At Friends, our staff, board members, and volunteers can often be found in deep discussions over issues, planning budgets, setting up meetings, the everyday stuff of any organization. However sometimes you just have to set that all aside and return to the heart of things: the reason for doing all of it. Sometimes, you just have to go to the islands.
Recently 58 Friends members, donors, board members, and supporters boarded the Superior Princess at the Bayfield City Dock for our 2022 Annual Cruise, a signature Friends event, this year sponsored by Wickcraft Boardwalks.
It was a picture-perfect summer evening as Captain Sherman and his crew steered the 65-foot glass-bottomed Superior Princess, part of the Apostle Islands Cruise Service fleet, out of the harbor and set a course for the fifteen-mile crossing to Stockton Island, the largest of the islands within the Apostle Islands National Lakeshore.
Slipping passed Basswood and Hermit Island, guests dined on a banquet billed as a “Taste of the Bay” including an array of sandwiches from Starlight Bakery, smoked fish and fish spread from Bodin’s Fish House, salads from the Chequamegon Food Co-Op, and desserts from Harbor House Sweets.
There is something magical about an island. They are not of the mainland exactly but not completely of the lake either – a place apart. They are other worlds set apart by the deep blue space of the lake. Something falls away from you as the boat slips the lines and clears the dock – a heaviness of spirit – and something alights in you as well, a sense of adventure and anticipation. Somewhere among the soft blue swells of the lake, thoughts of agendas and budgets and deadlines slipped away. We were going to an island.
We docked at Stockton Island and disembarked for a tour of the newly opened all-accessible amphitheater. The new facility, with its gently sloping ramps, wide benches, and accessible entrance, makes it easy for visitors with mobility challenges to move from the dock or the accessible campsite already in place on the island, to the contact station and on to the raised-deck amphitheater.
With a campfire blazing in the firepit, Friends former Board Chair Erica Peterson who spearheaded the project with the help of the National Park Service team, told of the background of the place now called “maawanji’ i ding — “place where we come together” in the Ojibwe language, and praised the support of Wickcraft Boardwalks in providing the materials for this unique project.
Apostle Islands National Lakeshore Superintendent Lynne Dominy spoke of the hard work and ingenuity of the NPS crew that constructed the amphitheater with such care and skill and of the importance of working with an organization such as Friends in support of their commitment to making the park accessible.
Executive Director Jeff Rennicke concluded the program with an overview of even more plans for accessible features in the park through the “Access for All” campaign that Friends will feature in the coming year.
Afterwards, some guests hiked the half-mile trail to Julian Bay to walk in the “singing sands.” Some took a guided nature hike with naturalist Erica Peterson, formerly a ranger on Stockton Island.
Others watched the sunset on the bay until it was time to reboard the Princessand head back towards the lights of Bayfield, the evening punctuated with the soft glow of the rising moon.
Throughout the year, Friends and its members work long, hard hours helping to support the National Park staff in their projects within the park. But a night like this one reminds us of what all the hard work is for and why we do it.
As we stepped off the ship on the Bayfield dock, each passenger received the perfect parting gift prepared by co-Director Jill Rennicke – a single chocolate made by Harbor House Sweets bearing the outline of Lake Superior and wrapped in homemade wrapping paper cut from island maps. A sweet reminder of an evening spent on the islands we love.
If you’d like to be a part of future cruises, click here to join us as a member. You will receive newsletters, information, inspiration, and be the first to find out about future volunteer opportunities and events such as our annual cruise.
Friends Executive Director Jeff Rennicke and Alissa Scapes from Wickcraft Boardwalks – Jon Okerstrom photo
Friends would also like to thank Wickcraft Boardwalks, Bodin’s Fish House, Harbor House Sweets, Starlight Bakery, the Chequamegon Co-Op, the Apostle Islands Cruise Service, the National Park Service, and all the volunteers and others who made this magical evening possible.
Jeff Rennicke is Executive Director of the Friends of the Apostle Islands National Lakeshore. He is also an educator, outdoor adventure travel writer and photographer.