Isle Royale, May 2005

Day 3



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By 9:00 a.m. the all-night rain had stopped, the campsite was alive with the sound of singing birds and sunlight beamed down unhindered between thin wispy clouds lazily floating along in the bright blue sky. As I stepped out of the tent and into the cool morning breeze I had a feeling that today's weather would be perfect. We ate oatmeal for breakfast, filtered more water and were on the trail by 10:45 a.m. We knocked off the steep, half-mile long, uphill climb back to the ridge in about 20 minutes with only one very short stop to catch our breath. The cool breeze we had in camp was nonexistent on the way up to the ridge so it didn't take long to become hot and sweaty again especially since the sun was heating up the air and turning the overnight rain into uncomfortable humidity.

After topping out on the Greenstone Ridge we traveled downhill for a short distance, leveled out for a while and then climbed back to the top of the ridge where we stayed for most of the day with only a couple minor ups and downs. Today was turning out to be quite different from the last two. The temperature was between 75 and 80 degrees with bright sun, we spent a good portion of the day on the open ridge and we crossed a lot of rock outcroppings. Last night's rain and the subsequent runoff kept the giant slabs of exposed rock fairly wet and slippery so we had to exercise a bit of caution while traversing them. At 12:30 p.m. we were just west of Mount Siskiwit when we came across an open spot on the ridge near a drop-off. This area presented us with a nice view of the distant ridges and valleys to the south. There was also a large rock outcropping nearby which was sitting directly in the path of a cool breeze blowing over the ridge. The outcropping appeared to be a great place to stop for lunch so we set the packs on the rock and had a couple tortilla shells filled with salami sticks, cheddar cheese and Dijon mustard. During our lunch break we spoke with a boyfriend and girlfriend who had come from West Chickenbone and were heading over to Hatchet Lake. They were spending 11 days on the island and were planning on staying at as many different locations as they could. They said a moose had walked through their campsite last night so I was hopeful we would see one too since we hadn't come across one yet. At one point they had spoken with a guy who had been over at Feldtman Lake. He told them he had seen about 20 moose in the area and even saw a wolf laying on the rocks out at Rainbow Cove. Lucky hiker!

We said goodbye to our fellow hikers, finished lunch and were hiking again by 1:20 p.m. There had been a lot of moose tracks and droppings on the trail but we never saw or even heard one. We also saw quite a bit of wolf scat, some of it very fresh, and an occasional footprint in the mud but no wolves. The trail was fairly easy until we came to a bluff from which we could clearly see Chickenbone Lake roughly one mile away. At that point we began a steep descent from the ridge over some pretty rocky terrain via a couple switchbacks. The trail dropped approximately 320 feet in a little over ¼ mile. It was a hard hike, one that I wouldn't look forward to had we been going the opposite direction. After completing this rough portion of trail, however, we were rewarded with a pleasant hike through a pine forest where the sweet scent of pine hung in the air and years of shed pine needles provided a soft path to walk on. Once the trail bottomed out we only had a few minor ups and downs before we arrived at the side trail leading down to the West Chickenbone campsites. Like both previous campsites we had to hike down off the ridge (this one was .2 mile) before we could pick out a site and relax. On the trail into camp I saw a well-defined wolf print in the mud, maybe this was a good sign that we would finally see some wildlife. By 3:30 p.m. we were walking into the campground area. There were two guys staying at campsite #6 and three men and two women at group site #1. The men at site #6 were here on a canoeing trip. They told us they had been here for two days and had caught a perch and two pike out by the point in their canoe. They had also seen four loons out on the lake last night.

We checked out the remaining sites and decided to stay at site #4. We chose to unpack and quickly set up camp before we became too comfortable. When everything was in place I sat down for a couple minutes and relaxed. My calves, ankles and feet were quite sore again from crossing all the slippery rock outcroppings and from the downhill hiking. As a matter of fact, I think I could hear them cursing at me! When things were set up and unpacked I walked down to the lake with my washcloth and jumped in up to my waist. The water was really cold but it felt good to wipe off the three days worth of dirt and sweat with a wet cloth. Before getting out of the water I psyched myself up and then immersed my head in the icy cold water to rinse off my hair.

West Chickenbone is a nice place to stay but as they say, every rose has its thorns. The bugs were so irritating here that I decided to wear my headnet and jacket to keep from becoming the main course on the dinner menu of every flying, biting, blood-sucking insect in the area. It wasn't until shortly before we got into the tent that the bugs disappeared.

By this time we were extremely hungry so it was a good thing that dinner was the next item on the agenda. Tonight we would dine on Hamburger Helper Beef Stroganoff. We ate dinner by 7:00 p.m. and then fished for quite a while. We pretty much fished the entire shoreline, where possible, from site #1 east to the group sites. Ken caught a decent size walleye but I never even got a bite.

By now the large, orange sun was getting close to the horizon and the temperature had fallen to about 55 degrees. We walked back to our campsite, drank some hot chocolate, ate a pop tart and talked about our trip thus far. By 9:30 p.m. darkness had begun to weave its fingers through the campsite so we put things away for the night and crawled into the tent. As usual, we reviewed the itinerary and topo map so we knew what to expect tomorrow and then I wrote in my journal until 11:00 p.m. before finally calling it quits for the night.

As I was laying in my sleeping bag the peaceful sound of nothing was shattered by something large crashing through the woods not far from the tent. I was hoping that our only encounter with a moose would not be when it decided to plow directly through our tiny, defenseless tent in the middle of the extreme blackness of an Isle Royale night. Then, as quickly as the animal appeared it was gone and everything was quiet again. No up close and personal encounters with a moose for us tonight!

Final count for the day: Many moose tracks, a couple wolf prints in the mud, a walleye and flying insects that numbered in the millions - well, maybe only in the thousands.

Miles Covered Today: 7.9
Total Trip Miles: 27.6

Day 4


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