Hiking on Lake Superior, August 2018

Hiking on Lake Superior, August 2018

Okay, it’s obviously not a matter of hiking ON the lake. But, it does look like the people I was hiking with were out on the lake. There’s a hiking trail along the shoreline on Stockton Island that provides access to sandstone extending out into the lake. They’re standing on rock, but it’s a few inches under water.

Trail marker, sort of
Cairns or artwork?

Stockton is one of the islands included in the Apostle Islands National Lakeshore on Wisconsin’s Lake Superior coastline. The park headquarters is in Bayfield, and in addition to the 21 islands, there’s a mainland unit east of Cornucopia. I’ve hiked the trail on the mainland unit a few times, but I’d never hiked or camped on any of the islands. It’s almost embarrassing to admit that since I consider Washburn — just down the shore from Bayfield — to be my hometown.

Seemed like time to fix that. The plan was to camp on Stockton for a couple nights and do some hiking.

Camping on Stockton isn’t exactly a wilderness experience (even though there is an official wilderness area on the 10,000 acre island). There’s a campground on the island that has about 19 sites and vault toilets. (There’s also a well for water supply, but when we were there the pump was broken — no water available.) Every campsite is on the shoreline, and the sites are fairly large and private. The campground is next to the dock, so at most you’ll haul your stuff about three-fourths of a mile from the dock to the campsite.

Lake Superior sunset
Sunset on Stockton Island, from the dock near the campground. The island in the distance is Madeline Island, which is not part of the National Lakeshore.

Unless you have a boat or know someone who has a boat, arrangements have to be made with a water taxi to get from Bayfield to the island. We had a reservation for Friday afternoon with a one-boat taxi service. The lake was too rough to go out with that small boat, so we re-booked for Saturday morning. Our two nights of camping turned into one night. The boat operators know the power of the lake and don’t take chances. Saturday was beautiful! Lake Superior can and does change quickly.

Bog trail
The trail through the bog

There are about 14 miles of trails on Stockton Island. On Saturday, we hiked Anderson Point Trail, the beach along Julian Bay and Tombolo Trail back to the campground. The five-mile hike took us through forest, along the rocky shoreline, along a sand beach, across a bog and back through the forest to the campground. The diversity was amazing. There wasn’t much elevation change, making for some easy but beautiful hiking. Sunday morning, we had time to hike some of the Quarry Bay Trail, which took us into the wilderness area.

Other islands in the Lakeshore have camping and hiking opportunities, although the camping may not be as “developed” as the campground on Stockton. And, there’s one campsite on the mainland, at the end of the five-mile trail mainland trail. Now that I’m a veteran of camping and hiking in the Apostles Islands National Lakeshore, I’m already thinking about next year’s trip. Maybe backpacking to that mainland campsite . . .

Rocky shoreline
Stockton Island shoreline