of that winter wonderland from the comfort of my desert located RV. I don’t think I could handle the thirty plus below wind chill conditions anymore ūü•∂ I’m definitely out of practice.)

Our Tour boat!

Cruising the Apostle Islands

Visiting the town of Bayfield is enjoyable, but in order to really see the beauty of the National Lakeshore, you’ll need to get out on the water. Apostle Islands Cruises offers a nice variety of tours to choose from. We loved our cruise and would definitely recommend.

During our visit in the summer of 2019, we chose to take the Sea Caves and Lighthouse Tour. I was really looking forward to taking another one of their cruises this summer, specifically the Lighthouse Tour, but the cruise company ended up canceling that specific tour during the 2020 season in order to accommodate Covid-19 safety guidelines, and thus, tours and schedules were rearranged.

Things to be aware of when cruising on Lake Superior …

  • Temperature – don’t dress for land, dress for the ‘sea’. Temps can be as much as 20 degrees colder once your away from land and the weather can change drastically in mere minutes. Thus, bring a sweatshirt and/or raincoat regardless of what the weather is like on land.
  • Open Water – the lake can get rough. Even though this is a lake, view it as a sea.
  • Wind – we enjoyed sitting on the top deck, but it’s windy as all heck and the wind is always cold. All that wind makes for great sailing though.
  • Camera and info – it’s beautiful so plan on taking lots of photos, and the captain shares fascinating information on the islands and happenings.
Raspberry Island Lighthouse on Lake Superior, Apostle Islands National Lakeshore
Raspberry Island Lighthouse – Apostle Islands National Lakeshore

Lighthouses

The lighthouse on Raspberry Island has long been known as the Showplace of the Apostle Islands. At scheduled times, the Park Service provides a narrated historical dramatization to tourists. In addition to the lighthouse, boaters often anchor about a mile away along Raspberry Island’s shoreline at one of the more scenic sand spits in the Apostle Islands, and hikers who arrive by boat can follow the trail between the lighthouse and the sandspit to explore.

Sand Island Lighthouse
A kayaker’s delight!

Perfect Day

We couldn’t have picked a better day for our tour. Since the morning’s weather was gloomy, misty, and less than optimal for a three-hour scenic cruise, our boat was barely half full that afternoon. Glancing at the sky while boarding the boat, there visually appeared to be more weather rolling in, but according to my weather app radar, it was looking good. The captain concurred that we should have a lovely day for a boat ride.

And what a lovely August afternoon it was! Aside from Captain Mike’s informative narration, he interjected his excitement regarding the rare optimal lake conditions as well as personal lake life tales and experiences. He hails from a generational seafaring family and his passion and love for Lake Superior and the Bayfield Pennisula was obvious.

He and his crew appeared to be enjoying their time out on the lake every bit as much as the passengers considering we were all experiencing a rare treata very calm Lake Superior.

According to Captain Mike, the lake is rarely that calm … happens maybe ten or twelve times a year… a year … and we were fortunate to have experienced it. The afternoon weather was gorgeous combined with the calmness of the lake made for a magical day. I don’t think we could repeat those conditions even if we tried. Luck was definitely on our side that day. A bucket list memory for the books! ‚õĶūüėé‚̧

Where to stay!

The charming town of Bayfield, Wisconsin, offers a unique variety of accommodations; small hotels, historical Bed and Breakfasts, and vacation rentals. The nearby towns of Washburn and Ashland offer additional lodging options.

RVing – There’s a variety of places to camp throughout the Bayfield Peninsula. We stayed in Ashland at the Kreher Campground which is a first-come-first-serve campground and is big rig friendly. Our second choice would have been at the town campground in Herbster purely for the sunsets. The Herbster Campground is also a great spot to stay if your goal is kayaking the sea caves which are accessed via Meyers Beach in Cornucopia. FYI –¬†kayaking tours start in Cornucopia.

We also checked out the county campground in Washburn, and although workable, we thought the sites were pretty close together and the abundance of trees with low branches could be problematic. This CG is better suited for travel trailers, Class C’s, and tents, although we did see a couple of 5th wheels.

The Legendary Waters Casino in Red Cliff is an option for larger RVs, but expect close neighbors and unlevel sites, but the beautiful views might make up for the cons. The national forest campgrounds that we drove through we’d consider best suited for tents, vans, or popup trailers.

Obviously, we weren’t able to explore all the camping facilities in the area. So, for additional RVing options and more detailed information, please check with your favorite app. Our favorite apps are Allstays and Campendium. Happy trails!

Twenty years from now, you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn’t do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbour. Catch the tradewinds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover. — Mark Twain

Bayfield, Wisconsin

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Shhh! It’s a Secret

I was deep in thought as I glanced out the truck window watching the never-ending west Texas landscape pass by. ¬†It’s times like these that my mind wanders and I do my best thinking. ¬†Yes siree, Texas is one big state and a state that has a lot to offer; diverse landscape, fun cities, quaint towns, a Gulf Coast, tasty food, and a variety of weather.¬†¬†I’d say, a little something to please anyone’s interests.

Medina River
Bandera, Texas – Medina River

Along with a few new discoveries made this winter, I found myself revisiting a bunch of my¬†favorite spots. ¬†For me, it’s all about nature and looking at life through the lens of my ospreycamera. ¬†With that said, what I love about Texas may not be everyone’s cup of tea, and that’s fine by me. ¬†How boring and crowded¬†it would be if we all liked the same things.

I put a map together to share with you, my¬†wonderful blog followers, ¬†a few of my special haunts along the Texas coast, but shhh, let’s keep these sites between us.¬† It’ll be¬†our secret¬†¬†ūüėÉ ¬†After all, we wouldn’t want the world discovering this unassuming area or encroach on my birds. ¬†Then it just wouldn’t be the same.

pelican
Listen up!

Alright, I’ll admit most of the sites noted on the map aren’t exactly secret, especially during the peak tourist months in summer or¬†those popular¬†holiday breaks, but even then, not everyone knows where to¬†find these magnificent birds.¬† But I do!whooping crane

Now don’t go getting mad at me if there aren’t any birds at the noted sites. ¬†My feathered friends do have wings and a mind of their own. ¬†And they’re really bad about birdschecking in with me – almost as bad as my children!

Obviously, there’s a bunch of things I left off the map. ¬†I really could’ve added another dozen markers, but decided to¬†focus on the¬†sites I personally have a tendency to frequent the most.¬† I’m never at a loss of things to do around here and make new discoveries all the time.

With a little time and exploration along the Texas Gulf Coast, I have no doubt that you too will¬†discover your own favorite spots¬†– spots¬†I might even be¬†unaware of – in which case, you’ll be obligated to share!

After spending two months enjoying the Texas Gulf Coast, it was time for us to hit the road and return to the desert southwest.  Crossing west Texas can seem never-ending, Texas Longhornbut with a little foresight and armed with helpful information about hidden gems, the drive can be bearable and maybe even enjoyable.

Before we can get to west Texas, we’ll need to get to Interstate 10. ¬†The last several times we’ve driven through this part of Texas, affectionately called the hill country, we’ve always included a stop in San Antonio. ¬†Wanting to change things up a bit¬†and avoid the big city, we came up with an alternate route.

Besides, driving through San Antonio with an RV is an adventure unto itself, and not always a pleasant one especially when the GPS and wife are at odds. ¬†Poor Al ūüėę

Texas Hill Country
Spring in the Texas Hill Country – adorable!

Thanks to a recommendation from a wonderful blog follower/friend, we discovered the quaint little town of Bandera, Texas, which is located northwest of San Antonio and south of the town of Kerrville and Interstate 10.

sleeping duckTalk about a great place to overnight and avoid traveling through San Antonio.

Next year, I think we’ll stay here longer and explore the town of Bandera. One night was definitely¬†not enough.¬† Our RV park neighbor mentioned a¬†tasty place for breakfast located within walking distance from the RV park that piqued Al’s interest.

I remained smitten with all the birds along the river and if the weather prediction for west Texas had been better, we absolutely would’ve hung around another day or two. ¬†But with impending wind and rain in the forecast, we felt it best to keep on rolling west. ¬†Yep, it’s crucial to keep an eye out for that Texas weather, especially high winds that can cause brown out conditions or spur up tornadoes.

Eygyptian Goose
Egyptian Goose checking on her eggs

So where did we stay for our overnight in Bandera, Texas?  On the trip down to Rockport, we stayed at the Skyline Ranch RV Park, and on our return to Arizona we stayed in town at the Pioneer River Resort.  Both places are located along the Medina River, but Pioneer is located right in town while Skyline is a few miles out of town.  You can count on being packed in pretty tight at either RV park.

Bandera Texas RV Park
Pioneer River Resort, Bandera, Texas
Bandera Texas
Bandera Community Park along the Medina River. Pioneer River RV Park can be seen in the far distance on left. Sits on the other side of the highway. Easy walk for me to spend time with these guys.
Bandera RV Park
Skyline Ranch RV Park – photo taken as I was walking back from the river.
Skyline RV Park
At Skyline Ranch RV Park it’s all about the deer. The Axis deer are so cute with their spots.

We really enjoyed both RV Parks and it would be a toss up as to which one I’d recommend. ¬†Guess it boils down to whether one prefers staying in town or hanging in the country.

gazebo
This gazebo reminded me of the ‘Gilmore Girls’

On that note, I think I’ll let the photographs do the rest of the talking and show you what makes Texas special¬†to me ….

Medina River
Bandera, Texas РMedina River Рcommunity park.  White momma duck sitting on her nest.
axis deer
Axis deer – Bandera, Texas

Egyptian goose

Medina River

 

 

 

 

 

 

chicks
Spring is in the air!

duck

duck

 

 

 

 

 

 

heron
great blue heron roosting site
pelican
Now that’s a mouth full!
roseate spoonbill
roseate spoonbill
Charlies Pasture
Interesting trails!
cormorants
Life along the coast!

killdeerbird

 

 

 

 

 

sunrise

 

birding center

 

 

 

 

 

Always something interesting to see!

egret

 

 

 

 

 

 

egrethawk

 

 

 

 

 

 

blogging

roseate spoonbills
Until we meet again, my pink beauties!

Adios Texas, until next time…. and yes there absolutely will be a next time!

VIAIR 300P Portable Compressor

the Next EXIT 2017

 

The Good, and the not so Good

Tortilla Flat Hubby¬†and I have settled¬†into life here in Phoenix, Arizona, nicely.¬† Our first month back in the Valley of the Sun whizzed by….¬†enjoying exploratory outings with¬†our daughter, socializing with neighbors, and connecting with friends, old and new.

The good:¬† We see our son and daughter every weekend when they stop by the RV and allow me to make them breakfast.¬† I’ve been having a grand ole time taking it up a notch in the kitchen and everyone is appreciative of my efforts.¬† Although the constant photographing of food is something they’d like me to tone down a¬†tad ūüėČBreakfast

I had a blast spending the¬†first two weeks in October with our daughter, Ashton,¬†getting her acclimated to her new home.¬† I was eager to¬†show her as much of the area’s unique beauty before she had to start her new job.

One of my favorite places around Phoenix can be seen in the far southeast side of the valley; the Superstition Mountains and the Apache Trail.  In my opinion, no visit to Phoenix would be complete without a visit to this area.

approaching the Superstition Mountains
approaching the Superstition Mountains

After¬†a one hour drive from¬†our RV Park in the northwest part of the valley to the Superstitions in the southeast valley, we¬†took a quick spin through the Lost Dutchman State Park so I could point out the awesome hiking trails…… trails¬†that I plan to tackle soon.¬† I wanted¬†Ashton to be as excited about hiking here as I always am.

Canyon LakeFrom Lost Dutchman State Park we continued on the Apache Trail (aka 88) along a paved, winding road.¬† Ashton was happy to see a road that could be compared to similar roads in Colorado; you know…. the kind that climb, turn, and have drop offs with no guard rails.¬† She was feeling quite¬†comfortable and not¬†concerned even after passing a tow truck winching a vehicle up from¬†the canyon below.¬† Eek, someone obviously had a bad day.¬† Good idea to take this road slow.

Canyon Lake
Canyon Lake

Fourteen miles north of the town of Apache Junction is picturesque Canyon Lake.  Ashton and I have already discussed renting a couple of kayaks and getting out on the water one of these days, and I know our friends, G & T, would love to join us.

Just a little further up the road is the quaint tourist attraction, Tortilla Flat.¬† We grab a bite to eat in the¬†rustic restaurant and after lunch we stop in the general store for ice cream and fudge.¬† They are known for serving up the best ice cream around….yum.¬† Don’t pass it up!

With tummies full, we continued our drive toward a scenic overlook.¬†¬†The¬†pavement ends and¬†we stir up a huge cloud of dust as we¬†travel on¬†a dry gravel/dirt road.¬† Ashton isn’t sure how she feels about the landscape and thinks it’ll take some time for her to get used to it.

Tonto National Forest
Tonto National Forest

When I tell her we are in the Tonto National Forest, she scoffs and with a smirk says, “I’m sorry, but this is not a forest”.

Say what? Don't be dissing my forest.
Say what? Don’t be dissing my forest.

The desert can be an acquired taste, especially for those more accustomed to a lush landscape like that found in the Midwest or Pacific Northwest.  Some folks never adjust, but I know Ashton will eventually come around and embrace the stunning beauty observed in the desert, just as I have.Tortilla Flat

What’s interesting; when we were back in the Midwest this past summer, the dense vegetation started irritating hubby and me.¬† We had no vistas.¬† Way too many trees.¬† We even had a tree damage one of our sky lights, which we’ll be replacing soon.¬† Although I must admit, Al did a fabulous job using white duct tape to fix up the crack.¬† It doesn’t even look patched.¬†¬†Yep,¬†I don’t miss having trees around.Tonto National ForestI have lots more good to share in upcoming posts, but for now, let’s get onto the not so good.

Birds#1 – I’ve been fighting a nasty cold that has put me in a foul mood.¬†¬†An unsociable¬†mood.¬† I’ve been sick way too much this past year, and it’s curtailing my fun.¬† Talk about frustrating!

#2 – And to add insult to injury, my internet connection is sporadic putting a crimp in my blogosphere habit.¬† I haven’t been able to post or comment as usual and in some cases I can’t even hit the “like” button.¬† Double frustrating.

Oh well, this too shall pass…. after all, tomorrow is another day!

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LEGO City Great Vehicles 60057 Camper Van

Picturesque Canyon Lake

Sea Eagle KayakkayakingWhat is it about being out on the water paddling that has me feeling like a giddy little school girl?¬† Is it the gentle breezes or the¬†warm sun?¬† Is it floating on the water along side ducks?¬† Is it the fond memories¬†of times long ago?¬† Perhaps it’s a combination of all these reasons and more.

I’ve always enjoyed fresh water lakes and especially when they are as picturesque and pristine as Canyon Lake.¬† There¬†are times I really miss our canoe and the paddling Al and I once did in the Boundary Waters Canoe Area in northern Minnesota.

Last week while out hiking with our friends G & T, they happen to mention how they’d like to¬†get their kayak out on the water one of these days.¬† Say what?¬† With perked ears, I began asking questions about said watercraft.

kayaking in ArizonaWe learned it’s one of those inflatable Sea Eagle Kayaks that nicely stows in the back of their truck.¬† I’ve had a curiosity about these inflatables for a¬†number of years.

After our lovely hike followed by lunch at a fun local restaurant, we go our separate ways, but the thought of that kayak remains ever so present in my mind.

The thoughts of getting out on the water paddling has me tossing and turning at bedtime.¬† Instead of counting sheep, I’m counting kayaks…. inflatable kayaks!

The next morning I awake with kayak on the brain which quickly led me to the computer.¬† An email was¬†rapidly sent to G & T with an invite for a picnic at Canyon Lake.¬† You guys bring the kayak and we’ll bring the food.¬† It’s a date!

kayaking
Picnic at Canyon Lake – G & T on the left, me and Al on the right

The drive to Canyon Lake is beautiful.¬† The twisting and turning two lane road is lined with yellow blooms in mid March.¬† It’s spring time in the Arizona desert and it’s the perfect time to¬†visit the Phoenix valley.

Canyon Lake
One lane bridge over a Canyon Lake cove that we’ll need to cross.

We find a covered picnic table and quickly make ourselves comfortable.¬† It’s really windy.¬† So windy the lake is sporting white caps.¬† Certainly not ideal for kayaking.¬† I’m disappointed, but it’s still a lovely day surrounded by great scenery and wonderful company.¬† We decide to eat then reevaluate before chalking up the kayaking adventure.

With tummies full, we relax.¬†We’re engaged in conversation¬†enjoying the view¬†and eventually¬†realize the winds died down.¬† I’m so¬†thrilled and exited that I don’t hesitate to volunteer to work the foot pump.¬† “Nemo” (yes, the kayak is named)…… Nemo is set on a picnic table so no one has to bend over while he’s blown up.

Sea Eagle inflatable kayak
Team effort blowing up ‘Nemo’

I’m impressed with how¬†rapidly Nemo inflates.¬† I guess¬†I envisioned¬†those air mattresses from long ago that¬†Al and I¬†used to use during our tenting years.¬† Those things¬†seemed¬†like they took¬†forever to blow up.¬† Nemo was ready to hit the water in less than 15 minutes.

inflatable kayaks
G and me test out Nemo

G & I take the kayak out first.¬† I think our spouses decided if anyone was going to get wet, it wouldn’t be them ūüėȬ† We paddled around.¬†Then¬†paddled some more.¬† It felt wonderful to be out on the water paddling again.¬† Oh, how I’ve missed this.

Kayaking
Don’t I look like one happy camper?

This particular Sea Eagle model seemed more fitting for one person than two.¬† Thus G and I took turns taking Nemo out individually.¬† And of course I still had to take photos while I’m out on the water.¬† I¬†used my trusty little waterproof camera with wrist float.

inflatable kayaks
taking photos of my feathered friends
inflatable kayaks
paddling with my feathered friends

The day was over before we knew it.  We had a fantastic time with promises to do a repeat soon.  Thank you G & T for a fabulous day.

desert bloomsAh, but there’s one more tidbit to the story.¬† I promised to bring the burgers and salads for the picnic,¬†but nearly forgot to visit the grocery store.

You see, there were a couple of fellow bloggers in town that I was looking forward to meeting.

After a series of emails, a blogger meet up was scheduled at the Handlebar Pub and Grill in Apache Junction the evening before our kayak outing.

The conversation flowed freely with these two engaging couples…¬†so freely that I nearly forgot Al and I still needed to get to the grocery store and prepare a few things for the next days kayak outing.

bloggers
Marsha & Paul upper left – me & Al lower left – Pam & John on the right

It was great fun finally meeting these couples;¬† John and Pam from the blog Oh the Places They Go and Paul and Marsha from Where’s Weaver.¬† I’m sure it’s just a matter of time¬†before our paths cross again.

Next up,¬†it’s time for some hiking….

Sea Eagle 330 Inflatable Kayak with Pro Package
Panasonic DMC-TS25D Waterproof Digital Camera with 2.7-Inch LCD (Orange)