Isle Royale, September 2001

Day 4



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I was pleasantly surprised to find that the vestibules on our tent worked flawlessly in keeping our packs and boots dry from the rain that moved through overnight. It was 8:40 a.m. and the rain had stopped, however, the sky was gray and dreary. I had washed a t-shirt last night and left it over a clothes line along with a small towel and washcloth. I had hoped the strong wind would dry them out overnight but they were more wet now than when I had wrung them out yesterday. I threw the towel and washcloth in my backpack but hung my t-shirt through a carabiner in hopes that it would dry out during the hike. The shirt never did dry out. I decided that I would be investing in some Duofold or Coolmax t-shirts before I go hiking again. They are light-weight and supposedly dry out very quickly. We filtered some water, broke camp and were on the trail by 9:50 a.m.

We traversed the short uphill path from the campsites to the main trail and headed west. The trail quickly departed from the birch and aspen forest and took us to the open, rocky crest of the Minong Ridge. Shortly after reaching the top we were able to see the Greenstone Ridge towering above us to the south and Lake Superior to the north. The trail followed the crest of the ridge for a while and then began the constant ups and downs for which the Minong is well known. Although it wasn't too exhausting it was still slow going because we had to constantly watch where we were stepping so as not to lose our footing on the jagged and sometimes loose rock on the trail. We had to also keep a sharp eye out for the rock cairns so we didn't wander off the trail in the places where it crossed over the rock outcroppings.

At 12:30 p.m. we stopped for lunch. By now it had begun to warm up a bit and the air had become quite humid as a result of all the rain from last night. I took off my shirt and hung it over a tree, hoping the breeze would dry it out before we continued the hike. The cool breeze was quite refreshing and our lunch helped replenish some strength. Lunch consisted of beef jerky sticks, tortilla rolls with cheddar cheese and Gray Poupon mustard (it is actually quite tasty), and a granola bar and a pop tart for dessert.

Even though most of the Minong Ridge was more challenging than other trails on the island, I felt that the last 1/2 to 2/3 of the trail was the most difficult. This last portion served up a constant barrage of steep climbs to the top of the ridge, hikes over level but jagged, rocky trail, followed closely by steep descents to the valley below. This quickly became a bittersweet adventure. I looked forward to the breeze, the scent of pine in the air and the great views on top of the ridge, but not to the muscle burn from the steep climb, the baking in the sun and the rough, slow-going pace. At the same time, I looked forward to the hike through the valley below for the shade and soft, level trail but not for the stagnant, humid air. About half way through today's journey we passed two other guys and stopped to talk for a couple minutes. They told us they had completed the Windigo to North Lake Desor section yesterday and that it was a hard hike. They said there were not many places along the way where it was easy to get to water if we ran out and said we should start with as much as possible. They claimed they had lost the third guy in their group due to dehydration. Fortunately for him there was a park ranger who was doing a loon study at Lake Desor and she was able to get him out for some medical attention.

Eventually we arrived at the North Desor camp. The first two sites were already occupied by the same individual hikers we saw at Little Todd so we settled into site #3. After everything was unpacked and set up we went down to the lake to filter our water. Not finding much of a beach or any rocks to sit on we checked out the area east of our site and found a small rock outcropping at the water's edge. The water was cold but it felt good after a long, hot day. I waded into the water and used a washcloth to rinse off and then dunked my head in the water to clean off my hair. Unfortunately I had to wade in with bare feet and slipped on the algae-covered rocks and sliced open the bottom of my foot on the sharp edge of a rock. This unexpected injury proved to be quite uncomfortable with every step during the next day's hike.

As we approached the campsite from the Minong Ridge we heard a low rumble far off in the distance but did not think anything of it because the sky was clear and blue. But now, a couple hours later, we realized the weather was changing for the worse. The temperature suddenly began to drop and the sky to the west was becoming overcast. We watched as the clouds quickly came in from the west and actually saw them rolling down the side of the ridge on the far opposite side of the lake -- it was a pretty cool site to watch! We walked back to camp and had Raman noodles and fettuccini for dinner before the rain began.

After dinner 5 more hikers came in as a group. They had just traveled the 14-15 miles from Huginin Cove and appeared to be very tired. There were no sites left so two of the men shared part of our site while the other two men and one female shared with the guys at sites 1 & 2. The two guys at our site were a lot of fun to talk with. It was also interesting to watch them interact because one appeared to be an experienced hiker with a good sense of humor, while the other did not appear to have hiked much, had a hard time setting up his tent and was more or less the friendly brunt of the other guy's jokes. They would have made an excellent two-man comedy show similar to Laurel and Hardy.

By now the sun was long gone and the only things visible through the dense tree cover were the occasional silhouettes of people and tents illuminated only by the faint glimmer of camp stoves and flashlights. It was so dark before the moon rose that I was not able to see my hand a couple inches in front of my face. By now the rain had begun falling, however, the light rain barely made it to the ground because the dense tree canopy stopped most of it. We went to sleep around 9:30 p.m. because we wanted to get an early start on our 12 mile hike tomorrow. I only woke up once during the night because I heard something walking around the campsite not far from our tent. From the sounds of rather large branches breaking I could only conclude that it was a moose, but I was too tired to get up and investigate.

Miles covered today: 5.7
Total trip miles: 19.4

Day 5


This page last updated on 02-25-2016 @ 11:23 AM