Wilderness Camping in the Apostle Islands

June, 2022  |   Apostle Islands National Lakeshore | Lake Superior Wisconsin


As my anchor hit the water and set hard into the sand on the NE side of Cat Island, I knew my prospects of photographing the Milky Way that night were slim. My view to the south where it would be visible - blocked by sheer sandstone cliffs. But… The Lake is Boss. Given the predicted wind, I had no safe overnight anchorage elsewhere.

I took what she’d give.

Not that I was complaining. Any night you spend in the Apostles is a winner, and while I didn't know it at the time, this one was destined to be exceptional. When you plan these trips, you always have an idea where you'd like to camp, what you'd like to do there, and for me, what I want to photograph. None of those things were going to happen this time thanks to the wind. But occasionally, The Lake smiles on you when you aren't expecting it.

grady white anchored in the apostle islands

The Compromise at anchor on Cat Island

With the warm evening sun on my back, I paddled down the coastline anyway, scouting locations and enjoying the solitude. A loon sounded from the open channel stretching towards Outer Island, its call echoing off the sandstone as I paddled on. Dragonflies darted about, skimming the water like acrobats. I breathed deeply, taking in the smells of the freshly greened out forest, the wet sandstone, and the sparkling clear waters of Lake Superior.

Regardless of how many times you’ve done it, there’s always a shock to the system when your deep sleep is disturbed by an alarm just before midnight. But that’s when the Milky Way rises during summer in northern Wisconsin. I rolled out of my warm sleeping bag, shook off the chill, and let the fog clear from my brain.

Minutes later, I was back on the kayak, paddling down the coast in the black of the night. I passed silently by dark silhouettes of landmarks I had memorized, looking for the cliff I had decided to shoot from.

And then, there it was.

night sky and milky way in the apostle islands

The brilliant night sky accented by an ancient sandstone cliff on Cat Island

Questions about any and all things Apostle Islands? DM me on Instagram.

Posted in Trip Reports, Scenic.

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