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Apostle Islands, Wisconsin

Sally
A few weeks ago, my son asked me what I’d like for Mother’s Day. At that time, Steve and I were basking in the Southwestern sunshine, exploring Mesa Verde, while our son Mike and his family were at home in chilly Denver. Our daughter Jenny was living up in the Twin Cities. I looked down at our little dog Sheba (she always looks back with such an insightful face) and said, “I want to have the whole family together!”

Just like that, a plan was born. Steve and I would take the RV up to Minnesota, pick up Jenny, and we’d meet up with Mike, Norah, and the kids in Duluth, Minnesota. My family’s from Duluth, so this is a good chance to show the kids the house I grew up in and other family landmarks.

Duluth is a fabulous place to visit when it’s warm. It’s a hillside town that faces Lake Superior, so when it’s icy in winter, the streets can be pretty treacherous. But this time of year it’s absolutely perfect. Steve, Jenny, and I got our morning treats and coffee at Beaner’s on Central Avenue, then we met up with Mike and Norah. The kids had grown so much! Callie’s hair is long enough to braid now and little Alex is almost over the terrible twos. It was so great to seem them – my absolutely fondest mother’s day wish come true.

Steve and Mike spent an afternoon golfing while I took the kids to the park, so Norah and Jenny could go shopping in town. Jenny has just taken up knitting and she swears the yarn she bought is meant for a sweater for me. I told Steve, we’ll see it when we see it! We took a big tour of the town, past my parents’ house and the newspaper where my dad worked, then we all had a nice family dinner at Fitger’s Brewhouse. We all turned in early so we could set out first thing for the Apostle Islands.

Steve
The Apostle Islands are an archipelago, set off a large spit of land in the western part of Lake Superior, in Wisconsin. Each of the twenty-one islands is different. Some are purely wild with sandy beaches and woods that look like they’ve never seen a human footprint. They have great names like Cat Island, North Twin, Devils, and Rocky. I came here as a kid and I just loved the magic of the place with all of its lighthouses and ancient ruins, plus miles and miles of beaches and water to play in.

We caravanned to Madeline Island, the only island that’s reachable by car, and set up a home base there. The kids were clambering for a day at the beach, so Sally and I were able to slip off on our own to kayak to tiny Hermit Island and its bigger brother, Stockton Island. The weather was perfect for a day on the water – a light breeze, sunshine, and tons of seabirds flying around. Every time I looked up, Sally was hidden behind her binoculars, trying to identify one bird after another.

The next day, I took little Callie fishing – she loves to fish – and everyone else went to the Medeline Island Historic Museum. We had a great cookout that night with individual mini pizzas and a coleslaw salad. Callie very proudly passed out all the makings for s’mores to every one of us, and mine was delivered with a kiss on the cheek. Have I mentioned how great it is being a grandpa?

Sunday was Mother’s Day, so we started it off with a big special campfire breakfast that I cooked, full of Sally’s favorites – hash-browned potatoes and eggs. Mike had brought Norah’s favorite chai tea and scones. Callie pinned a little ribbon corsage she had made (complete with plastic rosebuds) on each of them, as their mother’s day badges. Sally would never be caught dead wearing such a thing normally, but you should have seen the happy look on her face when Callie brought it over.

Then we all took a “grand tour” cruise around the islands. It’s a 55-mile long trip, with a lot to see. The kids were pretty worn out and they were just starting to nod off when Sally spotted something with her binoculars. She was staring at the beach on one of the islands when she started up and called for Callie to come and look. “Sweetheart,” she said, “I got my Mother’s Day wish for you. Take a look – it’s a big, black bear!”
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