Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Up North in Bayfield

I spent most of the past week in Bayfield enjoying the spectacular views, wonderful weather, browsing the excellent used bookstores, visiting the orchards, walking along sandy beaches, and eating good food.

We bought a place up there about 12 years ago after we got tired of fighting traffic in Door County. (You can rent it for your own vacation - if you mention my name they will probably still let you stay there.)

Click here for the Top Ten things that make Bayfield special.

We did stir ourselves to see the final Big Top show of the season - the traditional Old Last Night festival of music and humor. The humor included the hyper-high jinks of the Circo Comedia and the laid back observations of life in small town Wisconsin from humorist Michael Perry. Perry also managed to provide important life lessons, such as "never stand behind a sneezing cow" and the intricacies of the Air Hanky (aka the Farmer Blow or Snot Rocket).

The Apostle Islands National Park is the crown jewel of the area. (Foolishly, I left my kayaks at home and the water was incredibly calm; even placid.) A great way to see the islands is on the Apostle Islands Cruise Service. They offer a variety of tours during the high season. Details are here.

We also visited Madeline Island via the Madeline Island Ferry Line. Madeline Island is not part of the Apostle Islands, but does boast the excellent Big Bay State Park, the the aptly named Big Bay Town Park (it's a town park on a large bay), the Madeline Island state historical museum, and Tom's burned down bar (twice!).

The history of the area is one aspect of that always amazes. French explorers (couriers de bois, i.e. rogues) and Catholic missionaries probably first came to the area in the early 1600's.

"About 1660, two explorer/fur traders, Groseilliers and Radisson, made their way to Chequamegon Bay. Five years later, Jesuit Father Claude Allouez and Father Jacques Marquette arrived. A mission was soon established at LaPointe, on Madeline Island. For the next 150 years, it was an important outpost for French, British and American fur traders."

Food: If anything in Bayfield will defy your expectations of Northern Wisconsin, it's the extraordinarily high quality restaurants. And I don't mean just a juicy prime rib on Saturday night. Don't miss the Egg Toss for breakfast (yeah, it's little pricey for Up North, but hey you're on vacation.) And then hit Maggie's for lunch and supper. The Wild Rice is the high-end offering of this restaurant group owned by local philanthropist and business woman Mary Rice.

(I've not eaten at the Wild Rice, but did overhear a local wag explain that he was going there for the privilege of paying $200 for a $40 meal!).

Some other food offerings: Ethel's at 250, Greunkes First Street Inn and Restaurant, the Portside, and the Old Rittenhouse Inn.

: I usually spend considerable time and money at What Goes 'Round used books in Bayfield and the Chequamegon Book & Coffee Company in Washburn.

There are several scenic and interesting trails right in Bayfield. If you're up there in January, check out the ice caves.


There's a bunch of other great stuff - quaint shops, kayaking, festivals like the Apple Fest. And then there's the unusual like dog sledding, and the run on the water. You can also drive on the water. Really.

It is a good ways up there, but after a few days it is hard to return to 'civilization'.

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