Can two young sweethearts, separated by an ocean, find one another on a wilderness shore?
“There is a pleasure in the pathless woods,
There is a rapture on the lonely shore,”
George Gordon Byron
The Apostle Islands National Lakeshore is a romantic destination—full of beauty, adventure, and history. If you go there, and are fortunate enough to camp on one of its many islands, you’re likely to sit at a campfire and listen to stories of early commerce, great human tragedy, heroism, and of storms of the sea. You’ll hear of shipwrecks from the past and modern-day kayaking adventures.
Here is a new story that comes from our family. This is different from those; it is a sweet little story of romance.
Elsa, my daughter, has been a sea kayak guide on the south shore of Lake Superior, including the Apostle Islands. After a brief taste of college, she decided to do volunteer work in Nepal for two years. While there, she understood that her priority was not a relationship, but ministry. Jonas, an engineering student from southern Germany, was there as well. He had the same understanding.
Though they weren’t really looking for partners, they definitely saw something in each other, and what they saw impressed them. When they were done with their time in Nepal and had each returned home, they both thought they would like to get to know the other better. The problem, however, was a big ocean between them.
After some e-mails and Skype “dates”, the young engineer realized that the relationship had developed a foundation, and construction could begin.
Jonas came to America to spend a week with Elsa and our family. Everyone loved him. And so, the romance started to take shape. Elsa then went to Germany for college so she could be closer to Jonas, and it seemed that the relationship would continue to grow.
During the next summer, our whole family of four girls, my wife and I were all home. We figured this might be one of the last summers that we would all be together for a family vacation. The decision to kayak and camp was, for us, an obvious choice because we all love paddling and guiding kayak-camping trips on Lake Superior through our family-owned business, Whitecap Kayak.
It was agreed. We would do the easy and familiar—a nice kayak-camping vacation together.
Soon after, I got an e-mail message from Jonas. “Neal, I need to Skype with you sometime! But keep this a secret from Elsa.” I had a pretty good hunch I knew what was coming. Yes, Jonas asked my permission to marry my daughter! He must have been pretty confident I would agree, as he already had plane tickets.
Elsa wasn’t expecting him to come to America at all that summer due to school and work commitments; this was to be a total surprise. We enlisted the help of some conspiring friends to meet Jonas at the airport and escort him to a secret destination.
One August afternoon after church, our family casually made our way over to our familiar Apostle Islands kayaking spot. We got to Little Sand Bay, loaded our kayaks, and paddled the short distance to York Island and set up camp. We had a nice time together as a family.
The next morning, after a leisurely breakfast and repacking our kayaks, we shoved off, heading for Ironwood Island, where we had reservations for the night, with plans to take a break on the sand-spit of Raspberry on the way through. En route, Elsa commented several times about how much Jonas would love paddling in the Apostles.
As we rounded the south corner of the island, we let Elsa get ahead of us. Approaching the sandy beach, she thought it was odd that a lone young man was standing on the shoreline, gazing out at us, and that his kayak was similar to kayaks from our fleet. She recognized the boat, but not the person, as she didn’t want to stare at the stranger.
As she was about to paddle farther on to a vacant section of beach, he waved his arms in characteristic Jonas style, and she looked up… it was JONAS!
“You’re crazy, man!” she squealed. The rest of us hung back, giving them some moments together as Elsa slipped out of her kayak and Jonas embraced her. Jonas dropped to one knee, asked Elsa to marry him, and she gladly accepted as he slipped the ring on her finger.
Of course, there was a cheering squad, and our helpful friends emerged from their hiding place in the trees with a video camera. There were lots of hugs and happiness. It was accomplished.
Attire: PFD’s and spray skirts.
Setting: perfect …
Jonas joined us for the rest of our family vacation, kayaking and camping on several islands. Traveling with our intrepid family, he weathered storms and waves with us, the inevitable bug bites, and even survived a fall into a bog. Marriage is never an easy journey, but Jonas proved he had the wherewithal to join our kayaking family.
The sandspit on Raspberry Island will always be remembered by us as the “romantic surprise of a lifetime” spot, where a boy from Germany crossed the ocean to propose to his future, kayak-guide wife from Michigan’s Upper Peninsula in the most perfect place—the Apostle Islands.
Neal Schroeter is an ER physician working in Ashland, WI and Baraga, MI, and pastors the Range Community Bible Church in Hurley, WI. He is an ACA coastal kayak & whitewater kayak instructor. He and his wife LeaAnn own Whitecap Kayak in Ironwood, MI. They instruct and guide trips from the Apostle Islands to the Porcupine Mountains.
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