Snowy Range Pass

Snowy Range Pass

Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Apostle Islands National Lakeshore

After finishing our route 61 tour of Minnesota, it was time for us to start heading home.  We wanted to find a route home that would allow us to visit an area we had not been to before.  Looking at our scenic road trip book, it seemed that a drive along the north shore of Wisconsin east of Duluth was such a drive.  I must say that most of that drive was not scenic unless you consider mile after mile of empty roads and some woods scenic. When we rounded the hook of Wisconsin and headed south, we finally found scenic.  This was the start of the Apostle Island area.  The center of this area is the small town of  Bayfield, WI.  

Once again, we arrived without a reservation This area was also full of tourists. Just north of Bayfield , we were able  to get a spot in the campground owned by the native American Red Cliff Band group of Ojibwa.  Long story short, this group had occupied the islands until in 1816 the government claimed them and allowed lumbering and other commercial enterprises to operate on the islands. Finally, when the Ojibwa people were pushed into ever smaller areas and to avoid additional conflict, the government granted them and other groups  the mainland shoreline nearest the islands.  So we were camped along the shore on land owned by some of the earliest settlers of the offshore islands.  In studying the history here, I also found it amazing that there is some evidence that some humans were here as early as 100BC.  It is also thought that a group known as the Anishinaabe people lived here by 950 AD.

In 1970 ,The Apostle Island National Lakeshore was established and includes 21 of the 22 islands and 12 miles of the shoreline. The largest island, Madeline, is not part of the national park and is mostly devoted to tourism including a state park. 

The plan for the lakeshore was to return them to, as close as possible, to their natural state. In order to do this, those who lived and worked here since 1816 would have to leave. Unlike the native Americans, they were given at least some better treatment.  The land would be  purchased by the federal government.  There were some who resisted this process and under a compromise, would be allowed to live on the islands until they passed away and the land then would revert to the federal government.

Today, the Apostle Islands has a diverse plant and animal environment for visitors to enjoy.  Over 800 types of plants, animals, the greatest concentration of black bears in North America and many bird groups.  You can access the islands by national park approved vendors and private vessels.  Kayaking is very popular and visiting the famous sea caves. There is also camping and hiking on the islands.

We decided on the grand tour which passes all of the islands and  provides a narration of the important features of each.


Bayfield is also worth a visit. We picked up some great smoked fish. One local thought it compares to Annapolis, MD for sailing.

Friday, August 26, 2016

Glensheen Historic Estate

The Glensheen Estate is located on the north edge of Duluth on route 61.  It was built by Chester Adgate Congdon as his family home.  Construction started in 1905 and was completed in 1908 at a cost of over 850, 000 dollars, which would be over 20 million today.   Congdon was  one of the great capitalists of the earlier 1900's. Much of his early wealth came from very fortunate investments in the stock market.

The mansion and grounds are well worth touring for the sheer luxury and beauty displayed.  What makes it more interesting to many is the tragic history that comes in the last year any family member lived there.

In 1908, Congdon, his wife and his seven children moved into the 39 room home. Mr. Congdon died in 1916.  The last Congdon to live in the home was  Elisabeth Congdon, who never married but who had adopted two girls.  In 1968, the estate was given to the university of Minnesota Duluth with the provision that Elisabeth Congdon could reside there until her death.  Her death is what has made the estate a unique place.  On June 27, 1977 she and her nurse Velma Pietila were murdered.  Elisabeth in her bedroom by suffocation . Velma was beat to death with a candlestick in the stairwell. Her adopted daughter, Marjorie, had a troubled history and it was thought that she and her second husband had been pressing Elisabeth for money. Her husband, Roger Caldwell, was convicted for the murders and received two life sentences.  Marjorie was charged with aiding and abetting but was never convicted.   She continued to have problems and spent a number of years in prison on other charges.  In 1982, Caldwell's conviction was overturned by the state supreme court and a retrial was planned. Caldwell then pleaded guilty and signed a full confession. He was later released and committed suicide in 1988.

Your entrance ticket is a 1900's style calling card which you present to the butler at the front door. All of the tour guides are students of the university and dress in period clothing and are very knowledgeable about the home. Even though the gift shop sells books written about the murders, they are not allowed to discuss the murders during the tour.  It is certainly one of the best mansion tours we have had in a long time.


Main floor

Servants dining room

During the peak years the kitchen prepared meals for 20 people everyday.

Sun room where breakfast was usually taken and often other meals during nice weather.
 The main dining room was used regualry for entertaining.

Second floor

Female guest room