Sunday, July 18, 2010


JULY 11,


My oldest daughter had the day off work, so we headed up North to Rock Island for a day trip….a long day trip.

Northport, the tip of the Door.  Usually launch our kayaks from the beach East of the Ferry.

We caught the 10AM ferry to Washington Island, which actually left about 10:30. It was about a 20 minute trip to WI. The price was about $40 round trip.
Along the way we passed by Plum Island and could see lonely Pilot Island in the distance. After leaving the feryy we drove down Main Street to Jackson Harbor Road to…well, Jackson Harbor on Washington Island.  The dock of the Karfi.

One of the Washington island Ferries

Pilot Island

Some of the Western Door County Shoreline
Plum Island with Detroit Island in the background
Washington Island Dock

The Island Clipper, a passenger ferry from Gill's Rock

Take the KARFI, to and from Rock Island
The Karfi, which is the passenger ferry to Rock Island leaves Washington Island on the hour and leaves from Rock Island at quarter past…roughly…this is Island time remember…it will never leave early, but could be late. ("Karfi" means "seaworthy boat" in Icelandic).

Rock Island Map

It is always entertaining watching the “campers” come and go to the Rock. When I’m not car camping, my stuff list is pared down to the minimum of what I can carry on my back or in a boat with one trip. It is somewhat comical to see people carrying wheelbarrows and wagons full of stuff to camp on an island…laptops, TVs, big Grills, etc. The island has 5 nice back country sites that can either be walked to (2 miles) or accessed by kayak. There are 34 sites grouped near the ferry landing…accessible with wheelbarrows or wagons.
The Karfi, with Rock Island in the background

Leaving Jackson Harbor, WI. Going to the Rock

Jackson Harbor, WI

Rock Island Boathouse
Notice the mountain of gear on the dock for six or seven people

This is the first time since 1997 that I have taken the Karfi to the Rock, otherwise have paddled, sometimes from Northport going around the East side of Washington Island to the one of the backpack sites on Rock, sometimes just paddling over from Jackson Harbor, which is maybe 2 miles to the dock on Rock Island. That is a short paddle, but be wary…in the fall a Northeaster can whip up 30+ mile an hour winds which build waves over a 50 mile stretch and they roll right to the bottom of the reef between Jackson Harbor and Rock Island…nasty 8 footers, worst wind and waves I’ve been in.

Touring the light

In the Light Tower

Inside the Fresnel lense

The Lighthouse
The boathouse and hall

Interior of the Boathouse

The gate to the Interior of Rock Island...don't lose the key!

Mag and I got off the Karfi at 12:30, picked up a map and did the 1.5 mile hike to the lighthouse, hoping to catch a tour and some scenery from the light tower. We picked up the 1:30 tour and learned about habitation in the Potawatomie Light circa 1910….the same year my home was built. The lighthouse was restored several years ago and is in nice condition. Docents can stay there for a week or two at a stretch, living in the house, and then putting away anything modern when tours begin. Spent some time at the top of the light where you can see the chain of Grand Traverse Islands running up North to the Garden Peninsula. Two white specks…one straight North is the abandoned Poverty Island lighthouse, the other to the NW is Minneapolis Shoals. Back in the 70’s a friend of mine rented a house from a guy who had been a keeper on that light…he had lost one of his fingers there when his hand was slammed between the dock and a boat gunnel.

After the tour Mag and I pumped the handle of the well 22 times before water ran from the spigot to fill our bottles, then we took the steps a hundred feet down or so to the cobblestone beach to look at the water close up and to fight flies…Any time the temp is near 80 or above on any of Lake Michigan’s Islands…the flies come out in force…they love DEET, I think they land on skin just to lick it off before taking a bite. What works best is some kind of greasy sun screen, they land on the skin, don’t like the sticky feet and take off... Several years ago some of us watched a mass of flies devour a large marshmallow in less than an hour…at least it kept them away from us for a while.

Fly bait

The best camping is in the fall…less people and less or no flies.

Check out the DNR’s info about Rock.

nice campsite
We hiked back to the ferry landing, toured the large stone boathouse, found the best campsite on the Island…it is between one and 34. We caught the 3:15 ferry back to Washington Island, and drove to the Washington Island Ferry dock to wait for the about 4:30 ferry.

Shortly after the ferry left…we were on the Arni Rictor, sitting in the rear under an overhang… a huge storm, which you couldn’t see until leaving the harbor, bore down on us, 40+ mph winds, driving rain, less than a quarter mile visibility. A small powerboat was trying to make the Washington Island dock behind us.  Even going slow it was popping completely out of the water while climbing over each wave. Of course, the only time I don’t have the camera, we have this nasty storm…left it in the car.

Well we made it, but the storm lasted most of the way over…would not have been fun in a kayak or small boat…the ferry didn’t notice there was a storm, just plowed along, spray flying from one end to the other.

After stopping in Fish Creek at Malibu Moo’s for Hawaiian Shaved Ice, we arrived home about 6:30

Visiting Rock reminded Mag and I that 13 months ago we were on vacation bumming around Nova Scotia for two weeks...that was a good time and place too.

Good thing it rained all day so I could post this...Later

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