Isle Royale, May 2007

Day 2



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I woke up Tuesday morning around 9:30 a.m. after a toasty, solid night of sleep. The sun was shining brightly and the trees were swaying gently back and forth in the breeze. I had awakened once overnight and took note that it was still windy, cold and raining and only small patches of dark gray clouds were visible through the trees as they raced quickly across the sky. We had bagels and peanut butter for breakfast, filtered water, swept out our shelter and hit the trail by 10:45 a.m. As we headed out of Daisy Farm we passed by the husband, wife and daughter a couple shelters away. They too, were packing and getting ready to leave. We talked with them for just a minute and learned that they were heading over to West Chickenbone today. We exchanged wishes for a good day of hiking and continued on.

The Mount Ojibway Trail departed from Daisy Farm and pushed north toward the Greenstone Ridge. The Mt. Ojibway ranger tower was only 1.7 miles away and 450-500 feet higher in elevation but it appeared as only a small protrusion in the distance. The trail was fairly easy-going through the pine and birch tree forest even though it was mostly an uphill hike. The last several hundred feet of trail preceding the ridge was covered with soft pine needles and was pretty steep, however, with the tower in sight we pushed on and arrived at the top of the ridge at 11:30 a.m. ready for lunch and an extended break. The first order of business was to abandon my pack at the base of the tower and climb the metal stairs to top landing and survey the surroundings. From the top I was able to see Lane Cove which is where today's hike would terminate -- it looked to be about 20 miles away! There was a strong, cool breeze blowing over the ridge so it didn't take long to dry out my shirt and cool me down to the point where I was chilled. I clambered back down to the rocky ground that anchored the tower to the ridge and ate a granola bar and the second sandwich Ken's wife had packed for us.

An hour later we were heading east on the Greenstone Ridge toward Lane Cove. The trail followed the ancient, rocky spine of the island as it made a gradual two-mile descent through more pine and birch trees. While hiking along the Greenstone Ridge I was amazed that it was still possible to hear the faint sound of waves crashing along the shore in Rock Harbor. At this point the trail rose about 100 feet and deposited us at a large rocky area atop Mt. Franklin where we took a short break to enjoy the amazing vista and cool off before pushing on to the Lane Cove Trail junction a short .3 mile further east.

The Lane Cove Trail immediately greeted us with a steep descent via several tight, twisting switchbacks. With every step I could feel gravity's invisible grip pulling me down hard toward the ground as though it was attempting to suck me into the earth beneath my feet. Even though we were hiking downhill I managed to work up quite a sweat which made me realize that tomorrow's hike out would be pretty strenuous. About 15 minutes into the downhill trek we passed another hiker heading up to the ridge. He said he was with a group of three other people and they were the only ones down at the cove. They had planned to hike to West Chickenbone but one of the females in their group became sick and "had it coming out both ends" so they stopped here to let her rest for a complete day. He told us he was the only person who wanted to see Lookout Louise so he planned to make it a dayhike. I wondered why he had started this trek so late in the day. It was already after 3:00 p.m. and he was just beginning what would be a 14.8 mile round-trip hike. I would definitely have wanted to start a day like that quite a bit earlier. We continued on and eventually crossed a couple elevated, planked walkways, several beaver dams and a couple more switchbacks before arriving at Lane Cove. Shortly before arriving at Lane Cove we had to maneuver a section of trail with some ankle-twisting terrain. A maze of tree roots criss-crossed the trail while rocks of all shapes and sizes littered the rest of the ground. This portion of the Lane Cove Trail was rough on the feet and ankles and forced us to pay close attention to exactly where we placed each stride so we wouldn't stumble or trip. This section of trail was hard enough in dry conditions but I could only imagine what it would be like if the rocks had been slippery from a hard, soaking rain.

We arrived at the Lane Cove camp area around 4:00 p.m., set up camp at site #2, unpacked a few things and walked down to the rocky beach to relax for a bit. We pretty much had this end of the cove to ourselves, as it appeared the other group was a couple sites to the east, around the corner and out of sight. A closer inspection of the beach provided further proof that water levels were indeed down substantially. To the west of our site it was plain to see that water in the cove used to shore directly next to the edge of the forest. However, what once used to be under water was now 40 or so feet of exposed lake bottom with a smattering of bloated logs embedded in the smooth silt. Directly in front of our site was a large area of smooth, rounded stones, worn down by years of waves and erosion. They too used to be out of sight due to higher water levels but now provided us with a nice area to sit, cook and eat.

The last few hours of hiking had left me feeling hot and grimy so I waded a short distance out into the cove to clean up but, the fist-sized, algae-covered rocks lurking just below the surface made it a slow and sometimes painful walk with bare feet. Lane Cove's water, courtesy of Lake Superior, is rather frigid in late May and it didn't take long before the effects of the cold water took its toll. My legs and feet felt as though they were being jabbed by thousands of tiny spikes and soon after the sensation actually became somewhat painful. I didn't spend too much time in the water but, by the time I emerged a couple minutes later I realized that my feet had turned a bright shade of pink. Even though the water was very cold it felt refreshing to clean up and, once out of the water, the warmth of the sun quickly restored the natural color to my feet.

We relaxed for a bit, explored the shoreline around our campsite and returned to the rocky beach area around 7:30 p.m. to cook dinner and eat. We had a rather hefty taco meal which consisted of 10-12 tortilla wraps, a pound of rehydrated taco meat and a pound of shredded cheddar cheese, all of which was topped off with some extra packs of Taco Bell taco sauce. Before our trip Ken managed to squeeze a small container of Limoncello into his backpack. After we set up the tent he tethered the bottle to a shoestring, tossed it into the water and kept it in place with a rock to allow it to chill for a couple hours. After dinner we sat on the rocks and talked about the day's events as we sipped Limoncello and watched two loons and their chicks swimming and diving in the placid, slightly rippled waters of the cove.

With a full stomach and a mind packed with thoughts and images of today's hike I sat on a large sun-bleached log near the shore and wrote in my journal as a cool breeze blew in from the cove. Eventually the afternoon succumbed to evening and I traded the pen and notepad for my digital camera. The evening sun had spilled an amazing palette of orange, yellow and red across the sky and bathed the entire cove in a warm, golden light. I took quite a few pictures, attempting to capture forever in zeros and ones, what my eyes were witnessing in this very fleeting moment in time. I've heard quite few times that Lane Cove is a beautiful place to stay and I'd have to I agree. This secluded area with its wildly natural views and soothing sounds makes it easy to forget about all the usual concerns of your normal, every-day existence and is definitely worth the hike.

With too little light left to write or take pictures I sat and listened to the crickets chirping and an occasional wave lapping on the rocky shore. Those mellow sounds were almost narcotic in their effect on my tired body. As the evening progressed, dark clouds slowly began to descend upon Lane Cove and I wondered whether they were plain ol' clouds or harbingers of something unwelcomed. As I walked back to the tent I heard something rustling in the leaves to my left. No more than 15 feet away from me a grayish-colored fox stopped and locked eyes with mine for a brief moment. I slowly reached for my camera but it scampered off into the woods, quickly blending into the dimly lit forest, as though it had never even been there. The entire encounter had lasted only five to six seconds. I continued on to the tent and crawled into my sleeping bag around 9:20 p.m., zipping shut the tent only seconds before a good downpour saturated the area.

This had been a good day. The temperature was probably 60-65 degrees and the sun shone brightly in the sparsely clouded blue sky. We had some great views along the way and didn't have to contend with any bugs. And, even though we technically shared Lane Cove with another group of hikers, we may as well have had it all to ourselves because we only saw and heard them a couple times. We saw a lot of moose droppings and wolf scat today but not the animals themselves. Before going to sleep for we reviewed the topo map for tomorrow's section of trail and discussed our steep climb out of Lane Cove.

Final count for the day: Four other people, a garter snake along the trail, four loons, a common merganser and a fox.

Miles Covered Today: 6.9
Total Trip Miles: 14.9

Day 3


This page last updated on 02-25-2016 @ 11:26 AM