I teach an intro to coastal kayaking class each spring with my friend Michelle Forseth. Often enough our students tell us that this week they’re taking the class, and next week they’re going to Lake Superior to paddle the Apostles.
Depending on the weather, that may or may not be the greatest idea in the world. We suggest that they consider alternatives. Voyageurs Park, for instance. Big-ish water, but not Superior big. Warm enough for swimming instead of cold enough for hypothermia. Fish for the taking. Plenty of wildlife. Wonderful campsites. I’m not sure we’ve ever convinced anyone. Once people focus on Superior they don’t seem to see much else.
A few days ago I got back from a paddling trip to Voyageurs. It didn’t hurt that the weather was great, or that the mosquitos hadn’t gotten the memo about reporting for work. But the weather and the mosquitos could have been far worse and still this would have been a great trip.
We saw martins, eagles, loons, mergansers, woodpeckers, beaver, deer, snapping turtles, frogs. Probably other creatures that are slipping my mind. We fished and caught bass and northerns that turned into delicious meals. The many islands make for navigation challenges, just in case life begins to seem too simple. You can paddle for days without being troubled by a portage. Over the course of six days we did not see another group of kayakers.
Where were they? In the Apostles, I suppose. Why not at Voyageurs? I get it and I don’t. Lake Superior is a paddler’s rite of passage. It can seem adventurous, which is emotionally helpful for people of our average age. Voyageurs? Well, it’s not quite the same. But there is a difference between bragging rights and raw enjoyment.
Truth is, if I had to choose, I’d take Voyageurs.
(Photo above, Deb Strike. Helping paddling pal Dave Strike land a bass at Pike Island.)