by Adrienne Madson
This trip was by far the most exhilarating paddling adventure I have had to date. I can still feel the wind in my hair and on my face and the refreshing chill of the water.
I had wanted to go to the Rossport area for some time having seen so many pictures and slides of others who had enjoyed the area. So I was really looking forward to exploring the islands.
Pete and I left Thursday, August 7 at 7:30 in the morning and headed up 35W to Duluth where we had lunch with our son and picked up the compression bag for one of our sleeping bags. Then we drove up scenic Hwy. 61 to Hwy 11-17 and on to Rossport. As we looked out across Lake Superior we could see it was a brilliant bright blue with a perky wind ruffling the surface. We arrived at Rossport in the early evening. It is a very small village with a charming B & B and restaurant that boasts the best fish and chips on the lake.
Our put-in was adjacent to the village playground, and there we met our fellow paddlers for the weekend: Don Dimond, Al Kasinskas, Duane Kunge, and David Brewster. As the sun was beginning to set, we hurried to pack our kayaks and paddled out to nearby Healey Island to spend the night. This was such an ideal spot that we decided to base camp there for the whole weekend. It has a nice beach on both sides of the small peninsula we chose as our campsite. We could come and go on either side depending on the wind.
We awoke on Friday to a beautiful day, and David, Al, Duane, and Pete and I decided to paddle out to the lighthouse. We were told that if we brought chocolate chip cookies (which we did) to the lighthouse attendant, we might be offered a tour of the lighthouse. But, unfortunately, he was away with his dog at the time so we left them by his door hoping he got to them before his four-footed friend found them. He has a tidy little house with cement walkways to the lighthouse, helicopter pad, and boat launching area. The view from and of the island is spectacular with a very rocky shoreline.
On Saturday we broke up into two groups. David and Duane paddled together and Don, Al, Pete, and I set off for Barr Island to the west. All of the area is so pristine and beautiful. Barr Island was almost magical. The sand is black, and as I pulled my boat up on the beach on our lunch break, I noticed an odd-shaped black rock. I picked it up and when I turned it over, it was amethyst with the six-sided crystals in perfect condition. I ate my lunch knee-deep in water walking back and forth along the beach because I love to look for agates. and in one particular spot all I had to do was stand still and watch as twelve agates rolled up on the beach in a half hour.
After lunch we headed over to Copper Island. The wind had picked up and we paddled in about 1-1/2 foot waves to make the crossing. That is when the fun began. The fetch coming from the open lake was creating the biggest waves I had ever paddled in. We paddled off into 2 to 3 meter waves that at first overwhelmed me so I had trouble catching my breath. But I knew I had to get in control to enjoy these waves and after a few more ups and downs and good dose of cold water down my front from a breaking wave, the adrenaline started pumping, and I was on my way. I heard Don say, "This is sea kayaking!" , and I smiled to myself as I wondered what I had been doing before this day.
We had a two-mile paddle ahead of us before we could tuck into the lee of the island. This was the biggest water I had ever been on and the first time I found myself looking back over my shoulder to spot my comrades and seeing only water. Everyone was down in a trough. The first few times that this happened I felt a chill sweep over me as I felt very alone even though I knew better. Thanks to Don's gentle guidance as we paddled, we stayed sharp, learned new skills and polished up the old ones.
As we neared the lee side of the island, Don attached a tow rope to my kayak and Al, Pete, and I rafted up and let the waves carry us in as the three of us just didn't have the experience to surf waves of that dimension. We then headed back to Healey Island for a good hot supper looking forward to sharing the day's events with Duane and David and hearing all about their day as well. A great weekend!