The last time we visited Madeline Island was back in 2013 when Riley was only 3 years old. At the time, we went at the end of the season (as we often do) and much of the island was shutting down, but we were still able to get a taste of what the island provided. One night we ate at the Pub to find out it was their last night open until spring - I'm glad we made it because it was fantastic, even with a limited menu.
It also rained a lot while we were there... and was chilly. It tends to do that when we plan getaways, but that's because Jesse likes to plan things a bit off season to avoid the heat, bugs, and people. He thinks he's cursed. but I know it's just the risk of the seasons we explore during.
So fast forward to this winter. Jesse suggested we go back to Madeline Island and camp this time. He picked a weekend, and booked the campsite, and crossed his fingers that it wouldn't rain. But, of course it did... because it was May.
We planned to stay for two nights at the Big Bay State Park campground. I'd recently announced my 50 hikes by the time I turn 50 goal (which you can learn more about here and follow along on my hiking journey) so we wanted to make sure to get in a couple hikes while here. We knew that Friday and Sunday were going to be our warmest and driest days so our hope was to fill Saturday with shopping, the museum, and other activities in town... and cross our fingers that we would stay dry.
After taking the ferry from Bayfield to the island midday on Friday, we set our first task at determining which trail to hike. Capser Trail is right in La Pointe (the main town as you arrive) and it sounded like it had some fun features that Riley would like. Capser is often used by the students at the La Point school and we even saw them out exploring this day. The selling point for me on this trail was that the students of the school also created small houses near the start of the trail. We almost missed them as they are set back from the trail a bit, but look for the circle of benches and they are just beyond that.
I knew Riley would get a kick out of these houses - she's really into fairies right now so these houses, of course, became fairy houses in her mind. We spent a fair amount of time just being here while Riley went from house to house to examine every detail (and even fix some of them as well).
The hike is about 2 miles out and back. On the way out, we took a little spur trail that might have made it a little longer, but otherwise it was a decent length for our 8 year old to tolerate. Oh, and we saw a couple deer - one of which stayed pretty close to us which made me think she was used to humans. Still, we didn't try to get too close.
After the hike, we all agreed that this was a good time to get ice cream and then explore the dock a little. We'd done so the last time we were here so it seemed only appropriate to do it again. Riley even got the same ice cream as before.
By then, it was time to head to the campsite and set up our tent. We took a little walk around the area and then made dinner before starting the fire. Jesse and I aren't big campfire people. Partly because of the smell (and it can trigger migraines for me), but also because of the need to be good fire/land stewards. Sometimes it's just easier not to do it. But, we'd promised Riley that we'd make smores. Honestly, I didn't think this was worth it because she's tried them before and never even finished one, but to my surprise she inhaled two smores this evening.
The highlight of the evening was when Riley asked about peeing in the woods. I gave her some pointers and then she proceeded to find a spot and pee by some trees. Sometimes, we don't give that girl enough credit.
We all gathered in the tent early as it was cold outside. At some point, I got up and found some more layers of clothes to put on because I was so chilly (it was in the 30's?), but once warm I slept as well as you can when camping.
Saturday's forecast was rain so when we discovered the morning would be dry, we set out for a hike bright and early. From our campsite, we had a few options. There was a trail that recently had bear and cub sightings so we avoided that and walked toward the Big Bay trail. I wanted to see the Big Bay State Park overlook, but figured we'd come back and do that later. Instead we turned to the left and followed the boardwalk along the beach all they way down to Big Bay Town Park. I'm guessing it was between 2.5 and 3.0 miles round trip. It seemed much longer than our hike the day before, but I think part of that was because we didn't expect it to be that long.
I was really impressed with the Big Bay trail as it was all boardwalk in really good condition with little offshoots that brought you to the beach. If it wasn't so chilly, we likely would have stopped and hung out on the beach, but it was a 'keep moving to stay warm' kind of morning.
Once back at camp, Riley and Jesse ate, but it was a little early for me. We decided to drive into town and explore the stores and the museum. Unfortunately, the museum wasn't open for the season yet (go figure) so we after stopping for tea to warm up, we did some shopping which resulted in a couple of winter hats, a shirt, and a trinket, I think. Eventually, I made a sandwich from our food in the cooler. At some point during the day it drizzled, but for the most part the rain stayed away.
There was a marathon on the island that day and a few runners were still making their way to the 26 mile mark so we walked down to the end of the race and cheered on a couple racers as they made their way in. Oh, and we re-created a picture of Jesse jumping over Riley. That was a big thing last time we were here so we thought it would be fun to do again. We came across some more stores and one had a fairy garden out front. It included a mailbox where you could leave a note for a fairy. Our kid was absolutely delighted.
We wandered around a bit more, and then decided to drive along the north shore of the island. A local had suggested a couple places to get out and walk - one of which we found, the other we missed, but it was supposedly on private property so it's probably for the best. We were pretty beat from our hikes, but the trail we found was probably only a half mile long. It was short, but somewhat difficult as you had to walk on jagged rocks down a steep hill to the lake and then back up.
We drove back into town wondering what we would do next. It was still early afternoon and we'd done everything we wanted to except eat at one of the local restaurants. We wanted to go back to the Pub, but a local also recommended the Farmhouse. We debated between the two and then found out both were closed that evening. *sigh*.
It was at that time, we decided that maybe we should just drive home. We were already worried about how cold it was supposed to get that night (even colder than the night before), and we were pretty beat from hiking, but the restaurant thing sort of sealed the deal. I never got to do the overlook hike at Big Bay, but I'm at peace with that.
So we made the almost 5 hour drive back home, stopping at a beach (with a little library) and another pitstop to see the colorful water created by mud being washed down the creeks into the lake... and then again for a quick dinner in Duluth. By 9:30 we were home and snuggled in our nice warm beds. Even though we wrapped up this trip a little early, it was still a great weekend of exploring... and I can't wait for our next adventure.