Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Isle Royale

Washington Creek sunrise
View toward Canada from Minong Ridge
I didn't see another person for 47 hours, so I entertained myself with insects...
Foggy afternoon at Little Todd Harbor
Wolf track near West Chickenbone
Lady Slipper Orchids
Sunset over Tobin Harbor
Ranger III passenger ferry in Rock Harbor
The house I grew up in, in Hancock, MI
Every time people visited us on Isle Royale (while I was growing up there), we all got our picture taken together in front of this sign.

I had a WONDERFUL visit to Isle Royale National Park, in Lake Superior. I grew up in the park, and spent 3 summers working there, and met Mike there for the first time in 1998, and absolutely LOVE the island. Soooo, I was very excited to return for a 2-week volunteer gig. I flew from Georgia to Wisconsin, and had a chance to reunite with a couple of friends before heading to the island. The water was calm and the weather was beautiful on the 6 hour trip aboard the Ranger III ferry from Houghton, MI, to Isle Royale. I wasn't exactly certain what my volunteer duties would encompass, but it turned out that I had plenty of opportunities to "experience" Isle Royale. After training the new interpretive staff on the "how-tos" of a guided hike to Passage Island, I was free to begin my trail roving duties. Over the course of 10 full and 2 partial days, I backpacked over 71 miles with a full pack and day hiked an additional 17 miles or so.

If anyone is curious about my specific route, here goes: I started off with an overnight to Lane Cove, with a brief stop at Mount Franklin. I spent a pleasant (although stormy) night listening to the loons in the cove, and saw my only moose of the trip on the return hike to Rock Harbor. The next day, I set off toward Daisy Farm. Surprisingly, I ended up with four blisters on my toes, probably because the pack is much heavier than I'm accustomed to carrying (since Mike, my trusty backpacking buddy, is still at FLETC in Georgia). I took a couple of quick dips in the 34 degree waters of Lake Superior and felt refreshed!

The next day I hiked about 10 miles to West Chickenbone. From this point on, I saw very few people, no moose, and little sign of wolves. I felt like I had the island to myself! The weather was great, overall, so I was really fortunate. Every afternoon after arriving in camp, I took pictures of my growing blisters, to document their progress. Next, I spent a night at Hatchett Lake, then a very mosquito-filled hike to Little Todd Harbor. I camped all alone there, and spent the afternoon swimming and photographing pretty rocks on the beach. The next day was gorgeous weather, and I backpacked my FAVORITE section of trail along the Minong Ridge, from Little Todd to North Desor. The views of Canada were phenomenal, and the wildflowers were in full splendor. That day alone made my whole trip, and all of the difficult logistics on either end of the trip, completely worthwhile. I lounged around in Lake Desor, rinsed out my only hiking clothes, which by this point were quite salty, and relaxed. Instead of hiking directly to Windigo the next day, I extended the trip by heading to Huginnin Cove for a night. Once again I swam (actually I waded out to water that was about 2 feet deep, then immersed myself for about 15 seconds, until my body felt like it was on fire from the freezing temperature of Lake Superior!...but I still count that as swimming). And the next day, I hiked into Windigo and visited with lots of old island friends.

The Ranger III departed from Windigo (because of a special dedication ceremony for a new building there) and a smooth trip brought me to Houghton, where I was fortunate to spend a couple of evenings and a day with wonderful family friends at their beautiful home on the shores of Lake Superior. I love the Northwoods! Thanks to everyone who made this trip so wonderful!


  1. Wow. Can I have a question ? Are those pictures the ones you took ? They are beautiful and romantic ! Can I follow your blog ?

  2. Isn't great to be a "volunteer"? It looks like you had an awesome time up in the U.P. One of these days I am going to have to make an epic trek up there to visit Isle Royale, and see what it's all about. Glad to see you updated your blog!

  3. LOVE the pics, sis :) Thank you thank you. Im so glad you had a wonderful trip!

  4. I have a million more ISRO pics...these were pics that I thought would trigger memories for my family. :)

  5. Looks beautiful! Perhaps I can get my younger brother to drive us there when I visit him in Wisconsin the next time. As I gracefully age, I more and more appreciate a good chauffeur. Even if I'm not riding in a very capable SUV.

    What time of the year are the temperatures comfortable, and the mosquitos are still hibernating?