Stockton Island Camping: Our First Day Actually Backpacking


I for one slept much better our second night at the campground. Sam said he heard the bear—or some other big, snorting, ominous thing—stomping around the tent that night, but I was essentially unconscious from the moment my head hit my stuff-sack pillow. We diligently packed everything up, sorted out our clothes and food for the overnight trip to Stockton Island, parked our car, and headed down the hill to our ferry.

We’d selected Stockton Island primarily for financial and logistical reasons. Of the 21 islands in the Apostle Islands National Lakeshore, Stockton had:

  • access to potable water
  • a ranger onsite
  • a ferry schedule that fit our timeframe
  • food lockers to keep bears away
  • the cheapest transportation option for getting to and from Bayfield

When we initially planned this trip, we were hoping to do island hopping and see a little bit of everything on a lot of different islands. The more we planned, we realized this wouldn’t be feasible unless we wanted to pay a buttload of money to private ferry companies. That wasn’t going to happen. We don’t have a private boat, so that wasn’t an option. Kayaking trips are a good solution for many visitors. However, we would rather hike for 4-6 hours instead of kayaking for that long in open water, so we ruled kayaking out pretty quickly.

Continue reading “Stockton Island Camping: Our First Day Actually Backpacking”

Madeline Island (Apostle Islands Day 2, continued)

Madeline Island Day Trip - Apostle Islands National Lakeshore Camping and Backpacking Vacation

Check out part 1 and part 2 for more about our Apostle Islands trip!

After our confidence-boosting hiking, we made it back to Bayfield and returned out wet suits after our tour was cancelled. We asked the woman at the kayak place if she had any thoughts about where to go for dinner. Without hesitation, she advised us to go to Madeline Island and visit one of the restaurants there. Sam and I thanked her for the information about how to get to Madeline (there are ferry rides every 30 minutes) and made our way back to the car. Since our ferry to Stockton Island cost us so much money, we ruled out budgeting for another island while we were here. But going to Madeline was only $10 or $15 each, and we’d just received a hefty refund from the cancelled kayak trip, so we decided to treat ourselves.

But first, I needed a bath in Superior. Because why not? That’s what I did all summer in Lake Michigan, so why not here? Let’s put it this way: our lake baths were very short. Like, maybe 30 seconds? In case you’re wondering, swimming in Lake Superior when it’s drizzling and barely 60 degrees outside is not something I’d recommend. Unless you’d like a taste of onset hypothermia.

Apostle Islands National Lakeshore Camping - Madeline Island

Apostle Islands National Lakeshore Camping - Madeline Island

Continue reading “Madeline Island (Apostle Islands Day 2, continued)”

Camping at the Apostle Islands National Lakeshore: Into the Woods

Copy of APOSTLE ISLANDS %2F%2F DAY 2.png

Looking for more stories from our trip in the Apostle Islands? Check out part 1 of our adventures!

Even though we were never in immediate danger the night before, having a bear lurking outside our tent still put a significant dent in our mental toughness. We awoke the next morning drowsy, neither of us sleeping very well, and we still felt void of enthusiasm and energy for this trip. I could tell Sam wanted to sit down and have a heart-to-heart chat about our vacation as badly as I did. We decided to hold off until we had some food in our bellies, since we’re both pretty intolerable until we eat.

Scooping up oatmeal from our camping bowls, we talked about our options. Even before we arrived here yesterday, this trip was far from what we expected. We had a major detour getting here, we didn’t stay at the campsite we originally reserved, and we had one (possibly two) bear encounters in the course of just four hours. We felt frazzled, underprepared, and entirely vulnerable to whatever nature wanted to throw at us. To make matters worse, the world felt muggy and damp after a night full of rain instead of the fresh, clean feeling that normally follows a rainstorm. Everything was gray, dull, and lackluster compared to what we envisioned.

We decided we would cut the trip short by at least a day. Knowing we had a 10+ hour ride back to Chicago instead of the seven or eight hours we originally anticipated made the whole trip seem like a chore instead of a vacation. Camping for four nights and then sitting in a car for 10 hours before going back to work the next day sounded awful. Maybe even more awful than sleeping with bears.

Continue reading “Camping at the Apostle Islands National Lakeshore: Into the Woods”

Camping at the Apostle Islands National Lakeshore: Adventures with Bears


“What to do when bears are outside tent.”

This is what Sam Googled as we lay side by side in our tent on Wednesday night, listening to the sounds of heavy, raspy breathing and thick-padded footprints moving along the outside of our thinly walled tent. It was raining, but even over the pitter-patter droplets hitting the tent and muddy ground, sounds of deep breathing and sluggish feet were unmistakable. This animal was not a raccoon.

I wasn’t yet asleep when I first heard our visitor. The rain started shortly after dinner, as we were walking back to our site from the restrooms. Brushing out teeth under the open trunk roof of our car, we quickly rinsed, spit, and ran into the tent. Snuggling into our new sleeping bags and talking in the dim light of our nifty solar-powered lantern/water bottle (an impulse REI purchase, as many purchase are from REI), we reflected on the day’s activities.

Continue reading “Camping at the Apostle Islands National Lakeshore: Adventures with Bears”