Book Across The Bay: Lake Superior’s Starry, Nighttime Race


By Erik Lorenzsonn | February 27, 2020

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  • Skis at Book Across The Bay. (Photo by Erik Lorenzsonn)

Skis at Book Across The Bay. (Photo by Erik Lorenzsonn)

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For 24 years, the annual tradition called Book Across The Bay has brought hundreds of skiers and snowshoers to Chequamegon Bay in Northern Wisconsin. The mission: To cross a frozen, 10-kilometer stretch of Lake Superior under the night sky.

Competitors gathered around bonfires along the shore as they got ready for the event on February 15, 2020.

“It’s really more of a festival or a party that happens to be across the lake,” said Ben Thoen, one of the race directors for Book Across The Bay. “You’re just out there with the stars and moon and then the luminaries, which are our little candles and lanterns. It’s almost romantic or kind of whimsical.”

Candle lighting the way at Book Across The Bay. (Photo by Erik Lorenzsonn)

Candle lighting the way at Book Across The Bay. (Photo by Erik Lorenzsonn)

Skiers and snowshoers of all levels come out for the event.

“I don’t really ski very much, so I was kind of nervous about being really slow on foot. But it’s very nice so far,” said Kelly Adlington of Stevens Point, Wisconsin. “It’s pretty magical. The sky is pretty clear, which is really nice. You can see a lot of stars. There are some clouds coming in. Everything is really dark, but it’s not certainly not uncomfortable.”

The volunteer-run hospitality tents along the way stocked with chili and hot chocolate also keep things comfortable for the skiers as they’re on the middle of the lake.

“It was very long. It was fun up until about probably like six kilometers. Then it was a little windy, a little cold, a little dark, but it was still fun. I would do it again, but I’m an idiot,” laughed Karin Olson of Rice Lake, Wisconsin.

There’s just something really cool about skiing on top of a frozen lake,” said Jack Plasterer of Madison. “You think that this sort of thing would be kind of scary. Fortunately, it’s so thick and there’s a good layering of snow that that ends up not being much of a worry. To be on one of the Great Lakes, I think that makes it all the more special because it is bigger and it does make you feel like you can do more than you thought you could.”

Ben Thoen added that Book Across The Bay embodies northern Wisconsin culture by bringing together the Chequamegon Bay area, volunteers, and family fun.

“It cures some February cabin fever,” said Thoen.

And as the announcer kicking off the race said, “It’s better than sitting on your butts and watching TV, dontcha think?”

Start of the Book Across The Bay race. (Photo by Erik Lorenzsonn)

Start of the Book Across The Bay race. (Photo by Erik Lorenzsonn)

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MUSIC: “Sea Isle Ice”  by Lazy Salon

Erik Lorenzsonn

Erik Lorenzsonn is a writer based in Madison, Wisconsin. His work has been featured in Poughkeepsie Journal, the Capital Times, the Progressive Magazine and Wisconsin Public Radio.
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