ooking back on our trip, we both agreed that Thursday was our best day
on the island. We had warm weather, clear, blue skies and by far, the best
views of the entire trip. We were up early, ate, packed up the tent and
supplies, and were on the trail by 9:00 am. Most of our trip today would
be along the Greenstone Ridge Trail, which is considered to be the "backbone"
of Isle Royale because it runs almost the entire length of the east/west
axis. This ridge is also one of the highest trails on the island. By studying
my topographic map I discovered that we immediately
a step climb, roughly 200 feet, to get from the East Chickenbone campsite
to the top of the Greenstone Ridge. The pace up the side of the mountain
was definitely slow and methodical and caused us to watch every step so
we didn't trip over a rock or an exposed tree root. During our trip we discovered
that most sections of trail which required us to hike up steep inclines
and expend the most energy were rewarded with spectacular views after reaching
the top -- today was no exception!
After we reached the Greenstone Ridge we hiked east for a short distance
and up another small incline until we came to a spot along the trail overlooking
a drop-off which faced Chickenbone Lake. We stood on the rocky overhang
and admired the breathtaking view. We were well above the tree tops which
a few minutes before had been towering over us. We were able to see a couple
lakes in the distance and even saw a few islands in Lake Superior north
of Isle Royale. The trail we had just hiked along before climbing up to
the Greenstone looked very small from up here. Even though it was still
early in day, the sun was bright and the temperature was warming up. We
stood at the edge of the cliff for a bit and enjoyed the cool breeze blowing
over the ridge.
From here we continued our hike east along the trail and planned to stop
for lunch at the ranger tower on top of Mount Ojibway which was a bit past
the half-way point for the day. The trail once again led us across quite
a few rock outcroppings and through some sparsely wooded areas of spruce
trees. We noticed, once again, that the warm weather was bringing out all
types of flying insects. If we watched the trail in front of us we were
able to see the sun reflecting off the wings and bodies of the insects which
hung like clouds over sections of the trail. At one point, shortly after
reaching the Greenstone Trail, we observed a cow moose and her calf grazing
a short distance off the trail in front of us. Unfortunately, they saw us
first and ran off before either of us could take a picture.
We quickly discovered that this was going to be our most grueling day of
hiking, not because the trail was difficult terrain-wise, but because
most of the 11 miles we had to cover did not pass by any good sources of
water. A lot of the trail left us hiking along some of the higher elevations
on the island and the sparsely wooded areas left us without protection from
the sun, which was now high in the sky and beating down on us. The temperature
eventually rose to near 80 degrees and we tried to space out our water consumption
so we would not be without water for most of the hike; I was so hot I could
have used all my water before the half-way point.
before we reached the ranger tower on Mount Ojibway we
looked up to and saw a bull moose lying in a shallow pool of water a short
distance off the trail. The moose heard us approaching and stood up. It
was a bizarre feeling to be only yards away from such a large, powerful
moose did not appear to be bothered by our presence and gradually wandered
toward us while grazing on the leaves of surrounding trees. We snapped a
couple pictures and continued on to Mount Ojibway which was now only about
a half mile away.
When we arrived at Mount Ojibway we took off our backpacks and relaxed for
a couple minutes in the refreshing breeze which was coming across the ridge.
cooling down we climbed to the top of the tower which sits at an elevation
of approximately 1130 feet. The view was unbelievable and we were able to
see for miles in all directions. The tower, which was built between 1962
and 1963, was originally used as a fire lookout. In 1987 the
was outfitted with air monitoring equipment and is now used year-round as
an air pollution monitoring site to study how pollution affects the island.
We took a few pictures and returned to the base of the tower where we and
ate lunch and talked with Glen and a couple other hikers.
We left Mount Ojibway around 1:00 pm and headed for our next stop which
was going to be at Mount Franklin. The approximately three mile hike to
Mount Franklin seemed to be quite long due to the
amount of water left in our bottles and the fact that the sun was directly
above us. Now the heat was very intense because the sun was directly on
us from above and was reflecting up at us from the rock outcroppings under
our feet. The heat was beginning to take a toll on us and that was evidenced
by our slowing pace and the increased stops in the occasional shaded, breezy
areas of the trail. We eventually made the last tiring uphill climb which
brought us to the top of Mount Franklin. At the top was another rocky cliff
overlooking miles of forest and numerous small ponds and lakes scattered
throughout the landscape below. From the top of Mount Franklin we were able
to see the beautiful Five Fingers area and Lane Cove at the east end of
Isle Royale and out i
the open waters of Lake Superior to the north. I was glad I had decided
bring my heavy 35mm SLR camera and a 200mm telephoto lens (as opposed to
the lightweight point-and-shoot) because they came in handy several times
during the trip. From our vantage point, high above everything else, we
were able to observe a cow moose standing in a small lake below us and to
the west. We watched for several minutes as she stuck her head under water
and re-emerged a few seconds later with a mouthful of vegetation pulled
from the bed of the lake. I took a couple pictures with the 200mm lens which
enabled me to get a couple decent photos of the moose. We spent some time
here perched high atop the world around us and enjoyed the refreshing wind
blowing across the top of the mountain.
After we cooled down and regained some energy we began the last leg of the
day's journey. We knew from studying the topo map that we had an easy-going
downhill hike. From the top of Mount Franklin we had an immediate 320 foot
drop in elevation in the first half mile.
was nice to finally do some downhill hiking as opposed to going uphill.
The downhill hike was also easier on my left foot. I had strained my Achilles
tendon two days ago and every step, especially going uphill, was not without
some kind of burning or pain. The trail led us through some nicely shaded
pine forests and over quite a bit of trail covered entirely by exposed tree
roots. Another section of the trail was covered
by rocks and large boulders. We had consumed the last remaining drops of
water and were now parched. About a mile or so after our decent from Mount
Franklin we came across a small pond. The pond was not very appealing to
the eye because there was green vegetation on top of the water and the water
itself had a very rust-colored appearance. By this time we did not really
seem to care what the water looked like, we were just happy to have come
across a source of water close to the trail. We retrieved the water filter
from the backpack and began filling up our bottles. Thank God for simple
technology like this! The filtered water still had a slight rust-colored
appearance, but it had virtually no odor and almost no after-taste. We had
a hard time believing that we had just drank from a body of water which
one would practically call a swamp, but the only thing that mattered at
that point was that we got our much-needed water.
After drinking our fill and restocking the water bottles we set off again
on the trail. The Three Mile site was only about a mile away and we
there a short time
later. We checked out a couple sites and decided to camp at site #9. This
spot was excellent! We had a picnic table, a nice clearing for the tent
and a beautiful view of Rock Harbor. Opposite our campsite, across the harbor,
we had a nice view of Mott Island and the Inner and Outer Hill islands between
which we could see the open waters of Lake Superior. Our campsite was set
back in a nicely wooded area which was only about 20-25 feet from a rock
outcropping right at the water's edge.
We were greeted by another rather friendly chipmunk which had no problem
jumping up on the picnic table and exploring our gear and bags of food.
This animal actually became a bit pesky, causing us to make frequent trips
to the picnic table to keep it away from our supplies. We also had to contend
with quite a few flying ants, black flies, and bees until the temperature
started to cool down.
The first order of business was to empty our bottles and get some more appealing
drinking water. Even though the "swamp" water was refreshing
after being filtered, it paled in comparison with the cold, crystal clear
water from Rock Harbor. We drank a couple bottles of water and then relaxed
the lake. It was refreshing to stick our feet in the water while lying
on the rocks. The view was awesome and it was peaceful listening to the
water roll in and break over the rocks. The water felt good on my sore ankle
after all the hiking today, but it was cold enough to numb my feet and send
a pain up my leg if I kept them in the water for more than about two minutes
at a time. I also discovered that my right ear and right leg had become
sunburned. Obviously we got quite a bit of exposure to the sun while hiking
along the mostly un-shaded Greenstone Ridge. I realized at this point that
sunscreen was one item I had never thought to pack, but wished I had thought
of it before we left home.
We decided to eat dinner after we set up the tent and unpacked some supplies.
We cooked some beef stew and ate on the rock outcropping next to the water.
After dinner we cleaned up a bit with washcloths to get rid of the dirt
and the several applications of DEET. We noticed that Glen and a couple
other people from our boat trip, whom we had seen off and on over the course
of our trip, were gathering on a dock a couple camp sites down from ours.
We walked over to the dock and all sat around talking until about 10:30
pm. When we returned to our campsite we sat on the rocks by the water. The
view and weather were spectacular! The nearly full moon was high in the
sky and was reflecting off the calm, waveless water in the harbor. There
was no wind, the temperature was just cool enough for a flannel shirt, there
were no bugs, and the water was gently lapping on the rocks. If there were
a way to capture scenes like this a person could make a million dollars.
We talked about the day's hike, the sights and about our plans for tomorrow.
We both agreed this had been the best day of our trip.
Miles covered today: 11.2
Total trip miles: 30.0
This page last updated on 02-25-2016 @ 11:21 AM