APOSTLE ISLAND NATIONAL LAKESHORE
Back up the stairs the boardwalk continues, a few rough hewn benches give a second and third look back at the bay. The last gives the best view of the sea caves, then the path swings away from the shore and continues straight to the lighthouse. For about an eighth of a mile I walk on the forest floor through a mix of birch and pine. A canopy of deciduous leaves creates a dappled and moving sunlight.
The ground gets wetter and the boardwalk begins again. An incredible variety of mushrooms grow close to my feet. Soft brown buttons like nicely done pancakes, nut brown in the middle with a light edge. High domes in waxy red crimson, white ones like the supermarket variety, others rosy pink with white stems and a bright yellow disks, blending to lemon at the edges. Bluebead and red berries mix together.
Just as I think I hear the faint sound of waves in Lighthouse Bay I come upon the first giant white pine in the Sand Island's remaining primal forest. Fifty feet up two boughs, which in themselves would be big trees, reach straight out from the trunk, then bend at the elbows like arms railing against the wind. A second giant is just 40 feet down the trail, straight and thick, its top obscured by healthy branches.The trail curves to the left through more open woods and the boardwalk ends. If I didn't now hear the waves I would still know I was approaching Lighthouse Bay by the lake wind which finds the trail and funnels down through it. I come upon a bench perched at the edge of a cliff where I can look down on the waves crashing on the rocks below. Here the trail splits. To the left it makes its way down to a long crescent beach, to the right it winds through fields to the Sand Island Light.
He’d come by with a little pack on his back. He’d be eating berries and he’d come up to you and say “Do you think the sun will shine tomorrow?” He’d turn around and go. He was scared to death of cattle. He was so scared of cows. It was pathetic. He’d have to go through our pasture. Any cows out today? I’d say no, no. Figured they’d never bother him anyhow. One day he ran into them and he got on a big stump and he stood there with a stick. Shoo! Shoo! And the cows looked at him, stick their ears out and come up and what the heck is that? He backed up and fell off the stump. The cow ran. He didn’t hurt himself, he was mad. —Bill Noring concerning summer resident Dr. Dison
A low but prolonged thunder was the first sign of the gathering storm. The rain began first with sound, then a certain vertical activity in the air outside the window. The storm sits for awhile just over my roof, then the thunderclouds align themselves and travel east.
The fire is hissing and cracking, but the good healthy whuffling sound of real flame has been hard to maintain tonight. It's gusty outside and four times the wind has raced down the chimney sending billowing smoke into my living room . Soon only a few logs darkly glow, silhouetting the remaining which are growing cold. A white light through the trees sometimes flashes bright enough to illuminate the lake with an electric coldness and the sky grinds. Brief periods of raindrops fall heavily. A soft mouse creeps from the woodpile to take a look at the fire. I warn him away, for he seems to want to crawl in.
We would build a fire on the beach, then put a lot of green leaves on top of the fire and make large billowing white smoke from it. And we’d build this fire at a certain place on the beach and the people on the island, during the day they’d look for signals, and when they saw one, why, one of them would come across and we’d pay them for the ride over. That’s just the way they did it in those days. —Howard Palm, Oct. 17, 1987 interview with Carol Ahlgren
The thunder and rain has given way to a wet sparkling morning, perhaps the last warm morning of my stay, according to the forecast I get over my park radio before the 8 am island-to-island roll call. I'll have to make sure I can light a fire tonight.
I spend the morning exploring the nearby woods where I find signs of old foundations and farm machines. After lunch I bring my paints, binoculars and the radio down the sturdy wooden stairs that lead from my cabin to the beach. The lake, like the ocean, constantly shifts and changes. The color of the water has brown and ochre undertones and reflects the palest blue. The horizon line is distinct and dark gray or brown. I fill a few sheets of watercolor paper. I wish I could paint a lake like Arthur Dove— a few shape and colors, and the spirit of it all.
As the afternoon grows late the lake glows aqua and orange and the lighthouse on Raspberry island is a white beacon, lit by the setting sun.
He believed in sunbathing. Of course, back in those days—anybody come up there, taking off their clothes, lying in the sun—you were just a bit balmy...He built himself a raft, pretty good sized raft with a sail on it and he’d get out there on that raft, take off his clothes get out in...literally floating around the lake bare naked. That was a little odd! So you see, a raft is not going to go where you want it to go with a little dinky sail. You’re going to go where the current is going to take you. So he would get fairly far out and of course they’d come and say, Dr. Dison isn’t back—he’s out on his raft” and the fishermen would have to go and get him. And they’d get out there and here’s this bare naked guy on this raft, drifting around the lake. And when these guys had been working since four in the morning—there wasn’t any moment of gaiety for them.And they’d tow him in. ..The second time he got out there real bad they had a little conference with the Doctor and said ”This is the last time...” —Bill Noring concerning summer resident Dr. Dison
Today the park radio is active with reports of waves crashing over the docks, but my morning watercolors are calm. I draw the flat sable brush I have used for the first time, and fallen in love with, across the horizon but then realize there is something not straight about the line. Lake Superior, Apostle Island National Lakeshore
Looking through my binoculars I see the water is leaping up, chunks of waves, not swelling like the sea, but shaken, hitting the shore of Raspberry Island and spraying straight up like geysers. But this is only further out, in the shadow of the island it is still calm.[TO BE CONTINUED]