York Island (March 2000)
by Sarah Ohmann
For the last three years ice out in the Apostles has been much earlier than average, and some of us have done April trips in the Apostles for the last two years. This year three of us (Sarah Ohmann, Chris Wein and Ellen Nacik) decided to start even earlier and visit the Apostles on the weekend of 3/17/00. The three week thaw at the end of February has caused ice all over the Great Lakes to melt early, and even the Apostle Islands are largely ice-free at this time (the first year of TCSKA's existence a late May trip to Sand Island had to be canceled due to the islands still being iced in!). Saturday brought strong southerly winds which helped melt the little bit of snow left on the ground. We decided to bag paddling for the day and instead drove to different launch points to see how the ice was coming: still some floating slush in Bayfield, plenty of ice left in Red cliff, gone at Little Sand Bay and Meyer's Beach. Even in the places where the ice was gone from the lake, shore fast ice lined all the islands and mainland that we could see. On Meyer's Beach near the Squaw Bay caves, ice extended out about 25-100 feet from shore, with pancake icebergs nudging against the wall of frozen spray at the edge. We amused ourselves by hopping on the bergs for a ride.
Sunday was slightly foggy but dead calm, so we launched from the docking area at Little Sand Bay, after dragging our boats across the ice to the open water. We paddled east along the cliffs and bluffs which were obscured by ice caves and sculptures filled with ice stalactites and stalagmites. With such calm weather we decided to visit York Island and landed on the sand spit on south side of the island. We actually found a little bit of sand to land on with no ice, and enjoyed walking around (we saw two eagles already out there, and some deer tracks).
The islands were as quiet as I've ever heard them: there was no boat traffic since all the harbors were still iced in. It felt very strange to be out in the Apostles knowing that it was still March, but also it was a real treat to be given such an early start to the paddling season.