Someone's Been Here Before
Outer Island sandspit: remains of the tug Faithful
Wherever you pitch your tent or beach your kayak in the Apostle Islands, someone's been there before. If you think it's a good place to land, you're not the first; a geologist named Bela Hubbard already knew that in 1840.
"As it is an object to select a good halting place, and particularly a convenient camping ground, we very frequently select spots which have been the camping grounds of the voyageurs and of the Indian almost from time immemorial."
A lot of those people before you didn't just pitch tents, either; they set up housekeeping. Every one of the Apostles has been someone's home, including tiny Gull Island. Today when you roll out your sleeping bag on Oak Island, you may be close to the 1850s homestead of Ben Armstrong, Chief Buffalo's personal interpreter. Or maybe you'll end up by the traces of Big Ole Hansen's place on Stockton Island- they say Big Ole was the best oarsman on Lake Superior. If you stretch out on the beach on Sand Island, you might catch your rays the same place Dr. Disen did. Dr. Disen was an anatomy professor from the Cities with a summer cabin on Sand Island. He was a nudist, too, and one time he shocked a fisherman's wife who was bringing him a pie.
Right across the West Channel from the new Red Cliff casino, the Basswood Island campsites sit in the clearing where the Harrison family used to live. The Harrison kids were the last to live year-round on one of the National Lakeshore Apostles.
Bob Harrison was a pilot during the war. They called him "tough as a hardwood knot," but he was really a dreamer. Back in his bunk at nights, he couldn't get his mind off an idea: buying an island in Lake Superior, and logging the old way. He'd build a cabin for his family, haul the logs by horse, and save up money for a Cat sooner or later. The only big thing he'd need from the start was his own plane. He could use it to fly tourists and hunters on and off the island, and make extra money that way.
Things didn't work out as Bob hoped. He and his brother Bill gave it their best for a few years, but it didn't help the finances when the plane fell through the ice off Red Cliff one winter. Then their log boom broke in 1954, and besides, the kids had to start school some day.
Bob Harrison on Basswood Island, c 1950
Continue to Part Two