Print Friendly and PDF With Strings Attached: Road Scholar: two weeks, two Great Lakes

Tuesday, July 5, 2016

Road Scholar: two weeks, two Great Lakes

Our 33rd and  34th Road Scholar trips are now wonderful memories.  We drove 1,541 miles in all.  We discovered new sights, revisited familiar places, met interesting people, learned a lot, and enjoyed good food. The weather was great.  What more could you ask from a vacation?

We have now been on nine Road Scholar programs on the Great Lakes. The previous seven are Cedarville, MI, on Lake Huron; Mackinac Island; South Bass Island (Lake Erie); Superior, WI; Sandstone, MN; Grand Marais, MN; and Isle Royale.   We visited Bayfield briefly after the Superior RS.  When I was very small our family spent a week each summer in Door County (Ephraim).  I’ve only been back twice as an adult, once with Stevens, once with friends. It was time for a return trip!

We left home Saturday, June 18. Destination: Wausau, Wisconsin.  We saw the Leigh Yawkey Woodson Art Museum, the Yawkey House, the Marathon Co. Historical Society, the Monk Botanical Garden, and the dells of the Eau Claire River (a county park). 

Sunday, June 19:  Phillips, WI, has the Smith Concrete  Park.  We drove past . . . then we turned around to take a look.  Fred Smith created folk art out of concrete and glass. What a treat!

  We arrived in Bayfield about 2 p.m.  The program was based at the Bayfield Inn, right on the harbor. The rooms were comfortable and the food was excellent.   Road Scholar was the only group at the Inn all week.  Participants came from as close as Kenosha, others from suburban Chicago, and as far as California.

The theme of the program was the history of the Apostle Islands and Bayfield.  Presenters were local historians and area experts.

 Solstice sunrise over Basswood Island
The area was settled by Native Americans guided by the Great Spirit to migrate from the St. Lawrence valley.   The Ojibwe defeated the Dakota and the Iroquois and solidified their control of the south coast of Lake Superior, just in time for the arrival of the fur traders.  That was a lucrative for the Ojibwe, the French, and the English. 

Why “Apostle” Islands?  Because there are so many.  None is named for any of the apostles.  Madeline Island is the in the archipelago but not in the national park.  That is the Christian name taken by the Ojibwe wife of trader Michel Cadotte.  (The town was chartered in 1856 and named for Adm. Henry Bayfield, the British Navy surveyor stationed there.)

 Field trips took us to the Apostle Islands National Park visitors’ center, housed in the old courthouse. The chief ranger told us about the geology of the islands, including the sea caves (summer) and the ice caves (winter).   There are 175,000 summer visitors, on average. In the winter of 2014 the ice cover was so extensive and lasted so long that 135,000 visitors came from January 1-March 17.   In 2015 there were 28,000 visitors between February 28 and March 9.  However, the long-term trend is warming. Fishermen have to set their nets farther out to get coldwater fish and zebra mussels (an invasive species that prefers warmer water) have been found.

We saw the sea caves for ourselves on a boat cruise around the islands.

Coast Guardsmen stationed at Bayfield showed us their equipment and described their duties, primarily safety inspections but also rescues.   A tour of the Bayfield Maritime Museum provided a glimpse into the past: fisheries, lighthouses, and shipwrecks.

Bayfield from the ferry

We spent all day Wednesday on Madeline Island.  It is the size of Manhattan but has far fewer people – 300 in the winter, 2500 in the summer.  It’s been a summer resort since the 1890’s.  Both a state park and a county park ensure open lands.

Our bus went past Madeline Island School of the Arts, which hosts quilting courses every summer. I'm seriously thinking about it.

The Road Scholar program ended Thursday morning.  (Happy birthday to me!) Stevens and I checked out of the Inn, drove 25 miles to Ashland, and checked in to the Ashland Super 8.  (The Inn was fully booked, but would have cost $199/night.  The Super 8 was just $65.)  We had lunch with John and Ann who were the group leaders of the Isle Royale Road Scholar program that we enjoyed in 2012. They live outside Ashland, though they’d been on Isle Royale with a RS group just the week before.  That evening we heard “Belfast to Blue Grass” at Big Top Chautauqua.  Big Top is a cultural institution in the region, providing concerts all summer long under a real canvas tent.  The ensemble cast performed Irish and American folk music – a wonderful program!

We saw most of the 15 murals depicting Ashland’s history (earning it the title of “mural capital of Wisconsin”).  The town was founded in 1856. The Soo Line railway delivered iron ore to the docks to be loaded on freighters destined for Chicago, Detroit, and Cleveland.  (Sandstone quarried in nearby Washburn was shipped to the east and midwest and used in thousands of buildings and homes.)

Lake in the Clouds, Porcupine Mtns. State Park
We headed northeast along the lake shore to Ontonagon in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. I chose it because we’d never been there and because it’s the largest town adjacent to the Porcupine Mountains. We stayed at a small family-owned resort with a nice stretch of sandy beach.  Ontonagon is the western-most municipality in the Eastern Time Zone – at this time of year the sun doesn’t set until nearly 10 p.m.  It was founded in 1843 as the market town for the area lumber industry at a time when the white pine forest seemed inexhaustible.  Nowadays the economy relies on tourism.  A shipbuilder operated for several decades and apparently a federal subcontractor is making something in the facility (but no one could say precisely what). The paper-bag manufacturing plant closed in 2010. We visited the historical society and toured the Ontanogon light house on Saturday morning. That afternoon we went to the Porcupine Mountains State Park.  (We saw more of it than we intended because I turned the wrong way when we left the visitors’ center.)

Ontanogon Lighthouse

The northern terminus of US 45 (which runs just west of home)
Morning mist, south of Ontanogon
It was a long drive from Ontanogon to Door County:  south, then east, then north. We left early Sunday morning and arrived at Rowleys Bay Resort in Ellison Bay mid-afternoon.    

There were 11 in our group for “The Door County Experience.”  It ran concurrently with “Door County Cooking, Cuisine, and Culinary Arts.”  We had separate group leaders, but we ate most of our meals together and shared two of the evening programs.  It was fun to swap stories of our days’ activities.  

For our group: 

 ·         Artist Ed Fenendael showed us how to paint watercolors. We each made a 4 x 6 piece to take home. (And I bought the painting he created as the class sample.)

·         Taxidermist Mike Orthober was wonderful!  None of us knew much about taxidermy. Mike showed how he creates the plastic molds over which he stretches the skin – whether it’s a snake, a bird, or a deer.  We are better informed and much more appreciative.
·         Orchardists Mary Pat and Mark Carlson told us about small-scale cherry orchard farming.

·         Field trips to Eagle Bluff state park and light house, Peninsula State Park, Seaquist Orchards (a huge commercial operation), the Door County Museum, and the Door County Maritime Museum.  
Niagara escarpment, Eagle Bluff S.P.

Fossil-hunting on the beach
Eagle Bluff light house
·         Door County fish boils are a traditional way to serve white fish with onions and potatoes. The process is very dramatic.

·         Wednesday afternoon and evening were free time.  We caught the 11:45 ferry to Washington Island, had lunch, and drove along tree-lined roads speculating about the lakefront houses at the ends of all the driveways.  We went past Sievers School of Fiber Arts where quilting classes are taught. (Maybe I’ll need to register for classes at both Madeline Island and Sievers, just to compare. J)  That evening we joined another couple and went to the Peninsula Players, an 80-year-old summer stock theater, to see “Chapatti.” It was an excellent play.

We checked out after breakfast on Friday and pulled into our driveway at 1 p.m.   Laundry done, groceries restocked, souvenirs accounted for . . . and great memories of a delightful trip.

P.S.  Door County artwork, then and now. My parents bought the picture on the left circa 1955. The view of the church and harbor in Ephraim hasn't changed much.  We watched Ed paint the Cana Island lighthouse (from a photograph). 


Door County comestibles!

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