Thursday 24th June. After a great night sleep in a comfy bed we met Jess our contact at Northland College just up the road. We chatted about our paddling experience and the islands and together we plotted a route around the inner islands for 2 nights and 3 days. Jess made a call and booked our camping sites, 1st night campsite 4 Oak Island and 2nd night campsite 3 Sand Island.
We were measured up for wetsuits and life jackets and loaded up in the van and trailer with a 2 man sea kayak together with paddles, skirts, pumps, water filter, weather radio and flare gun. Jess then drove us up to Red Cliff with a quick stop at the grocery store, Karl’s house to collect our camping gear and the National Park Office in Bayland to purchase our permit.
We offloaded at the Red Cliff harbour and had a safety talk on land to discuss how the waves, wind, wildlife and water to shore factors will effect our paddling and how to avoid any dangers. We changed into our paddling gear and took the kayak out in to the harbour where we were taught various strokes and most importantly a wet water exit and rescue! I was extremely anxious about capsizing and getting back in especially as the water temperature was 42degrees Fahrenheit! We later learned that left in this water for up to an hour you would die from losing unconsciousness and hyperthermia. A few rocks of the boat left and right and we were under, I immediately grabbed my nose as I always do when being submerged in water then as I sat upside down still in the water I realised that I should actually be tugging on my skirt to release myself from the boat! Eventually I made it to the surface where Kris was already up and asking if I was ok, I tried to reply but the freezing water had taken my breath away. With Jess’s guidance we both managed to get back in the kayak, probably not very elegantly, but we made it and it gave us both great confidence.
Back to the shore Jess left us and we loaded the hatches and headed North to Oak Island. The sun was out and it was actually so warm it was refreshing to put your hands in the beautifully clear calm water of the Lake Superior. Which by the way is massive, 365 miles by 160 miles at its widest points and is 31,800 square miles in total and is described as an inland sea. After many photo stops we made it to our campsite after 7 miles paddling. The water was like glass and it was fairly easy to navigate which one was our island as the visibility was excellent. Although it could get quite confusing as there are 22 islands which all look very similar, its just their size, shape and height that differentiate them.
The campsite was marked by a single wooden pole on a massive expanse of island which we did well to find. We were amazed to find just one site for a tent and one fire pit and a bear box for our food. This means we are the only people at the campsite as each site is one pitch and there are only 4 sites on the entire island pretty much north, south, east and west so we are very much alone with the biggest concentration of black bear in Wisconsin. We set up tent and Kris managed to get a lovely fire started as we munched on a sandwich.
After a few minutes and out of nowhere the wind picked up, the rain came over and we cleared away and ducked in the tent for the night. We listened to the weather radio which was giving severe weather warnings for the county we were in with wind of up to 60 knots and hale stones up to the size of a quarter. We panicked a lot and kept checking the kayak was still safe on the beach and had not been washed away and considered walking 2.8miles to the ranger station but in the end decided to lay still and hope for the best as we were so well protected from the elements in amongst the dense forest.