Mike Campbell

My daughter Andy and I love all animals but I think it is safe to say we have a special place for dogs in our hearts. If we’re ever out-and-about and I turn around and can’t see Andy, I just need to look for the person holding a lead and there she will be. “Excuse me. Can I please pat your puppy?” is one of Andy’s most commonly said phrases.

The annual Apostle Islands Sled Dog Race takes place just outside of Bayfield, Wisconsin, and we knew this was our perfect weekend to explore the lakeside city. We packed our bags, hopped in the pick-up, left our log cabin in Clam Lake that we were housesitting, and headed two hours north.

We could see Lake Superior hugging the shoreline even before we passed the little green sign (standard across Wisconsin) announcing the name and population of our destination, “Bayfield Population 487.”

It is difficult to describe the feeling, but when we pulled into Bayfield my wife Inga and I looked at each other and smiled. Bayfield connected with us. Like my mother’s lasagne, it was welcoming and felt like home.

This was an unpretentious, quaint little lakeside tourist town and we could imagine the streets being filled with people during summer.

We were there in the middle of winter but there was still a buzz around town and all the shop doors proudly displayed “Welcome Musters” signs.

One of the things I love about travelling is trying different food and drinks, or the same food and drinks done in a different way. Except coffee. And once you leave the large cities in the US, it becomes a good coffee desert. The Big Water Coffee Roasters was the oasis I had been longing for and they didn’t disappoint.

The coffee was brewed to perfection. It was so good we even bought a packet of their Muster Musher Blend beans that they roast onsite especially for the Sled Dog race. (They also have other flavours that aren’t seasonal).  They only serve coffee and pastries that they bake as well, but they gave us a great tip for lunch, The Fat Radish, which was only across the road. Slow cooked food that was fresh and delicious.

Finding the best coffee in Bayfield


The Sled Dog race wasn’t until the following day, so after lunch, and another take-away coffee, we headed out to see the Ice Caves.

Only 20min from Bayfield, the Ice Caves are formed by the lake waves freezing on the rock walls.

The lake hadn’t frozen over this year so we couldn’t walk out on it and into the caves, so we hiked the 6km return trip, on the top of the cliff to look down on them. It was a sunny afternoon, however it had recently snowed so it was quite deep in some areas. It was up and down and we crossed a few streams, but it was simply beautiful being deep in the woods surrounded by a forest. It also helped that Andy was a super trooper and hiked the entire trail.

Exploring ice caves in Bayfield


It was difficult to look down into the caves for safety reasons but the view from the top of the ridge was worth every step.

Exploring in Bayfield


The sun was setting as we headed back into Bayfield so we decided on an early dinner. We had been advised to give Maggie’s a try. An eclectic gem of Bayfield. It was colourful, every inch of wall and ceiling space was covered by some kind of decoration and the owner must have a fascination with flamingos. More importantly, the food hit the spot.

Dinner at Maggie's in Bayfield


I was quite excited when I woke the following day as I knew I was going to see a lot of dogs at the sled dog race, and because I knew we’d be able to pick up another coffee from Big Water Coffee Roasters.

We first ducked into Egg Toss for breakfast. It is run by the same people that own Maggie’s and it was proof that they know exactly what they are doing.

After a sneaky takeaway coffee we headed out to the Apostle Islands Sled Dog Race. There were approximately 30 sled teams and 500 spectators. Before the race the musters and handlers were feeding, organising and doing the final checks on their dogs. Everyone was very welcoming and we loved going up to the musters, learning about this sport and meeting (and cuddling) their dogs.

Meeting sled dogs in Bayfield


You could feel the energy when the race was about to start, as the spectators lined the track and the sled teams made their way to the starting line. The musters were male and female and from all ages. Even a nine-year-old boy who was competing in this race for his fourth time. Yes, he started at the age of five!

It was a staggered start and it was exhilarating seeing each beautiful team slide past us, eager to run off into the forest.

Sled dog race in Bayfield


We finished our time in Bayfield with a lunch at Maggie’s and a stroll through some of the shops in town.  It was one of our favourite family weekends and we know we’ll be back in spring to hike through the mountains and kayak out to the caves.

Bayfield, we were blessed.

Things to know:

  • If you go to Bayfield. No, if you go to Wisconsin. No, if you go to the USA. No, if you have ever breathed air you need to visit The Big Water Coffee Roasters and enjoy their coffee.
  • Some shops are closed for the winter season but there are plenty open as well.
  • Grab a cup of the fish chowder from the warming tent at the sled dogs. I grabbed three, they were that good.
  • Joannes Scandinavian shop sells the beautiful Maileg toys.

Mike Campbell and his wife Inga, along with their daughter Andy have packed, donated or sold everything they own and hit the road for a year, attempting to housesit their way through North America. You can connect with them and read about their adventures at www.liveimmediately.com

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The views, opinions and positions expressed by the author and those providing comments are theirs alone, and are meant as travel inspiration only. They do not reflect the opinions of Cover-More Insurance. You should always read the PDS available from your travel insurance provider to understand the limits, exclusions and conditions of your policy and to ensure any activities you undertake are covered by your policy.