My visit to Shutter, whoops, I mean Sand Island
It was time for our annual off-the-farm vacation. This means heading up north to the Apostle Islands. This would make it my third annual trip up north. I do love my Apostle Islands. I have the tee shirts and sweatshirts to back up that claim. But this year felt different. Pete wanted to spend a day on Sand Island. A day. On a remote island. For a whole day. I felt misgivings clouding my thoughts leading up to the trip north. I couldn’t help but think of Shutter Island. Especially when the only way Pete could get us on the island early in the morning and picked up towards end of day was by chartering one Captain Bob. So now I’m thinking Shutter Island meets Gilligan’s Island with Captain Bob as our only means of salvation should anything go bad on Shutter, oh excuse me, Sand Island.
I was eager to explore Sand Island as much as Pete. It really does have an interesting history. Despite its remote outpost, families did manage to settle there year-round in the late 1880’s through early 1900’s. This I find amazing as the winters can be quite harsh, and ferry service to and from the mainland didn’t exist. In fact, even today there is no such ferry service, but there is Captain Bob who did graciously powerboat us from Madeline Island to Sand Island, which was about a 50 minute happy ride. It really was a lovely morning. The lake was calm, the sun was out and we had our maps, water, snackies and wine. Because there are beaches on that there island, and where there are beaches, there will be wine. And snacks. And horror. Oh wait, I’m getting ahead of myself.
So Captain Bob dropped us off as we remarked “what a delightful beach”. Indeed. Okay Captain Bob, catch us at 3:30 pm! We’ll meet you on this here beach after we’re done exploring the old homesteads and lighthouse. Or so we hoped.
We shouldered up our backpacks and marched into the woods, and were promptly met with a volunteer park ranger who was adjusting her mosquito netting hat thing. My first thought was that she was tending to bees. A few seconds later, I realized mosquito netting is a necessity for basic survival on this island during this time. Despite long sleeves, pants, socks, boots and hats, a cloud of mosquitoes were our constant and annoying hiking mates descending on us in the seconds should we would pause to take a picture. So the key was to keep on the move, and move fast. We must reach the lighthouse which was a 2 mile hike. Not a far distance but far enough with an entourage of hungry mosquitoes hovering over us. My one hope was that once we got inside the lighthouse, mosquitoes wouldn’t be biting us. Surely, there must be some relief there!
True enough, as soon as we reached the clearing that opened to the lighthouse, the mosquitoes stayed back. But the flies took over. Aaack!! Flies covered our legs from ankle to knee. It was such an odd thing that these flies were particular to the lower limbs. Better that than up my nostrils I suppose. After exploring the rocky outcrops at the base of the lighthouse, we bid our flies goodbye and went into the lighthouse where we met up with our friendly mosquito-netted park rangers who were happy to talk to us about the family who had lived there and tended the lighthouse for many years. We were allowed to actually go up the lighthouse tower itself. Albeit, very carefully, in spirals; watch your head, don’t touch the lead paint, shaky railings, be afraid, etc…yeah, I’m loving this. Scary stuff just keeps getting better;
After our sojourn to the lighthouse, we muscled through the mosquitoes and hiked a bit down to another beach, and then back up to the trail leading back to the dock whence we arrived, accompanied by our mosquitoes. After 4 miles of the little biters, I ran to the beachhead and practically dove in the water to rid myself of the pesky beasts. Wow. I’m a wimp. There was more to explore on this island but I refused to go back into the woods once I rinsed myself of the nasty biters. But Pete was determined and ventured back in for one more shot of the last vestiges of those who once called this home;
The islanders had two cars that helped to shuttle supplies to and from the dock to their homes. They remain there still to this day. I’m sure there is more to see there on this island, but the mosquitoes drove us out from seeing more. We retreated to the beach for relief and to await Captain Bob. While we waited, I rinsed my buggy bites and got busy constructing a retreat should Captain Bob never show up. Neurotic me thinks about these things you know. So I built a nice, little beach house;
Captain Bob did pick us up at the scheduled time much to my relief. And we had a fun powerboat ride back to Madeline Island. Next time we visit such an island, I’m wearing mosquito netting from head to toe. And oh by the way, Captain Bob was cool, he diverted our boat so that we could see a bald eagle up close on one of the islands. Those are the little things that made this trip special. Thanks Captain Bob!