This year, we canceled 2 trips that we booked a year ago due to the travel uncertainties in this COVID-19 era. We made a last minute road trip to Bayfield — Wisconsin’s smallest city with a population of just 487 — during my furlough period. The idea was to recharge ourselves from months of hectic work and to shy away from the crowds by hiking in the Northwoods of Wisconsin.
We visited Bayfield 6 years ago during a brutal winter to explore the Apostle Islands Ice Caves and this lovely small city has left us a nice memory since. On this trip, we took as many safety precautions as possible, such as, wiping down commonly touched items upon accommodation check-in, refraining ourselves from eating outside and making sure we always have masks and hand sanitizers with us. This is going to be new norms for future travelling in the coming years. On our way to Bayfield, we revisited the beautiful Copper Falls State Park, which we didn’t have much recollection of the trails because they were heavily covered in snow during our last visit. From there, we continued north to Washburn and did a short hike in the Houghton Falls State Natural Area, which is only a 15-minute drive from Bayfield.
Bayfield serves as the gateway to the Apostle Island and this year marks the 50th anniversary of the founding of Apostle Islands National Lakeshore. So, we wanted to spend some time there. We planned to do an evening cruise to the Apostle Islands, but decided against it at the very last minute because we were uncomfortable sitting with many passengers in a confined space in this interesting time. Our initial plan was to hike the 4.5-mile Lakeshore Trail, which is located on top of the sea caves, but it was closed due to storm damage that occurred 2 days before our trip.
Nevertheless, we did a 3-hour guided sea kayaking trip where we kayaked a total of 4 miles on Lake Superior from Bayfield to Red Cliffs and back. It rained heavily that morning and we experienced 2-foot waves at times, but our $2300+ 18-foot long Looksha T tandem kayak handled the choppy water with ease. We had a faint view of the 282-foot long Fedora shipwreck, but the water visibility was low due to the heavy rain and rough waves. It was surprising to know the rain actually made the water on Lake Superior much warmer — warm enough to comfortably dip our hands in the water from the kayak. Honestly speaking, the kayaking trip was a little below my expectation due to the bad weather and that we had to head back half an hour earlier because some of the first-time kayakers in our group experienced sea sickness. That said, we learned a few interesting tidbits about the Apostle Islands. The black bears can be found on any of the 21 Apostle Islands even though these islands are miles apart and the lake depth is at least 150 feet because they can easily swim from one island to another island. Although Madeline Island is the largest island in the Apostle Islands archipelago, it is not part of the Apostle Islands National Lakeshore because it was too expensive for the US government to buy out all the private residences on that island.
Known as the Berry Capital of Wisconsin, our trip coincided with the several berry picking seasons in Bayfield. We visited a few berry farms along the Bayfield Fruit Loop and picked a total of 15 lbs of cherries, blueberries and raspberries. The upside of bad weather is there weren’t too many customers picking the berries while we were there. We spent a half day hiking in Big Bay State Park by taking a 20-minute ferry ride to Madeline Island. The last time we visited this state park, we drove on the frozen Lake Superior to get to this island in the winter. On our way home, we admired the beautiful waterfalls in Amnicon Falls State Park, which is located 20-mile south east of Duluth.
Although the weather could be slightly better throughout the trip, we still managed to explore 3 very scenic state parks in Wisconsin. We enjoyed our quiet times reading on our iPads, listening to the soothing crashing waves, enjoying the cool breeze and the smell of the rain from our accommodation by Lake Superior.